Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Yawn! God, make them stop!

Picture this. Yawn!!! You're the lone gay guy amidst a bunch of straight blokes and they are discussing something which you don't really care about. Yawn again!!! How many times have you faced this kind of a situation?

Being a part of such a group of straight boys is quite a challenge for most closet cases. Even if you're out to them, it can be quite intimidating. I can tell you from personal experience, the usual topics of discussion among the straight boys are as insipid to the gay palate as a dirty magazine would be to them without their centrespreads of big-busted beauties.

Nevertheless, on many occasions we find ourselves in social situations where we are probably the only gay person in a quarter mile radius. What do we do? Should we just walk away or should we stick around and feign interest? I, for one have tried both. Like in college, on numerous occasions, I found myself in a room full of guys discussing about the 'availability' of a certain girl or watching some straight porn. I had to excuse myself because it made me genuinely uncomfortable. Cricket and all other forms of sports were off limits as well as topics of discussion. Many a times, I simply faked interest in their banter just in a vain attempt to fit in. I can't say that I was successful in any of that.

The two options I spoke about above may work differently in different situations. In few cases, dashing to the nearest exit may be the best option especially when you know that you'd probably end up slashing your own wrists out of boredom at the end of the discussion. But in most cases, this may not work. Simply because, you can't run away from social gatherings or group situations just like that. If you do, people may label you as a 'prude' (trust me, I know) and that I am sure, you would not like. So, what do we do? The best recourse is to deliberately and cautiously try to change the topic of discussion to something which you find comfortable to be a part of. For example, if they are talking about Cricket and going on boring you with a ball-by-ball perspective about the latest match, digress the discussion by simply talking about the latest gossip about the 'alleged' link up between a certain celebrity and a cricketer. Or if they are talking rather grossly about a certain girl you know and her curves, simply say that you've some exclusive information about her. If they ask you, how, just put up a 'straight' face and tell them she confides in you more than any of them.

Faking interest is an art. You can perfect it only after several months if not years of practice. The first step to faking interest is to know that it's all about your facial expressions, eye contact, body language and using every possible tool at your disposal that will make it believable. The best way to start off faking interest is to start watching a rather boring TV show with a friend or a family member. Chances are, that if you manage to fake 'genuine' interest in the show, they'll either ask you to change the channel or say 'Why in God's name are you watching this'? When they do ask you that, just say "Sshhh, this is really interesting." If they ask you this, be rest assured that you're on the road to success as a 'genuine' faker. :) Remember, practice makes a man perfect. So, go on doing this until you become immune to the utter nonsense playing on TV.

The next step is to master eye contact. When someone is speaking something you care two hoots about, look into the eyes of the speaker for some time and then look around. Looking too intently at the speaker may well convince the speaker that you're some kind of a weird psychopath. On the other hand, if you don't look at him/her at all, that'll be dead give away that you're not interested. Equally important is your body language. Try to suppress your sighs and yawns. Those are give-aways too. Rest your cheek on your hand and nod your head every once in a while to show that you're actually 'listening' to what's being said. It's also a good thing to throw in some words like 'Really?', or 'Oh I see', or 'Hmmm'. Try using neutral words as far as possible. Avoid using sentences like - "I agree / disagree" or "That's a good point" which will entail that you participate in the discussion as well which you really do not want.

When the going gets too tough, its time to take out the last arrow from the quiver. When all the above technique fails, you've to find a creative way to excuse yourself. In today's world of communications, a call on your cell phone is the best way to leave causing the least heartburn. While the speaker is blabbering away, text a close friend to call you and when s/he does, pick up the call and dash to the nearest exit. After exactly five minutes, come back and say to the group that you've to rush as something came up. People wouldn't mind letting you go. The other way is to excuse yourself to the restroom and then take a detour from there never to return. You can later explain to the group that you left because you met an old school friend or became sick. This may work out really well if you're a part of a larger group of people hanging out together. You can find really interesting ways to make this last recourse seem as plausible as possible. Just remember, we don't really hate the person in question. He may be a close friend but we genuinely don't care about what he may be talking about. :)

