Tuesday, March 24, 2020
I visited Jalandhar in August 2019 almost 13 years after having left it in 2007. Jalandhar, a city in the State of Punjab in northern India, with a population of around 1 million, is where I was born and grew up for the first 15 years of my life. The reason for my visit (and return) to a city which I had desperately been trying to forget, and yet hold on to, was because my (paternal) grandfather’s health was slowly collapsing and everyone in the family knew that his days were numbered. My relationship with my grandfather, to put it mildly, was (is?) complicated. My kinship ties with him are closely related, not to love, but to violence, abuse, neglect, loss and trauma. Over the years, when I had been avoiding ever visiting the city and choosing any possible excuse to avoid social gatherings that might lead me into the city, I realized that the city itself had become my grandfather. I didn’t know at what point I had started relating every experience that I had in my hometown to him. Every pleasant memory of the city, of myself, turned bitter. Every instance from the past situated itself in reference to what he said after that specific instance or before. I started feeling these memories physically. I realized how, my body, would subconsciously shift when I remembered him and the city. My neck would start bowing down on its own, my eyes would start shifting to the ground, my shoulders would start stooping forward - my body would start turning passive. As if, my past was returning to my body through specific locations in my body. I had promised myself in 2007 (as immature I was in 8th grade!) that I would only return to Jalandhar when my grandfather dies. And, thus, I returned, years later, to see him immobilized to a bed, in a hospital emergency ward, several tubes sticking out from his skin and a thick tube emerging out of his open mouth. Few days later, after an excruciatingly painful non-recovery, he passed away.
I had written Part I of Jalandhar, Punjab in May 2018. A year before he died. Now, I look back at moments and day(s) after his death.
“I noticed that you didn’t cry at all. Not even a single tear”, my mother asked me the morning after we had set my paternal grandfather’s pyre on fire.
“Did you ever love him?”, she questioned.
“No.” I answered within half a minute.
Customarily the dead body would be kept in the house for few hours before taking it to the cremation ground so that well-wishers and family members could grieve and pay their respects. Seeing that many of his family members and extended relatives lived in villages far from Jalandhar, my father decided that we would keep my grandfather’s body from morning till evening. The bureaucracy of death kicked in. People scurried around arranging drinking water for many people who would come. Sikh priests from gurudwaras (Sikh place of worship) were called. A portable glass box with inbuilt cooling was arranged. His body was kept inside it so that people could see him. As the hours passed, people in ones or twos or groups would keep pouring in.
“Ah, here he is!”, exclaimed a family friend while affectionately putting her hand on my head. The last time she had seen me I was a 13-year-old kid.
She looked at my father and said, “Ravi…. he is the next S.R. Kang of the family” - suggesting that I am the only person in the family who truly embodies my grandfather. Her husband, an old friend of grandfather’s gravely nodded in my direction. I gave a polite smile, didn’t say anything and continued running around the house fulfilling my duties as a grandson. I don’t know who felt the irony of this statement more: me or my father. Surely, she knew I am nothing like him!
Before the body is taken to the cremation ground to be burnt, the members of the family customarily wash the dead body. The men (women if the person who died was a biologically born woman) of the family are required to carefully rub the body with fresh curd/yogurt, wash it and put some fresh clean clothes on it. The body, which up until now was kept in the glass box was taken out by me and few other male members of the family. I immediately smelled his rotting corpse and remembered thinking that this is what his life would smell like too. It would be the smell of his horrible ways. I remained silent throughout and diligently rubbed the body with curd. I was standing near his feet. Everyone around me was crumbling emotionally. Heavy eyes, teary eyes, swollen eyes and I just looked at him... Every time I would touch his body, I would silently curse him. I wanted to spit at his body. I wanted to step on his fucking corpse. I thought only if my emotions and words could materialize, his flesh would burn wherever my fingers touched him! I remember being disgusted, not by his rotting corpse but by him. His life. I felt nothing. I felt everything.
