Stories

I am, What I am

‘I want a firm reply from you, today, Kaushik,’ said Rajendran in a tone that was laced with slight anger. Kaushik could feel that it was more due to frustration than anger. He knew it. 

‘Yes. Your Dad is right. We need a clear answer from you,’ parroted mom Akila. She had to be. She was, no doubt, a loving and caring mother and a lovely human being. Kaushik could remember the innumerable difficulties she had to face while bringing him up as a single parent.  His father was working in Dubai for nearly 10 years and his mom was the only guardian. Some relatives were there to help her mom who was not so educated but they have their limits. 

Kaushik suddenly felt tired and sick with all the old thoughts coming and crowding the mind. 

He kept silent for a few seconds. Then said, ‘Yes. I will. Let us go to the Shiva Temple near our house. We will go in the evening. Mom wanted to do a special prayer today.’

‘But, that doesn’t answer my question,’ demanded his dad. 

Kaushik smiled weakly; ‘It will,’ he said and went inside his room. 

When he went and laid down in his cot his mind raced the days passed on. He studied in one of the best schools near his home and came first in the school. Nevertheless, he had no idea of which course he should take up and proceed. There was no guidance. His dad in Dubai was working as an Office Assistant and a Driver. So, he couldn’t offer much to it except his wish that his son should become an engineer or doctor like every other parent’s. 

When he had gone for the counseling in the University, it was his maternal uncle who accompanied him, and he was doing some job related to printing. Since Kaushik belonged to the forward community, he was not given seat in any of the much in demand courses. He was offered Printing Technology and his uncle said ‘Ok. You accept. It is the university that is important. You can use this and go for higher studies.’

It was. But, by the time he passed out he didn’t go for higher studies; he was selected in one of the popular IT firms in Chennai in the campus interview. After joining the work, he understood that it had hardly anything to do with this academic qualification, but for using some logical or lateral thinking. He tried to go abroad, and he also got the opportunity as he was studious in his work. He went to one of the leading banks in Paris, France. He grabbed the opportunity and moved over. 

He continued with his job for another two years and later moved over to an international bank in Paris. It all happened in the course of last five six years. He is now almost a citizen of France, and he also had no intentions of coming back to India for mainly one reason. 

Marriage! 

As every Indian and family, he is expected to get married now as he is 30 years old. What prevented him from getting married? Kaushik closed his eyes. No woman or girl came to his mind to share him or his emotion. 

In the evening, all the three went to the nearby Shiva temple; it was a big one; but, not much crowded. After making the ‘darshan’, they came to a place which was calm and quiet. 

Akila and Rajendran sat in the corner of that big hall like mandapam and he sat in a step below close to them. The ambiance was serene and silent except for some devotee singing a hymn in a soft, mellifluous voice coming from the distance. 

Akila started. ‘Kaushik...speak.’ 

Kaushik looked at her. He looked deep into her face. A typical South Indian mom’s face. The deep vermillion dot at the center of her forehead and hair parting line, the small horizontal strip of sacred ash, jasmine flower on her tied bun of hair, the simple but elegant silk saree, Kaushik bought this saree for her during his last visit! (‘You select best sarees for me unlike your father’ she quipped!) and above all the innocent face with great expectations in her two large eyes (he had inherited her eyes and nose!), she was looking at him with all eagerness. His father being a man and who had been away for quiet long was also looking at him with expectations, but it was mild. But Kaushik could feel that in his face also there was a sort of restlessness. 

Kaushik tried to smile and talk, but his voice croaked a bit. 

‘This is a temple and holy place. What I am going to tell is some truth. Nothing but truth. I know it may likely to shock you both, but I have no option but to say. Well, as my parents you should know also, and you have every right to know what it is and what I am.’ 

Both Akila and Rajendran looked confused and watched Kaushik questioningly. 

‘Are you in love with some girl here or there? Is she belonged to a different caste or community?’ asked Akila. 

His father didn’t say a word. Akila herself continued. 

‘Kaushik, you know how much we love you; we don’t go against your wishes or interests. What we want is that you should settle in life. You should have someone to be with you, share your life, take care of you, have children, be happy. We can’t be with you always to be a moral support. In fact, now itself we are not of any physical support to you as you live thousands of miles away. I don’t blame it. It is your life. You have the right to choose. You have chosen a life abroad. It is common in every family. So that is not an issue. But you should have a family of your own. That is our wish.’

Kaushik felt moved and sad. He took Akila’s hand in his. ‘Have you finished mom?’, he asked with a smile. By then, he had composed himself. 

‘Mom and Dad. What I tell you may definitely shock you. But I cannot keep this as a secret from you anymore. The reason is simple; and you keep mounting the pressure of getting married of late. I don’t blame you. It is the society and the relations who put enormous pressure on you by relentlessly asking about my marriage at every instance. You have to answer them and circumvent the situation. That is one reason why you also pester me to take a decision. Unfortunately, I cannot marry.’

Both Akila and Rajendran were shocked. The shock was written clear on their faces. 

‘What? You can’t marry? Why? What is the reason? Are you hiding some illness from us?’ this time, it was Rajendran who threw the question anxiously. 

Kaushik kept a straight face. ‘No dad and mom. I don’t have any illness. It is my birth.’

‘What birth? You are hale and hearty, and you are the most handsome boy in our whole family. What is wrong in your birth?’ cried Akila. 

‘Mom...please. It is not any deformity or illness.  I am gay.’

