This is a beautiful story of a 34 year old investment banker, Saptarshi Mitra, and his husband, his partner and the love of his life Adil Shahzad. A pride march brought them together, and since then they have stuck with each other through all the ups and downs of life. Read on to see how they met and how their journey has been up until now.
So Saptarshi, at what age did you realize that you were different form others? And how did you deal with it?
I think I knew forever! I knew that I liked men, even as a child, we know what we want. You may not know what is next, you may not exactly know what needs to be done, but you know whom you like being around.
There are lot of things which eventually factor in for somebody’s mental development. So now that I have grown up to a certain age and have done some retrospective thinking, I realize that there are a lot of things which would have made me comfortable with the entire perspective of being gay. In my childhood I have faced some sexual abuses. I don’t panic over it now. I think I didn’t even panic over it back then. Usually people suffer from a mental trauma after any such incident, but for me it wasn’t like that. I was fine. Today I hear a lot of people share their childhood trauma. And I believe that even though I have gone through such things, but I did not hate it. I might have just not understood what’s going on, to a certain extent, but I was ok with that. That’s what my logic has been; I always knew that I am gay.
When did you start going out with men?
On proper dates; in Indore when I was 17-18 years old, early days of 2005. That’s when I started working too. Genuinely chatting with people and then going and meeting types. And that following up to the rest of the deeds!
When did you meet your partner for the first time?
I saw him for the first time on November 24th 2013. I remember the date so well because it was the Pride March of Bangalore. And that is where I saw him for the first time. I usually go there alone I don’t like to tag people along. So I was just there, meeting and greeting people; And then I see this bald man walking with one of friends. And I love bald men. The only criteria that was in my list of finding a person was that he should be bald. If he has hair, it’s a reject. Somehow, I love it.
So I asked my friend whether they were seeing each other. And the answer was no! So I told my friend to ask that guy if he’ll sleep with me! That’s how we exchanged our numbers.
A few days later, I pinged him and then we had a chat and we met. From there on we met very frequently, and then one thing led to the other and within 2 weeks we realized that we both really like each other a lot. And subconsciously, I had that radar on; that I was looking for someone.
I spoke with him and things started rolling and eventually we started going out.
What was that one moment when you realized that he is The One?
There were multiple. The 1st moment was when he connected with my parents very well. Since I’m the only son, it was very important to me that my partner could connect well with my parents. Today both of us live together and my mother lives with us. So it’s a family setup I always wanted to live in and for that to exist my partner had to mingle and be able to digest my family. Because really, all families come with their own set of drama and nobody wants to deal with another person’s drama. For every person the other person’s family is a circus. While we can handle our own circus but we don’t want to to dig in and take the responsibility of other peoples’ circus. So, when he connected with my family, it was a big deal for me. My dad was not well back then and Adil used to do what I was doing or rather more so, for my dad. I knew that it can’t get any better than this.
Secondly, of course he looked extremely beautiful! He still does. So that was one point!
Additionally, all of our choices match. There are may things common between us. And also, we love each other so much that we are happy to make a few changes here and there to accommodate the other person. So that’s another reason how I knew I had found the best person for me!
Who proposed whom first and what happened that day?
I proposed to him first. It was a surprise flash mob proposal, with some of my friends, some of his friends, and he said yes! To get a fair idea of what happened that day, you can watch this video:
How did your families react to the news of your engagement?
His family doesn’t know yet. And it doesn’t really bring any issues between us. His parents are old and we do not want to give them a shocker. The way our life is running right now, it’s pretty good and we are ok with that!
Subconsciously we know that they know about us but we don’t talk about it much.
You mentioned that people made memes of you both. What’s the story behind that?
Yes, when this proposal video came out, it suddenly became a major hype. Within a few days, it had Thirty thousand views. And it was quite scary, because 6 years back YouTube was not that popular, not everyone had Wi-Fi at home; Wi-Fi used to exist only in offices. The media started contacting me, like Yahoo Mail, Bollywood Shaadis, Scoop Whoop, Buzzfeed etc. All of them reached out and they wrote our story in a very nice way. They made it very very beautiful thing, because back then Section 377 was 100% active; so that made it a bigger news. Along with that a lot of memes of started popping; And it became over hyped.