My sisters would often whisper family scandals to me. I came to know how uneducated, illiterate chamar women of villages were smitten by our grandfather. His fair-skin and learned ways. I learned how he would have affairs and sexual relations with many women. My mother would often jokingly tell me of an instance when a wife of a distant relative in nearby village couldn’t get pregnant and S.R. Kang famously said, “let her sniff my underwear”. His three sons were also famous for breaking many hearts. My sisters and mother would tell me how these men were met with giggles, and women would usually be dying to get their attention. I would hear about all these unnamed faceless women who were disposable to the men of my family. I would see my sisters and mother be treated as if the men in my family owned them. I would see the many men in Jalandhar eve tease them, harass them, touch them. I always knew I was attracted to men. My sexual awakening happened much later in life, but I was always romantically drawn to men. It’s only when I was 16, I came to know that people like me are called ‘gay’. And I remember thinking (as silly as it may sound now!), ‘Huh. Maybe this family desperately needed someone gay. Because the men of this family have been so horrible to women, it needed someone who is just not into them!’
I returned to Jalandhar in 2019 after leaving it in 2007. I had promised myself that I would only return when my grandfather dies. After a series of unfortunate accidents (slipping inside the bathroom etc, broken spine, chest congestion, lung failure), he ended up in emergency care. I was in New Delhi, spending my summer break away from America and was summoned by my father to Jalandhar. Family members from different locations across the country were called to be beside my grandfather’s bed in the emergency ward at a local hospital. Everyone suspected that his days were numbered. Not able to speak anything because of a ventilator shoved down his throat, my grandfather started scribbling on a notepad - phrases like ‘water’, ‘hot’, ‘don’t leave me’. When he didn’t have the energy to scribble, he would take your hand and move his fingers on your palms one alphabet at a time. My father would attend to his every word and when everyone failed to read what he had written; my father would have the final word on interpreting those scribblings. At one point, my grandfather started scribbling in Urdu. Born in a pre-independent, and pre-partition India, he belonged to the generation which was fluent in Punjabi and Urdu. None of us understood what he had written. Frantic phone calls were made, and text messages were sent to friends and family members hoping that they could interpret what was scribbled. Looking at that scribbled Urdu I remembered how he would tell us kids about his life when the British still ruled India. He told us about learning their Queen’s national anthem, how Indian soldiers in their uniform would march inside their village, how he lost so many friends and neighbors in partition communal riots, how it was common for men to stop other men on streets and take their pants/shorts off so that they could see if you were Muslim or Hindu or Sikh by checking if your penis was circumcised or not, how he stole books from abandoned Muslim households, how borders weren’t as heavily patrolled as they are now, how the price of petrol was so low.
The scribbled Urdu ultimately did not reveal anything grand. He had written ‘every inch of my body pains’
I had always hated the house that we grew up in. Now that I live in a big crowded city, I have begun to appreciate the value of physical space. Where marginalized and disenfranchised lives fight over each square foot, I consider myself very lucky. The ceilings in that house were so high! But I still despise the house. Because of everything that happened in it. In my dreams, however, a moving image would keep returning to me. That image is from a bright day. The sun is out and I can see the rays coming into the room from large windows on the wall that run from roof to the floor. Sunlight flooding in outside my room in my house in Jalandhar. Whichever new house I hunt for in new-strange cities – I am looking for those windows and I am hoping to feel the sun through those windows. I am hoping that, maybe, I can re-write my life through sunlight pouring in through big windows.
Saturday, February 22, 2020
Few days back I realized that I often try to remember my experiences as if they occurred in a linear trajectory. When in fact different timelines keep messing with each other. I am trying to put jumbled thoughts together. I don't know what beginnings to give, and what endings to expect...
I woke up in the middle of the night because I thought I smelled him. They say you can't 'feel' smell but I felt it heavy on my skin. I felt him on my skin. It travelled from my nose to the back of my head, slowly caressing its way down my spine and then suddenly - that feeling, that smell vanished just as quickly as it had arrived. Few days later I smelled him again. It hit me at an odd moment. Standing in the moving subway. Somewhere between 51 St Station and Astor Pl on the 6 Train. Even after almost two years of living here, I am still surprised by how carefully, strangers inside NY subway avoid touching each other. Even in crowded moments, even when you are carrying heavy luggage, you have to maneuver your way around people - around bodies. It felt strange smelling him while I avoided my leg scraping the leg of the woman standing next to me. I felt like someone had touched me - even when people around me avoided touching each other.