‘What?’ both raised their voices. ‘What do you mean by that?’ 

Though both could get a vague idea of what he was saying but couldn’t exactly understand the term ‘gay’. 

But his father who had been abroad and exposed to some extent world terminologies asked lowering his voice; ‘Gay? What do you mean by that Kaushik?’

Kaushik looked at the somewhat tall tower of the temple. Population thinks that this deity stationed under this tall tower is all benevolent and offers all goodies to every human. But does he? No way. Each one’s life is written in a different manner. 

Kaushik faced his parents with a straight face. ‘I cannot keep a girl happy. I can’t love her for sex. I go for men. I like men for it.’

The faces of Akila and Rajendran became pale.  Obviously, both are too shocked to speak.

Akila’s eyes welled with tears and started running down her cheeks. Kaushik felt terribly pained to see her innocent face transforming into a mess of emotions and tears. 

His father turned restless; he asked. ‘Are you alright? Isn’t it some sort of sickness? Why not consult a doctor? If not here, you live in a foreign land. Doctors may be there who are experts in such treatments. You can consult them.’ 

‘No dad. It is not. In their countries this is common. They don’t make an issue of it. There is no treatment for this. Everyone is born with certain features and qualities. It is like that. Even today in India, if one goes to the doctor and tells him that he is homosexual they will not treat him.’

Still Rajendran was not convinced. Akila alone was crying silently. Though his father not expressing his emotions openly, Kaushik could feel he was also controlling his tears. 

Kaushik felt bad. What nice parents? ‘Oh God! I couldn’t fulfill their wishes and give them happiness of a normal human being. I have given them the rude shock and made their life is nothing but miserable. 

Kaushik later on explained this deviation and how this was considered criminal at one point of time and now how even in India the sex and love between two consenting adults of the same sex had become legal and not a crime. He also showed some of his friends’ photos in his mobile who live together as partners. 

There was not even one single word from his parents for all these. There was a stoic silence prevailed and the situation looked terribly grim. Akila alone was crying silently without uttering one word. 

Rajendran asked. ‘Are you in this so-called relationship with anyone now?’

Kaushik replied. ‘No not yet. I have some acquaintances but not any strong relationship.  It may take time to take that decision.’ 

Kaushik felt bad because Akila hadn’t spoken one word even after he mentioned his sexuality. 

‘Mom. Why you are silent? Say something mom? Do you hate me for this?’ 

She cried bitterly her body shacking violently but silently. ‘How can I Kaushik? You are my life. I remember every moment I spent with you as a kid and son. But now you have just thrown a bombshell which had shattered me to pieces completely. Tomorrow, if our friends and relatives come to know of this, what answer I will give?’

Kaushik could understand her feelings. She was close to all relatives both from her and father’s side. A friendly and helpful woman who was liked, loved and respected by one and all. How will they feel when they hear this? 

An eerie silence prevailed there for ten minutes. Then, Rajendran got up and said, ‘So shall we go?’

Both Akila and Kaushik also got up. 

They drove back home in silence. Night food went on silence. Kaushik tried to be casual, but it didn’t work. Akila spoke nothing. Kaushik felt miserable. Because he had to start back to Paris, the next day. However, he wanted to make things clear to them before he leaves. 

After dinner he asked them to sit in the dining table. He spoke. 

‘I know it is very difficult for you both to accept and digest. It is natural like my birth as a gay or homosexual. I don’t blame you for that. If at all someone to be blamed, it is the Nature or God which had created me like this. It was very painful for me also during my teenage and adulthood to come to terms with my sexuality. I spoke to a psychiatrist and psychologist also this time. Both said that I should come to terms with my sexuality. They also advised me to inform you so that tomorrow you shouldn’t feel that I have purposely hidden some bitter truth from you. 

Mom and Dad, had you thrown me away if I were born unattractive, dark or with six fingers in one hand or some terrible physical deformity or the worst a boy with down syndrome? You wouldn’t have. This is one such deviation. A deviation decided by Nature and not by you or me. So, we have no option but to accept it and live our life. My love and respect will never go even if you hate me or disown me. I will remain always your pet son till my death.’ 

While saying this Kaushik broke down and started crying. Both his father and mother were just watching and never came to him and said a word. 

The night was heavy and painful. 

The next day he made all packing for leaving and the entire day passed in silence and a sort of tight atmosphere. 

Just when there was one hour to leave the house to go to airport Kaushik couldn’t control his emotions. As usual he touched the feet of his Mom and Dad and tears trickled down from his eyes. ‘Mom and Dad, won’t you speak to me anymore? Am I such a bad son for you?’ and cried. 

Akila lifted him and hugged him tightly. 

‘No, Kaushik. All night I was thinking about you and the several deviant things happened in the families around us. You are too honest and sincere to be real. Be proud of your qualities and use them to elevate yourself in your personal and professional life. For us you are a young man of courage and honesty. We are very much happy and delighted about your confidence and self-assurance. You will never fail in your life. We know how much you love us and how you are attached to us emotionally. That gives us greater happiness and courage to be the parent of such wonderful son. Don’t worry. I know how to manage the situation.’ 

Having said this, she kissed Kaushik on his cheek which is wet with tears and Rajendran also came and hugged him. 

Kaushik said with his voice filled with emotion. ‘Thank you Mom and Dad for accepting me as ‘What I am’!

26-Aug-2023

More by :  Devavratan Kaundinya

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