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Of friends in 'Pardes'

I have tried hard to reach out and make some local friends here in Denver ever since I landed here in May 2009. I have created profiles on Adam4Adam, Manhunt and other US equivalents of Planet Romeo. I have even tried posting ads on the uber-famous Craigslist asking for friends. The efforts, though temporarily fruitful have not succeeded in the long run. I had got a few replies and even met a couple of people during my initial days in Denver. But within a few weeks, these folks disappeared into thin air. No amount of calls, emails or voice mails compelled any of them to give me a call back. The only people who lingered were a couple of 'desi' guys whom I had known from before. Anyway, this experience with the local guys didn't really encourage me to try and again reach out to them. I had been to a few local gay clubs but soon found out that if you are from an ethnic minority, the local people either treat you as an alien or 'exotic'. I didn't wish to be treated as either. Apparently, the gay fauna in cities like NYC, LA, SFO and other big cities is a tad better. However, as luck would have it, I am at neither of these places. :-(

After months of procrastinating the thought of actually finding some friends, albeit 'desi', here in US, I finally floated an email on one of the Yahoo groups that I am a member of, a couple of weeks ago. Ever since then, I have received a steady stream of replies, some from USA and some even from Britain and India. It has been good so far and most of the replies have been quite sensible, not the usual 'my stats, your stats' kind of email. There are a couple of guys from California, one person from New York and one person from North Carolina. They are all desis and probably that is why, I have been able to connect to them rather effortlessly. We may be from different Indian ethnicities, but the underlying fact that all of us are 'desis' at the end of the day, binds us in some kind of an unseen bond.

It's been a pleasure talking to them on phone or on chat. I have planned a trip to Los Angeles to meet one of them during Thanksgiving and later, during New Year, I may even drop into New York to meet the New Yorker. I am hoping that finally I will finally have a good friend circle here in 'Pardes' as well. :-) Wish me luck!

21 days in India!

After roughly 14 months on foreign soil, when I decided to go back to India for a three week vacation, I was filled with a sense of anticipation and excitement. Anticipation because I was to meet a few people whom I was in touch with over the year; excitement at the thought of being able to savor the sights, sounds and more importantly the flavors of India once again. I was seriously longing for the roadside 'phuchka', the 'Chicken Roll', the 'Ilish Paturi' and countless other dishes.

My trip happened at the height of the monsoon season in India. As my Lufthansa flight glided down after a long 17 hour journey on the tarmac of the Mumbai airport, I couldn't wait to go out and breathe the moisture laden air. My Dad had come to pick me up at the airport. It was around 1:30 AM in the morning. It was drizzling lightly and by the time I reached home, I just couldn't seem to get enough of the Mumbai monsoons. And Mumbai didn't disappoint me at all. The next day, I checked out the spanking new Bandra-Worli sea link which is, I am sorry to say, a major letdown. Notwithstanding the engineering marvel, it's disappointing because you can hardly see Mumbai's skyline while driving down on it. Next stops were the Mahalaxmi and Siddhivinayak temples. My roller coaster ride in India had just begun.

Over the next weekend, we drove to Pune. We had to drive through almost pouring rain. At some points on the Ghats, we could hardly see what's ahead of our car. Nevertheless, the journey was enjoyable. The entire stretch of the expressway from Panvel upto Talegaon was lush green, numerous small waterfalls sprung out of nowhere, people had stopped their vehicles and were enjoying a quick shower under them. That must have been fun. After a brief stop over in Pune, which involved some official work, a jaunt to our office @ Hinjewadi, buying fish from Sus Road and a sumptuous Maharashtrian lunch at Naivedyam on Karve Road, we left for Mumbai around 3 PM and were back home by around 7:30 PM.

