Mahesh Natarajan is proud to be gay, but there’s more to his identity that he would like to remind people about — he is a psychotherapist, a south Indian from Bangalore, and an ordinary member of a typical Tamilian family.
He has also just turned writer, and his debut book Pink Sheep explores the lives of gay people as they negotiate the complexities of these varied identities. The book was launched on Tuesday with a public reading at Bandra’s queer pride store Azad Bazaar, as part of the on-going Queer Pride Week celebrations in the city.
“My straight friends always asked me plenty of questions about gay life. I finally decided to answer them through short stories,” said Natarajan, 37, who claims the 18 stories in his book derive heavily from his family, friends and his own personal experiences.
The title story, about a young, small-town boy exploring his newfound sexuality by innocently making a pass at a straight man, is largely autobiographical.
“It goes to show that sexuality is quite innate, and one doesn’t have much of a choice in it,” said Natarajan, who likes to describe his experience of coming out to his family as a chance to “let people in”.
He now hopes the book gives straight people a chance to see the common humanness shared by them.
Natarajan’s book reading was one of a series of events, including film screenings, a fair, music gigs and play readings, that have been organised for the Queer Pride Week, which culminates in the annual Queer Pride March on January 29.
The empowerment march is organised by Queer Azaadi Mumbai (QAM), a group of more than 20 organisations for lesbians, gays, bisexual and transgenders in the city. But this is the first time that celebrations have been stretched over a week.
“A march is short-lived and the huge crowds can get overwhelming for newcomers struggling to come out,” said Pallav Patankar, the HIV programme director at Humsafar, one of QAM’s member organisations.
“Smaller events add to the variety and allow people to make friends before the march.”
Almost all the Pride Week events are being held at mainstream, public venues.
“It was great to see that we had no trouble getting permissions for it,” said Patankar, who hopes the Week leads to healthy dialogues between the queer community and the mainstream.