Honestly we did get a little scared. I used to get continuous calls during my work hours in my office, and half the time I used to run away from my desk to explain my love life! But then I thought this is not done. So I made the video private. With that, we were able to subside the media a little and then with time it kind of washed away. Two years back a friend of ours wanted to show this video to one of her colleague. So I had to make the video public again to send her the link. But I forgot to make it private again, and somehow, it again got hyped up.
Eventually, it did mellow down, but what happened was that people started spotting us around Bangalore. We were a little uncomfortable with that. For example if we are out on the street, people would approach us, although on a very positive note, trying to wish us and saying that they saw our video.
So when did you get married? What happened that day?
We got married in Santorini, we went on a vacation there and we got married. It was more of a vacation than a wedding. The wedding was just a formality with a few pictures here and there. Mainly, it was all about travelling, as we both love to travel.
It was just the two of us and it was definitely not a big time wedding per say. Initially we had the thought of having a big wedding, but then after that video incident and stuff with the media we were not Ok with it. We did not want all that attention again; and also we got a little money minded. Why would we spend so much money on a wedding, when we could use it for two more trips!
You have seen India through the decades. How was the Indian society towards the community back then, before section 377 was decriminalized?
Forget 377, even today it is horrible. The only section of the crowd that understands the gay community are the ones who have come out of their shell or the ones who are living in these prominent cities like Bangalore, Mumbai, Delhi, Calcutta, and maybe Hyderabad & Pune- all metropolitan cities. There you still have that acceptance. But people outside of these cities, they just have their village. I’m not saying villages are bad. They are very beautiful, but the mindset hasn’t changed. And as a whole if I look at the country, I don’t like it. Unfortunately, I’m an Indian and I’m saying that I do not like my country because of the way it is today.
Just as an example: We are more focused on banning beef than banning anything else. Let people eat what they wanna eat. There are other things to cater to which I don’t think the government, which is what, ultimately the people’s voice, is focusing on. And if we’re not, then we aren’t accepting the community. Imagine, it’s just 2 years back that we decriminalized section 377. Till then it was active. Meaning if you get caught, you could possibly get life imprisonment; for being who you are!
So the society has not evolved. Our generation has evolved, the generation after us has evolved. Society as a whole has not been able to accept the community. What is happening is that people will pretend that its Ok. They don’t mind if someone outside their home is gay. But when it happens at home, it’s a problem. “Your son is gay that is so sweet but my son cannot be.” That’s what’s wrong. If you accept, accept everybody. Don’t be a hypocrite.
I am not saying it doesn’t exist in my family it does. It exists in Adil’s family too. He belongs to a very staunch Muslim family. It is a far difficult task for him. So yes, if I talk about the society; society has been horrendous.
What are the problems queer couples face in India specially married men?
Number 1 is renting a house. It’s very difficult. Initially we had to say that he is my cousin. Which I didn’t want to, but I had to because otherwise how would you explain an absolutely unknown person that he is my husband; they would freak out. So when you find a good house you do whatever it takes to keep that. Today, the society we live in, everybody knows and everybody is very ok with it. Many of them follow us on Instagram and are very good friends.
Secondly, from the law perspective, we do not have equal rights. We cannot purchase a property. I will not be, by default, the co-owner. There will be a lot of ownership questions. What is the tag which I will put there?
Plus if you look at it from an insurance perspective, it is not default coverage, like for a straight married couple, they have a default coverage for the spouse and kids, but we don’t.
But honestly, on the brighter side, we don’t have it so difficult considering we are in a decent situation, from career point of view. We are making decent amount of money, living in a city which is quiet out there. But if there are others who are not doing so well monetary wise, or there job is not stable enough, it becomes a challenge for them. Because how will a person look for help if there is no law place and the government doesn’t do anything about it.
What do you think should be done to overcome this
Education. That is the only way. There has to be education existing at every level, even the old ones need to get educated; because unfortunately those are the ones who run the country and if we cannot educate the old ones then the law is not changing. We are still stuck in the past.
And how will that change? Through education at every level. Obviously, at young level, goes without saying, but it should also happen mandatorily in every space: to parents, grandparents, at schools, in hospitals; Everywhere! It has to be put out there. Only then it will eventually change.
