Category Archives: Testimonies | ہماری کہانیاں

What Survives from Love

Kumam Davidson, Manipur, India

It is an unusually chilly morning for summer. Of course it is the heavy rain from last night that has dropped the temperature. At five in the morning I find myself tucked under the blanket. It rains so much in this part of the world that people wait, quite hopelessly, for it to stop. I intend to fall asleep again but I am slowly getting carried away by the soothing and rhythmic sound produced by the multitudes of raindrops hitting the metal surface. I start getting into the rhythm and momentum of it, feeling my own heartbeat racing faster and louder as the raindrops hit.

I know he is there in the next room, sleeping, tucked inside the warm blanket; and I also know that he is not awake for sure. He never is at this hour. For a while I have been sulking over the fact that he has stopped sleeping in my bed with me. I have tried seeking an explanation in many ways, beating around the bush often because I know I cannot put it exactly in those words that keep running restlessly in head. How much I wish I can speak exactly those words  which have run in my head at least a dozen times. I give in to fifteen-year-old lack of confidence. How can a fifteen-year-old utter those lines of love and remorse delivered by a hero or heroine from a melodramatic film or book! I keep thinking and wishing every moment that he will just wake up and come to me somehow. How much I wish that to happen.

The urge inside me grows stronger and stronger and when I can hold no longer I rush out of bed. In the next few seconds I find myself sneaking under his blanket and the warmth I feel when our half-clothed bodies touch each other, as I have already imagined, is bliss and unforgettable. I have never felt that same cosiness and warmth before, almost cathartic and orgasmic, in more than a year of being with him. Our naked bodies have touched each other quite often. We have become almost completely aware of the scent, texture and shape of each other’s bodies after many playful nights in the darkness. But the warmth and satiation that I feel this morning is extraordinary. I wonder if he feels the same. I wish he does, yet I become too preoccupied with my sensations that somehow I slowly turn oblivious to his feelings.

When I wake up I realise I have fallen asleep in his arms for a while. I find my legs on his while my willy lay unbothered on his soft fanny. I also feel my palm and fingers running slowly on his chest and tickling the nipples once in a while. In those moments of ecstasy and romantic fulfilment I have forgotten the ways of the world and the ticking of time. The only thing I am attentive to is the soothing sound of raindrops on the roof somewhere playing like background music in a film.

I have almost forgotten everything until my anger suddenly rushes back to my mind hitting every part of my body and I momentarily shrug off from him, creating a sudden distance between our bodies and mind. And I pull myself together, then plead for an answer in broken words and dismembered voices which is partly mine and not. I keep pleading and pleading for the answers to the same questions which I partly know I will never get from him. Over and over again I make attempts, convince myself to hang on a little longer, thinking that one day he will yield to my pleading somehow.

Before I walk out of the bed I make a last attempt at starting a conversation, but he will not talk about our relationship, as always. I wonder if he lacks the language. Does he fear? Or does he not understand our bonding? I press my lips on his before I finally walk out of the bed. He does not kiss me back. It saddens me much more, much more than how I was feeling before I got back into bed with him one last time.

Dear readers: it feels like all this just happened today, this morning. I slowly understand that I was reliving the exact moments all over again. It’s a dream, I know, but I do not know if I was asleep while dreaming it. There are certain memories in life that have the power to replay exactly at the same pace and with the same feelings all over again. This is one and I must also confess that I  decided long back to cherish this in the best way I can. I have relived these moments often. Today, a little more than ten years after that morning, I am still thinking about him.

Today I think if I could have convinced myself that day, I would have avoided another year of confusions and reproaches. I added more content and longer life to a story that could have been cut short. But then, there were fulfilling things about it. The sensations of the body; an emotional longing; the need of a person one assumes to be in love with: they were partly fulfilled. My teenage urge for a full-fledged love story was partly written and remembered and told now and again with pride, like a prize I won in school. Over the years I have developed the habit of telling the quintessential love story of mine to close circle. Often there is a sense of achievement and pride in telling it while I also mourn it.