The city feels new to me even though I keep going in and out of it. Having barely explored the full depths of it, I think I know my way around. A little bit. I avoid opening familiar (yet unfamiliar) apps because I don't want them to mediate the way I experience a space. Whatever happened to meeting people outside of these apps! Maybe that's why I had reluctantly agreed to meet him. Because he hadn't reached out to me through those annoying apps.
I was so scared when I was on my way to Brooklyn to meet him for the second time! New York is a lot like New Delhi. People are obsessed with what exciting spots you are going to next. Or who you hang with. Quick to tell you whose parties to avoid. Perhaps I thought I was becoming a New Yorker too? Which is why I thought I was going to be an unnecessary addition to an equally unnecessary clique at your home.
I wanted to know his body before I made any move. It's a strange thing - wanting to know how someone's fingers would feel before their lips, or tongue. An obligatory hug when I met him didn't do much. Honestly, I wasn't expecting anything out of that first interaction. In this fast moving world, who the fuck knows what is 'socializing' and what is flirtatious! But over the next few hours, sitting on the couch next to him did something. I don't know whether it was the bareback gay porn playing on the big screen in the bar, or random video cuts of atomic bomb explosions in between those scenes of men fucking, but somewhere in between those scenes I found myself moving closer and closer to him on the red velvet couch. When did our bodies touch? When he went to the bar to get the next round of drinks? Or when I came back after peeing? Our bodies touched and my fingers found his and that's when I really started to know him.
When I was going to meet him again, I decided to leave the apartment that I was staying in absolutely drunk. I needed courage. I needed a little lack of direction even when I was clinging desperately to the directions to his house! Somewhere on the 4 Train, I started listening to music on full volume. Sometime before Borough Hall I noticed two desi girls loudly gesturing at each other and people around them noticing. I took my earphones off and overheard one girl shouting loudly in Hindi, "I think we are supposed to get off here?" and the other one say "Where have we come!?" ("yeh kahan aa gaye hum"). Then a white woman offered to help and after talking to her, they got off at the next stop. I wanted to run behind them! I wanted to tell them that I was lost too! That I knew where I was headed but didn't know why I was headed to that place!
TBH rarely have my hookups gone as I would liked them to. I wasn't expecting my fingers to make the decision for me. I usually let my dick decide. Lolz. Even after minutes (or was it hours?) of our entangled fingers and the stories they were telling each other - I realized that we hadn't kissed! It was the perfect setting! Our heads were leaning into each other's, I was devouring every word of his, I was still figuring out the color of his eyes, and more importantly - I had a raging boner! My dick felt so hard that I thought it was going to tear itself out of my pants. And then I asked him if he would like to come back to my place. He said yes. We still hadn't kissed.
God, what is with me and constantly living in nostalgia! When I started talking about figuring out the subway with him, I instantly thought about someone else. I wanted his responses to be the same as that 'someone else'. Because that 'someone else' is an urbanist. Lolz. Ever since meeting that 'someone else' - I carry him wherever I go. I want to experience places the same way he does! Alas! I could never create memories with Crown Heights because Lajpat Nagar got in my way. I think that 'someone else' was the first guy I told my caste to. I don't usually bring that up on dates. You know...cause I am still ashamed of mine, even when I pretend that I am not anymore. And then him. He was the second guy I told my caste to. On a first date. And I tell everyone now. But I immediately feel exhausted after I tell people. Like I have given something intimate away? But I didn't feel exhausted with that 'someone else'. Sigh. People move on. Wait, where was I?
Over the years, many men have said many memorable sentences to me while fucking. Once I took his clothes off and kissed him, I started feeling his chest hair. GAWDD!! HE WAS HOT! His nipples felt warm and it took all my will power to not greedily run my fingers all over his torso. Instead I kissed him even more. God, I could have kissed him for hours! I leaned back a bit, looked him in the eye and said, "You are really fucking hot". I meant it. Within a second, he replied, "We look really hot together" And I swear to god - that's one of the hottest things anyone has ever said to me in bed.