On Monday, 26th July, I, for the second time in my life went under the surgeon's scalpel. The first one had been when I was 8 years old and that was to make me 'Jewish' ;-). I had no clue at that time what that meant. If I had known, I probably wouldn't have gone for it. Anyway, this time around, the decision was purely voluntary. After a tedious 8 hour operation, I finally got back home.

The next two days were anything but comfortable. While I was confined to home, because of the pouring Mumbai rains outside, the surgery itself left me a little numb and uncomfortable. However, I had already booked tickets for my next stop which was the city of my origin - Calcutta.

Calcutta - the city is not really one of my favorites when it comes to living there. However, it never fails to amaze me. I was supposed to spend 4 days in Calcutta, with a one day lay over at Midnapore, which is my 'Mamar bari'. But I had to extend my stay by one more day because my visit wouldn't have been complete if I hadn't met all of my countless relatives and attended the grand luncheons and dinners organized in honour of the 'NRI'. :P Anyway, my visit to Kolkata was spent in the company of my relatives and indulging in gastronomic delights. Bhajahari Manna @ Hindustan Road, Kwality @ Park Street, Marco Polo on Sarat Bose Road - these are some of the places we had food. The food, kya kehna! :-) Lajawaab. Apart from these rather fancy places, I also gorged on Phuchka and Chicken Roll. Calcutta's roadside food is sheer bliss. It does away with your hunger but more than that, it also fulfills your soul. :-)

I met one guy in Calcutta with whom I had been chatting since September 2009. Let's call him 'S'. I met 'S' at Dumdum Metro station and we took a cab ride from there to Esplanade. We sat for a while at Blue and Beyond opposite the famous Hogg's Market or New Market in colloquial terms. It was drizzling lightly. The guy is perhaps one of the very few guys in Calcutta, I have actually met and liked. We drank a few beers and talked about the gay scene in Calcutta which according to him left much to be desired. I told him about the scene in Denver / US and he seemed totally excited listening to it. It was an evening well spent.

Next evening, I took the flight back to Mumbai.

On 2nd August, I finally left for Pune where my friends were eagerly expecting me. I landed up in Pune pretty late in the evening around 8 PM. Initially, I put up at this friend's place at Wakad. I have a history with this guy, which made living over at his place a little weird, especially when I came to know that he had a 'boyfriend' even though he never acknowledged that. What made me even more uncomfortable was that he had been flirting with me throughout the past one year. Moreover, his place was light years away from the actual Pune city where all the action was. On 3rd August, I made a trip to office once again, this time to catch up with my team mates. That day, well spent, I moved to a hotel on Ghole Road in Deccan on 4th August afternoon.

Over the next three days, I met a four more guys from Pune with whom I had been in touch through the past one year. It was nice meeting them. I also caught up with my old buddies from work, some old chums who were among my very first friends in Pune. As for sex, it happened with some of them and it was great! My 'dry' spell of the preceding 9 months had been broken. :-) Since, my birthday was round the corner, I called few of my very close friends to a dinner at the hotel where I was put up. We had a great dinner. I was supposed to leave Pune for Mumbai on 7th but decided to postpone by one day. As for how I ushered in my birthday on 8th, it was quite a lonely night, with me alone in the hotel. The only silver lining was that I probably became a little mature by realizing that it's not always what it seems and we have to be utterly careful when it comes to dealing with matters of the heart. Hopefully, this lesson will remain with me for a long time to come and stop me from committing the same mistakes all over again!

I returned to Mumbai on 8th evening. My flight back to Denver was on 9th August post midnight. The 9th was spent packing my stuff and getting everything in place. At 11:30 at night, my folks dropped me off at Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport and I bid them farewell for now. As I waited in the lounge for the flight to take off after all the formalities, the entire vacation flashed before my eyes. It was indeed a great trip. It made me happy, it made me sad, it gave me everlasting memories and some which I wish I could forget. But, I guess, that's what my life has always been all about. A little of this, a little of that! That's what makes me so FA-BU-LOUS.