Last month his wife gave birth to their first son. He was happy and I had mixed feelings about it. I kept wondering why he still wanted me to know about his life. Was I wrong when I said I choose and cherish certain memories? Sometimes people may choose to turn up unexpectedly at your door bringing back a chain of memories and stories you think you have forgotten. Likewise, memories seem to pick and haunt you even at the most unexpected hours. Sometimes I cherish it. Sometimes, I think it’s haunting me instead. It chose me, left me no way to forget it. I do not seem to have the control I thought I did.

When it rains again like that suddenly I feel the same warmth and sensation all over again. Somewhere deep under my skin,the touch and feel of his body seem to have survived. The memory of an early rainy morning has failed to let go of me.

Finding Myself


Author: S. Sen from Kolkata, West Bengal, India

My knowledge of sex began at the age of 5 when I went to see Titanic. I couldn’t understand what Jack and Rose were doing but then my brother explained it to me that it was real love. I wondered back then that if any man could love a woman that much, he would definitely want to be a woman.

My first gay experience was at the age of 6 or 7. I saw an ad of Hrithik Roshan on a cola ad exposing his torso with arms behind his head. I was mesmerized by it always wanted to have an eyeful of it whenever I came across it.

Then I went to Bangladesh to visit my extended family and there one of my cousins became a really good friend of mine. When I came back to India, I cried for him and told everyone that I miss him immensely but my parents dismissed it as a child’s whim. But down in my heart, I knew that this heartache was certainly not childish enough.

I was 13 when all my friends used to go all gaga over girls but unlike them, I used to find it irritating and thus dismissed it as a nerd. Once, I came to know about the meaning of word ‘sex’ from my friends and I thought it was really obscene while wondering how could any man want to do such things with a woman.

At 15, I started noticing how some men in the deodorant ads were amazing. I began to imagine romantic stories involving handsome men. For me, in love romance is far more superior than that’s why I thought that without falling in love with the person, I can’t have sex. During that time, I started going to internet cafes to download and print some pictures about the cartoon series Pokemon and one fine day, while surfing online an idea hit my mind. “Why don’t I use internet to look out for those hot men in deodorant spray ads? I was totally mesmerized by the pictures of hot men flooding the computer screen and the more pictures I saw, more I felt the desire burning in me. It ended when I realized that I jizzed in my pants.

The very next day while going to the internet cafe again, I questioned my sexual orientation. “No I’m not. I love rock music. I am a Dragon ball z and Pokemon champion player among my friends. I am a good football player too. But gay? Isn’t being gay is like that friend of mine who is so effeminate and loves to act like a woman? All the boys tease him and make fun of him. They make fun of me too but that’s only because I am a nerd and like it or not they do respect nerds because nerds help them out with homework. How can a manly man love another manly man? Wait! I have always wanted to have a good body. Maybe that’s it. I like seeing men because I want to be like them. Yes, that’s it.” That’s how I tried to deal with the stuff at that moment.

Before you get any ideas, let me clarify that I didn’t hate effeminate guys. Rather everyone around me knew that I defend them if they were bullied at school. But somehow being a “homo” just didn’t feel right. It seemed unnatural because I couldn’t get a logical explanation for why in the first place nature would have ‘homos’ in the first place? Then in 10th grade, I finally realized something while distributing some Christianity related pamphlets. I really had no idea of Jesus’s word on homosexuality. But while distributing the pamphlets, a man who was slightly shorter than me came up to me and started telling me about how he worked in a group which provide free medication to poor families and children and asked if somehow he could get in touch with our school authorities. But I was not paying much attention to what he was saying and rather wondering what a handsome man he was. I had never seen such a man ever before in my life and I felt like hugging and kissing him passionately but controlled myself. As I was walking away from him, totally lost in the equally arousing fragrance he was wearing, I realized I just jazzed in my pants. And I muttered, “Shit!! I am a homo”.

