By the way: Not so gay about it

This article is about the US Supreme Court legalising samesex marriage, and where we still stand. But let’s start with a longish story before we get to the point.

chandigarh Updated: Jun 28, 2015 13:24 IST
Aarish Chhabra
Aarish Chhabra
Hindustan Times
Panjab University,gay,homoasexuality
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This article is about the US Supreme Court legalising samesex marriage, and where we still stand. But let’s start with a longish story before we get to the point.

After all, it’s not every day that they call a woozy-headed journalist, given to prolific and public use of colourful language and in love with his weekly bouts of craziness, to lecture college teachers about communication skills and all that jazz. My alma mater, Panjab University, made that mistake last winter.
The professor in-charge, who had called me as a last-minute substitute for a rather senior journalist, did not take long to be horrified after she realised that I had only 26 winters behind me and an abandoned master’s degree as ‘higher qualification’. She did make an effort to sound sweet, but was shaky as she handed me the mike.

To her pleasure, the talk was more fun than any of us expected it to be. ‘Effective communication’, the topic, was literally abandoned to a bin as soon as I entered the building and threw away my silly, hurriedly-made notes. I simply started out talking about the unintentionally funny mistakes we make every day in the newspaper.

From spelling ‘public’ as ‘pubic’ to changing the gender of an officer twice in a sentence to turning Bhagwant Mann into the chief minister of Delhi, the list made the teachers laugh and smirk. There was a free-for-all after that, in which I was the punching bag representing the entire media fraternity. From hardselling Modi’s lies to adding too much opinion to basic news, the allegations made me feel quite fancy actually. In the Age of Kejriwal, media-bashing is the favourite national pastime. It went well. As I moved out, a middle-aged professor — let’s call him Mr HP — dressed in a long coat made of seemingly expensive tweed came up and asked me if I was free for a cup of coffee. He was rather friendly, and no one can anyway say no to Coffee House at PU’s Student Centre. I agreed.

As we sat down, he started out asking why I wasn’t married when my hair were already turning gray. He had three unmarried daughters, all holding multiple degrees, “but it’s hard to find a properly educated and sufficiently landed boy from our caste”. I nodded along, worrying how the dominant farming community of Punjab was being stereotyped by one of its own, educated members. He joked how I must have “at least two” girlfriends and was not interested in telling him. He was half right.

“Waise tusi taan homosexuality de vi baale himeyti lagde ho (You even seem quite supportive of homosexuality)!” he laughed. I wasn’t surprised. “Mera hor lokan de bedrooman vich jada interest hai ni ji,” I said. I did not have much of an interest in other people’s bedrooms. “You are a smart young man. But you were speaking in their favour,” he winked. I had completely forgotten how, during the lecture, I had cracked a lame joke about the saffron brigade having its khaki shorts in a twist over gay rights, and how it was rather iconic for the shakha variety in particular to be opposing homosexuality. “What’s your opposition to it?” I counter-prodded.
“This is not how God meant the human race to be. I am pretty sure,” he said. This man had a hotline to God.

I cited instances and examples from mythology and history to make a point. The point was lost. Mr HP was busy ordering a cup of coffee instead. It was my turn to order. This is when I hit upon a slightly mean idea to hit this homophobe where it hurts — the pocket. I urged the five old acquaintances sitting two tables away to come and join us, please. And I also called up three other journalists who I knew were in the vicinity to come have lunch with us. The trio brought along two others, as usual. Before long, the table had twelve hungry people eating liberally. Conversation flew from the Iraq war to Rahul Gandhi, and three rounds of coffee were ordered. The freeloaders were having a gala time. Mr HP seemed to have realised what was happening.

He said he had a class to take; but the bill was already on the table. “Thanks for the treat, sir,” I said. He had to pay, around a thousand bucks as opposed to the cheap-coffee gay-bashing that he had planned. Lip-smacking revenge, I thought. Not quite.

Having paid for it already, this is when he launched into another tirade against homosexuality, suggesting that gay people be forced to have sex with the opposite gender “to know how it’s supposed to be done”.

“Do you have anyone in mind for me then?” I asked. “You, gay?” he said. I smiled a yes, though actually lying through my teeth. He didn’t know where to hide.

First Published: Jun 28, 2015 11:43 IST