I try to remember the smell now. I think I left it behind with the city and the train. Or maybe Trump impeachment took over and his smell got too busy saving the world. Why should I care for someone who has time for revolution but not for love? Lol - I think I write these posts to see how randomly abstract yet oddly specific I can get.
|New York, December 2019|
P.S. My blog completes 10 years in 2020! Thanks for sticking with me! <3
Monday, September 2, 2019
I was traveling in the metro the other day. Taking the violet line, in between Mandi House and Nehru Place. Traveling along the route that I have taken many times when I lived around that area few years ago. I would never take a seat to sit because I loved standing next to the door and looking outside of it. When the metro shifted its route above ground after Jangpura and towards Lajpat Nagar metro station, I would feel like I was emerging out into the crowded world from dark lonely caves. The moment metro compartment I would be standing in would see the light, I would imagine my skin beginning to glow. I would imagine that light running all around, dancing across strange faces and loud phones. The way the world passed below me, after the Greater Kailash metro station, made me feel like I was part of something big. Something much bigger than me or anyone. Recently while I was taking the same route, standing the way I always used to, I hated that it had become about you and not about the city. And very specifically you. I hated that I had somehow lost that excitement of feeling insignificant. That humble feeling that the world would keep moving on no matter how many of us live and die in it. I hated that Lajpat Nagar had become about you. It's funny how I write these posts seeking some kind of closure from mourning but it never ceases to amaze me how constant my state of mourning is. Not for people but for eventualities. For possibilities. For the future. For love.
I don't know if I am writing this post for you or Delhi. And you are not even from Delhi! Yet you became the city for me. You don't imbibe that Delhi aesthetic (thank god!) despite your fuckboi haircut. You are not anything like those boys from Lajpat Nagar but your accent wants to be. I forgot at what point I started feeling you through Delhi and Delhi through you. So, I adopted a strategy to protect myself. I limited you to that single road and not the entirety that Delhi is. And I limited you to that single roof in Lajpat Nagar. The only problem with this strategy was that the lane and roof felt anything but limiting. That lane felt endless. That roof felt infinite. Like it was going to take over my life. Like the dirty night sky that we both were staring at while stealing glances at each other was filled with hope. You know, I try to be as abstract as I can be while thinking of you? You are not a person - but a brief intimacy. Your kiss is not a kiss - but a passing intense reflecting moment. Your smell is not just any smell - but a discussion point for polyamory.
Why am I doing this? Because lately, I have been getting tired of myself for always writing for men. I feel ashamed that I keep returning back to mourning. So I try to separate the specificities of men and turn them into abstractions. Into nothingness. Because that way I feel like I am above it all. That I am not bothered by small things that won't matter in the long run. That I am not afraid of losing myself again and again in men like you.
I was passing the Lajpat Nagar metro station by road the other night. After I had deleted your number because I was tired of hoping. And dreaming. And looking. And abstracting. I was looking at how anxious women and transwomen try selling sex (love?) just few steps away from Exit no. 1 metro gate and I thought maybe I should look at the city through your eyes. Not through hopelessness and despair but optimism. And I couldn't come up with anything. Maybe because I was too afraid of not being hopeless? I guess I felt like there could never be any direction in which I could escape with you. Like I would just be floating around. Like that infinite sky we kept looking at on your roof.
|'A date in Lajpat Nagar'|
I couldn't come up with anything. I had no answer.
and nothing abstract
Friday, March 8, 2019
I have been thinking a lot about how temporary ‘connections’ are. Just when you think something is building up, it disappears. An exciting conversation over coffee never spills beyond, the meaningful ‘hmms’ never cross over the four walls they were exchanged in, the side glances never really turn into long stares. For few weeks I decided to give up on wanting these connections. I thought I could manage living without hoping. Which really meant that I practiced looking down while walking when in fact it had taken me years to start looking up. In between my efforts of trying to look down, my eyes stumbled upon you. I knew your face before I was meant to see it in real life. I had discussed your face with a friend. Till then I had imagined that face with a little irritation. I didn’t really bother stalking that face because I didn’t think it was going to matter much in my life. Trying to contain my general disappointment, I indulged in your face when I first met you. Thinking that this forced connection is only meant for three days and that I shouldn’t ruin it for myself and for people around me. But slowly I kinda stepped away from your face and actually started listening to what was coming out of it. And hey! I didn’t hate it? I was actually…..fine with it…. After exchanging few meaningless phrases, I realized that I was liking hanging around your face. And as your eyes moved from one line to the next in the world of Anthony Doerr, and as the winds continued to collapse against the plane we were sitting in, and as the white uncle sitting next to us dug deep into his pistachios, I think I kept getting lost deeper and deeper into that voice. Maybe I just imagined that you had a certain depth to yourself? Maybe I wished that you did. Or maybe you actually do?