After that I took a vow that I wouldn’t look for a boyfriend on internet and instead started searching for the cures and treatments for homosexuality. During those times I used to think I was the only gay person in the country rather more specifically a “homo” person. Praying and reaching out to God was the most common cure I found on my internet searches and briefly I tried it but I realized it’s not working. Also, being a science geek and aware of never ending religion-science debate, I apprehended that either questioning religion or checking the status of LGBTQI individuals in religion, both issues are not acceptable in the mainstream religious discourse. So, I drifted away from religious discourses and started reading about the scientific evidences and scholarship on the issue with scruples because I wasn’t able to accept homosexuality natural as I knew my parents would never approve of it.

Therefore, I decided to date girls with conviction and thought that I will be over my ‘homo’ feelings. But no matter how hard I tried to imagine myself with a woman or try jerking off with even hundreds of women’s pictures, it just couldn’t match the pleasure I drive imaging dreamy deodorant spray men. I thought it would take some time to wean it off but nothing happened. And there came a point when I began to hate men. I started responding coldly to good looking men. Even, while playing video games, I imagine myself trying to cut, burn, or hit handsome male characters. I further tried to concentrate more on my studies and sports activities as an escape from thinking about men but it never stopped. The guilt of not being able to love any woman haunted me too. I changed school too and facing adjustment problems too and all of this made me really depressed. I started thinking myself as a failed student and a failed son. Thoughts of suicide became frequent and there were times when I used to go to a railway track and wait there for a train thinking it would hit and crush me. I wondered whether the people would at all feel any difference if a pathetic, useless gay kid would die.

Whenever, I had to prepare for some competitive exams, I couldn’t focus without jerking off and forcing myself to do so while imaging women was so exhausting. But jerking off imaging men was so easy, natural and pleasurable which made me question my approach of dealing with this issue. I once again researched online and read that conversion therapies as a cure for homosexuality were bogus and it was so comforting when I came across a statement by WHO (World Health Organization) which asserted that being gay is not a disease. I relieved me like a magic potion and I started to find peace with myself realizing that there were many others like me, out there. I got back to my studies which were really important for me. Since then, I officially love myself for who I am.

Proud Desi Pakistani Queer


Author: Rahman from Pakistan

For me, self-realization came early, self-acceptance late.  My childhood and formative years were very much a product of Zia-ul-Haq’s Islam, which pervaded military culture in Pakistan in the 80’s and 90’s.  As an army brat, my Pakistani identity was tightly braided with an exclusionary, militarized version of Islam.  I was deeply religious, and my religion was defined by what I was not:  Hindu, Indian, Christian, Hijra, critical of the state, and on and on.  Several army friends subscribed to at least some of my beliefs, but there was diversity in my friends’ faiths and the strength with which they held on.  I would say I was the gold-medalist in the Muslim orthodoxy department.  I suppose my gnawing suspicions about my homosexuality made me especially vociferous.  

The stridency of my more religious friends and I freaked out my parents’ generation, many of whom grew up with far more pluralistic, progressive versions of Islam.  Their concern, though, was restricted to restrained dinner table debates.  There were no public questions, no community debates.  Looking back, Zia’s legacy was more about public silence than anything else.  Without realizing what it was, I was grateful for it.  I felt certain of myself.  Any contradictory influences never gave me pause.

All that changed in one day.  I was 14.  It was summertime, and I was headed to my extended family.  To save money, my parents would make me hitch a ride on the C-130, the military cargo plane.  Most of the plane was filled with large steel boxes strapped to the floor.  The edges were lined with a few canvas seats, to which officers and crew-members received precedence.  I made do with whatever was left.  This time I was to be seated crushed-up next to a junior officer in my father’s command.  When my father deposited me to the plane, the gentleman saluted him and then bent down and gave me a peck on the cheek.  It was an avuncular gesture that I was used to from my parents’ friends, but this time, it shook the hell out of me.  The Major was a terribly handsome man.  It was the first time I remember explicitly thinking of another man’s beauty.  I remember his lips touching my cheek, and his trim mustache tickling me.  Our legs touched during the entire freaking flight.  Though the Major didn’t look my way, I was incredibly conscious of him, his tight-fitting uniform, his ridiculously bulging leg muscles, his ridiculously defined jawline.  The plane wasn’t air-conditioned, and it was blistering, which didn’t help.  I could see his sweat glisten and accumulate in all sorts of prohibitive places.  A part of me was transfixed, another was in hell, and a third was convinced that I was headed there soon.