Media has to take over because, “Jo Dikhta Hai Vo bikta hai”. And since it’s not seen much, people think it’s a minority society. People think it’s a western culture. But if you look at the figures Grindr has published this year in 2020, India is the fourth largest user of Grindr. That does mean a lot. It’s clearly not a minority. And it’s not a western culture. Therefore education, at every level, is the only solution.
There is a very popular myth, that in a gay relationship, there is a “woman” and a “man”. Would you agree to this statement?
Sexually, yes. It could be, but need not be. I have a lot of other gay friends who are also living with their partners and I would not 100% agree that it was a requirement. It could be that there is the setup existing in bed, but that’s not compulsory.
In our set up, both of us have a job, both of us work our ass off to earn and to make a better living. We both are working really hard to ensure we have whatever we need, to improve our life as a whole. So here, there’s no logic of who is the husband, who is the wife. We are in a husband and husband setup, where there are 2 husbands living in the house. Wife doesn’t have a space.
Every relationship and every marriage has its own ups and downs. Every couple goes through a lot of obstacles. I’m sure you must have too. How do you deal with such situations?
We have been in these situations zillions of times! Uncountable times.
We honestly learnt with time. We’ve made our share of mistakes and we have reacted to things. But with time, we learnt how to handle things better. 7 years teaches you a lot. So, it eventually taught us how to react in certain circumstances. We still make mistakes, We are still learning and we’re still evolving as people. As a human being also we are changing throughout and always; we are also trying to figure out and learn. But eventually it does get better; that is one thing which I can definitely tell.
Initial days are very difficult, because that’s when you are trying to fit in. At that point, you’ve lived your life being single, you’ve been living in a certain manner, your partner has been living in a certain manner, and now your worlds are colliding; there will certainly be clashes. We have had our clashes, we have had our fights and arguments, but with time, it goes off. You learn to be with that person and it get easier.
After all, it’s a choice which you have made, that you want to be with this person, and you have to accept whatever comes along with it. I am sure that he has been tolerating me; I have also tolerated him. So there are a lot of things that we accept and move on with. Now If you ask me to count them, I wouldn’t be able to, because those eventually wash away. You may not have the bad memories existing, but the good ones stay.
If you ever write a book about your life, what title would you like to give your story?
I haven’t thought about this ever. But to keep it simple, I would title it as “Just another family” because, there is nothing, so to say, “not normal” about my family. How I look at it, is just an any other family. There is nothing so stark or so not normal, that it has to be pointed out. It’s just a normal family. So that is something that I would like to put across, whenever, if I ever write.
What are the 3 things one should keep in mind for a happy relationship?
Very simple, you Don’t even need 3 things: Just accept. That is all you need. You need to accept the person and everything that comes with the person. You need to accept that this is life. And with a happy note. You can’t just accept, sulking, like what has happened with me! You accept because you are happy about accepting it. That’s all you need. You don’t need too much.
This is something that I have definitely learned.
What are the 3 things one should always keep in mind when they are searching for love?
Don’t try to fit in a bill. I tried and fortunately it worked for me but it might not work for everybody. I was lucky.
Don’t go with a frame to fit a person in. People go with a list: he should be earning this much, or she should look like this, he should be in this company and so on. No, like the human, not the attributes. That is all you need. You don’t need a lot of things. If you like the human, you will deal with the rest of it. Because if the person also likes you back and there are certain things that you want to do, then that person will do that. You don’t have to make it a point that this person has to be ready-made. They will not be ready-made, you will have to do a little bit of work. I’m sure the person I am is not the person I was 7 years back. We change with time, we learn. If you really want to be with that person, then that person will change and you will too.
The key is to grow together and evolve together. And enjoy the process also.
What is your opinion about platforms such as FSOG?
The best post which I saw on your profile was about tits and I found that really nice. I actually went and told Adil that I really like this post. There are different ones and everybody is not picture perfect. The picture perfect ones are the rare ones. That is the abnormal one. The normal ones are the ones which exist and I really liked that. When you swipe through the rest of the images, it really unfolds into a very beautiful story. That’s something which I really liked about your post. It’s really beautiful. Genuinely amazing thoughts.
There are so many followers, you don’t know who is reading this where? Maybe someone was depressed about how their tits are and its the truth. Not everyone is happy about how their body is. Your posts might have helped someone, somewhere. And nothing can be better than that!