Even before homosexuality was decriminalized in our nation, many desi LGBTQ couples threw caution to the wind and decided to be with each other until death do them apart.
One such couple are Ashish and Inder.
FSOG did an exclusive interview this week with Ashish from Mumbai, who is married to the love of his life, Inder. Their story starts when they met at a Pride fundraiser event eight years ago and in Ashish’s words, “the rest is history.”
This one’s a long ride so, settle down before you dive in!
Accepting who I am:
I still remember, I was 8 years old and had that feeling of butterflies in my stomach when I saw this cute little boy in 3rd standard. It was a very different feeling, so pure and innocent.
I knew I was different from a very young age. It’s just that I wasn’t fully aware or have met other folks from the community; which got me phasing in and out in my early days.
Initially I was not adept to understand what I was feeling. Now when I think about it; had I known better, I wouldn’t have taken so long to come out. It’s because of my childhood conditioning that I was always in a confused state of mind.
Finally it felt really good to let my feelings take control. But somewhere deep down it always felt wrong. Later did I realize that what I felt was “different” and it was never “wrong”.
You know the dilemma when the heart wants something but mind says otherwise. This is a constant battle that all of us have gone through. Now over these years, I found a much comfortable spot in life now. I kept myself sane by reading a lot of articles to understand myself including the one’s from WHO.
Having a step-by-step plan in place for letting my folks know:
It took a really long time for me to convey it to my parents. You know, you always think that you are better informed than the previous generation; but they never cease to amaze you. Both my parents always focused on educating me and my sisters. My first priority was to get a job, to sustain myself; maybe find a suitor and then come out to my parents.
I did exactly as planned and to my surprise they took it so well. Of course there was some friction which felt inherent initially; but mellowed down over time. Now both our families (my husband, Inder’s and mine) are comfortable with us and each other as well.
Inder even shares recipes with my mum while his mother and I usually side together. So I would say it’s a nice equation we have built up so far.
Meeting Inder for the first time:
This is a full crazy story. Inder is the owner of Dkloset, the only LGBT store in India. Before I knew of him, I’d read about the store. In 2010, when I was interning at IIT Bombay, I wanted to visit the store but somehow couldn’t. So 2 years later when my BFFs and I made plans to fly down to Mumbai from Bangalore, the store visit was in my itinerary. I had read so much about it that I was so intrigued. Little did I know there were other plans in place for me.
Before the trip ever so happened, I asked my friend to introduce me to the “Owner of Dkloset” as I was planning on visiting later in December. That very evening, I get a message from Inder on one of the networking websites. I thought it was my friend’s doing but that was purely coincidental, or rather serendipity.
Inder had messaged me out of the blue because he was planning to come to Bangalore for the Namma Bengaluru Pride. He came, we met and since the rest is history. We met at the Pride fundraiser event and were immediately flabbergasted. 1 week later he asked me out to the Pride party. Next month when I actually went to Mumbai as planned with my BFFs, I ended up extended my trip to celebrate my birthday with him and the New Year’s Eve.
Our first date:
So he asked me out for the Post Pride Party which in itself is a big deal for us as it is day of celebration and breaking free. Now the funny part is that in Bangalore the clubs used to shut by midnight while in Mumbai its quite the opposite. So for us our party began at 8 pm while he arrived at 10 pm. I was a bit upset with him because I thought I got stood up. To which we held my hand took me out of the club and said, “Now let’s walk in again, this time together”.
I knew at that very moment that this guy is something. Little did I know my entire life was going to change.
He had already swept me off my feet with his gestures. He just made me feel so comfortable around him. The best part was that we were both on the same page of our lives when we met. I always say that at times you might meet the right person, but if the timing is not right, it won’t work out. We were just lucky in love. That night I think I defied all my protocols.
I always came home after any date, but that day I just went with him. We had an amazing dinner at the other end of Bangalore. We crashed at his friend’s place. Made love like bunnies that night. It was the beginning for the rest of our lives.
After our first date, he went back to Mumbai. We used to have long, late-night conversations, getting to know each other better. We made plans on how to make it work for us; as long-distance was not my thing and I had made this clear since the beginning. Over those months as I got to know Inder, I came to understand that he has a heart of pure gold. He is the kind of person who thinks of everyone else. Maybe that’s what made me realize “He’s the One”.
Our wedding story:
We were in Goa – one of our favorite vacay destinations. We went to a karaoke bar and sang Love by Michael Buble, together. This was four years after we started living together. Later while we were taking a walk on the beach, suddenly he stopped and went on one knee. And when I turned around I was like, “Baby, what are you doing, did you lose something?” To which the other friend with us yelled at me, “Look at what he’s doing you fool”. And then there was just a BIG YES!
We weren’t out to our parents back then. Later when we told them, they accepted us and were glad we’ve found each other. But you ought to give them time. When it took me good 20 years to come out to myself, it’s not fair to ask them to accept us in an instant.
Our wedding on the other hand, was a full on Bollywood Masala event. It was an extremely private affair limited to very few friends and family. The biggest surprise was, I had no idea where the actual wedding was going to be.
So along with all the guests, even I was spellbound when we took smaller boats to the middle of the sea where a yacht was ready for us. It was the most magical event ever and only someone like Inder can pull it off so well.
Issues queer couples face in India:
There has been a lot of acceptance now. Having said that, discrimination still lurks among all the support as well. It prevails and needs to be abolished. Gay bashing is inhumane. Finding accommodation is another challenge.
As of now both Inder and I can not jointly invest in a property. There are very limited to none medical insurance policies. These are the next steps we need to step up and fight for. Adoption is another discussion I would like to engage in.
Things to keep in mind for a happy relationship:
- Being comfortable in your skin
- Along with love, try and find respect for your partner
- Know the distinct difference between ego and self respect
Things to keep in mind while searching for true love:
- Make yourself available but be well informed.
- Trust your instincts
- Don’t explicitly look for love, let it find you this one time. Meanwhile work towards being a better version of yourself.
A word for people who are in the closet and are willing to come out:
I will only tell you to take your time. Although coming out as early as possible is good, but emphasis is on “possible”. So suggest you come out only when you are comfortable. For those willing to come out, the timing has never been perfect.
Just keep yourself informed. Read as much as you can and educate yourself. “Coming out” begins from coming out to yourself. Trust me, it’s the first step towards liberation. Rest everything falls into place gradually.
It is amazing to see how FSOG brings out queer stories to inspire so many at the moment. I mean I would have loved a platform like yours in my growing years. Keep doing your bit in supporting the community; by giving the younger lot a ray of hope and letting them know that they are not alone.