Then the flight ended, and Major Sexy guided me to my cousins.  Summer awaited.  I remember throwing myself into all that with a vengeance, and renewing religious vigor for good measure, but my C-130 memories were impossible to dispel.   They just wouldn’t budge.  Then, alarmingly, they found friends in fantasies about other officers, Zoheb Hassan, Junaid Jamshed and many others.

I started losing my religious certainty.  I also started losing my mind.  Was I going to hell?  Was I even a Pakistani?  Why me? Why ONLY me? Who could I talk to?  How could I talk to them when I didn’t even know the words?  The questions just kept piling up, almost as fast as my fantasies.

At some point during that fall, the word “homosexual” floated towards my mind.  I can’t remember the source, but the word certainly stuck.  No one defined it, but I knew I was connected to it.   I couldn’t get it out of my head, so one afternoon I got on my green BMX, and furiously peddled through the broad tree-lined cantonment streets to the local library.  I went to the Encyclopedia Britannica section, found the volume with “H”, and found the entry for Homosexual.  Suddenly, there it was, like a terrifying, omnipresent mirror: sexual attraction to other members of the same sex (might be a phase).  That was me.  Homosexual.

That word changed everything, but not for the better.  Suddenly, I had a defined word that marked me as surely inferior, if not damned.

I didn’t give up though.  I knew the neighborhood mosque maulvi sahib was partial to gulab jamuns, so I bought a dozen with my pocket money, and presented them to him as a sort of a desperate existential bribe.  While he inhaled them, I asked him what he thought of homosexuality.  He gave me a sufficiently alarming fire-and-brimstone response.  Wallet lighter, I then asked my dad.  I was nonchalant enough that Abbu didn’t think my question was anything other than curiosity.  While he denounced the maulvi sahib as a nutbag, he was vague about the rest.

Two summers later, I was in full-blown crisis mode.  I knew I had to tell someone, though, or I would soon lose whatever was left of my mind.  My aunt has always been special for me, so I tried to build up the guts to tell her.  It took the entire summer for me to do it. I still remember what she said.  I remember everything about that afternoon.   She said “Listen jaani, we believe in a kind, merciful and just God.  Don’t concern yourself with visions of hell and all that. If you’re helping other people, God will love you.  That is all.  This doesn’t change how much I love you.  You should tell your parents – they will feel the same way.”

I did eventually tell the rest of my family over the next couple of years. For the most part, they did feel the same way.  But I still hated myself.  For the next decade, I couldn’t dismiss the certainty I got with my religious orthodoxy, even though a part of me grew to loathe it.  I couldn’t  just roll the dice by coming out, hoping my aunt was right and the dice would fall on heaven and not hell.  As my orthodoxy became problematic, so too did my nationalism.  The definition of Pakistan I had been working with was so restrictive, so dependent on a rigid definition of Islam – it dispossessed so many people.  Yet it had been such a comfort to me.  I wasn’t strong enough to work through the cognitive dissonance that engulfed my life, so I ran.  I went abroad, and stopped thinking of myself as Pakistani, preferring instead to identify as Desi.

It took me a long time to accept myself.  What helped most was observing queer or other Desi people, from my family or otherwise, who had an inclusive view of their religion.  It wasn’t anything they said.  It was just watching them live their lives proudly, observing them help others, listening to them as they wrestled with their own religious or generally existential doubts, and thinking “what kind of God could possibly send these people to hell?”  That, more than anything else, showed me a way to become proud of who I was.  Gradually, I also started meeting several progressive Pakistanis.  From progressive artists, secular teachers, queer and Khawaja Sira leaders, feminist writers and many other Pakistanis, I learned a more inclusive and sustainable story of my nationality.  Folks across Pakistan who transcend religious, provincial, gender or class limits to work towards a more just vision of Pakistani society.  They have helped me come full circle:  queer, Pakistani, proud.