And in that wishing, un-wishing and non-wishing I realized what was happening. Do you ever have those moments in your life where you are very familiar with the kind of silly patterns you keep falling into? And when you do make those same mistakes over and over again, you witness it and see it happening (or rather see yourself make it happen) and think – oh fuck here I go again. And well, fuck, I did go there again. I started thinking about you ‘like that’. No silly, I am not talking about imagining fucking you. I am talking about actually wanting to know you. I am talking about wanting to ‘connect’ with you. One thing I love about myself and equally hate myself for it is that I am too observant of how people act around me – in relation to me. I start reading too much into gestures, I start looking for meanings when in fact many interactions are completely meaningless and I start looking for ‘signs’ when there is an empty void. Why am I like this? Why do I keep looking for eyes which won’t look back? Trust me, the Delhi in you almost forced me to not look….but the Punjab in you kept calling back. Isn’t it strange that we sometimes are willing to keep our entire lives on hold just to make few nights memorable? Isn’t it thrilling that we allow ourselves to fall in love over and over again because we pretend that we want to be heart broken?
I spent three long, slow days with you. I look back at those three days and actually don’t want anything more out of them. I am surprisingly okay with that first night ending abruptly because I was too drunk to be brave in front of you. I don’t think too much about our second night when I thought ‘surely he knows something is up!’ I don’t dwell over the fact that me switching off the lights when everyone else had dozed off was a ‘signal’ you should have picked up (or maybe you did….and that’s why you left?). I don't think too much about why you chose to not tell me yourself that someone confused us to be a couple when we were dancing together on drunken streets. I don't label our interactions as 'you enjoying attention from a gay guy' or 'he's just being polite' as I usually would. I don't feel sad thinking whether you noticed me deliberately withdrawing from you the last day. I don't read into the random questions you asked me over those three days. Even though I remember every minute with you....I don't think of you that often. Haha. I am serious. I don't! I don't randomly text my friend that I miss you. I haven't discussed you with my friends. I haven't kept any nicknames for you, like 'that Miami boy', or 'my future potential something'.
|Miami, February 2019|
And I wish I should have just said,
Thursday, November 15, 2018
My journey with choosing the right Dildo has been a strenuous one. From laughing at tiny yellow colored rocket machines held together with cello-tape in Fort, Mumbai to funny smelling ones in Palika Bazaar, Delhi (rumor in the market was that most dildos were already used!) - I just never could convince myself to buy one. Most of the equipments online would almost always cater to clitoris stimulation. Dildo in the digital Indian market wouldn't imagine the prostate. Sometimes I think I should have ordered a Dildo long time back, beginning of my 20s to be precise, just so I could be good at bottoming! Fucking took me ages to be able to take a dick inside properly!
After repeated unfortunate physical encounters I finally decided to order one online. The Dildo came. I have not named it. LOL of course I have. I am not telling you the name. I felt it between my fingers and strangely, felt like I was holding a dick for the first time in my life. I didn't feel the heat that generally radiates from a dick but I felt drawn to it. I had a nice shower and cleaned my ass just as I would before any fuck date or an evening where I anticipated sucking cock and getting my ass wrecked by an emotionally unavailable man. I applied a nice smelling body lotion around my dick and asshole just as I would on a day knowing that my body would be licked inch by inch by a hungry tongue. Only this time the D (Dildo) wasn't lathered up by my mouth but by a good old regular wash basin. I cleaned this D properly and laid on my bed to start. I'll be honest - I am all for self stimulation and finding creative ways to pleasure oneself (god knows lonely gays LIVE on masturbation) but I found it weird to 'start'. I don't really know what the start and end of sex is? It can go anywhere and nowhere right? Part of getting to know someone's body is the unpredictability right? So I didn't know HOW would I begin opening up my ass. Do I place the D upright on the bed and try squatting on it? Do I lie down with my legs in the air and push the D inside me with one hand? Do I hold it perpendicular to the wall and try taking it in? I didn't fucking know. Finally I decided to try taking it in with my legs in the air. I put lot of lotion on the D and started massaging my hole. My dick, it seemed, wasn't in the mood for it. And I wasn't surprised. My dick wasn't familiar with this new object. It was still figuring out its reaction! After feeling that my hole was beginning to relax and open up a bit I started shoving the D inside. It felt strange. It felt squishy. IT FELT GOOOOOOOOOD. I felt my nipples hardening. I felt the familiar dull inner thigh ache. I sensed my muscles inside resisting and inviting the D at the same time. My breathing automatically matched the movement of my muscles. I involuntarily moaned and my dick responded to the hardness of my nipples and the head of the dildo fully entering inside me. It was once I inserted the entire D inside me and pushed the button on it that I realized OH MY FUCKING GOD WHY DON"T OUR DICKS COME WITH INBUILT VIBRATION. You know that feeling when you enter your bed in harsh winters after taking a nice warm bath and use a warm bottle in between your legs while sleeping? (If you don't know this feeling then I am judging you and how on earth have you lived by not doing this!?). That warmth travels tickling up from your thighs to the base of your balls? This was that but only better. I think my body was shocked. My legs were shocked. My prostate was shocked. My orgasm was ecstatic. I couldn't believe that my prostate could be stimulated like that.
This D My D has 22 modes of vibrations. The first one feels like listening to a calm ocean while sitting on a beach, the fifth one feels like sitting on a bumpy car ride when you tell your fellow car members 'ugh please drive properly' but deep inside you are saying 'fuck this kinda feels good', the tenth one feels like you could be in a porn movie and this rhythm would get the 'top' top awards and the twenty second one..... The fucking twenty second one felt like a place where I would NEVER let a man go inside me. It felt like a sexual fantasy in which only my clone knew how to enter because only I know my body that well. It felt like that crush (who in reality is a useless fuck) but in your dreams KNOWS his shit. It felt like an incident from mythology where the protagonist experiences other worldly connections through their dreams. It felt like....FUCK you get the idea. IT FELT FUCKING AMAZING. And for the second time in my life, I came without ever having to touch my dick. I know you are going to say 'oh what an inexperienced child! Sex toys are already at a revolutionary stage and he is still trying his first regular old dildo!' and I would tell you 'Fuck you' and also that you are right. Ugh. I admit that it has taken me a long time to get around this but one of the reasons I have been avoiding a dildo is because I rely too much on touch. It's not that pleasure for me has depended on touch but I had become accustomed to experiencing sex through bodies touching me. Even if not penetration then licking my nipples, or pulling my hair, or jamming fingers deep into my mouth, or choking me with cock..... Am I relying too much on emotional and physical intimacies to feel stimulated?
I have somewhat physically settled into this new country but I am emotionally still making sense of it. Just to give you an update (amazing and kind strangers who push me to write here more frequently) - I recently shifted to U.S.A. for higher studies. Growing up in Jalandhar (Punjab) who had never really stepped out of that town (it's a sprawling city now! Before you ask, NO I am not telling you my age), as your every day desi gurl I always imagined America to be some mystic sexual la la land. Only to realize later in life how stupid I was to not have explored fragile Punjabi men sexually. I was too busy making sense of my own sexuality through my fantasies! If you have read my blog at all, it would be obvious that I tend to make sense of my surroundings mostly through desires and intimacies. But I have been living in fantasies since fucking forever! I have experienced sex through my dreams, fiction and imaginations! It's not like I have not experienced rejection before! My entire life has been about making sense of my queerness through lack of touch! So what is so different now? I feel like I am returning back to my high school self. Where falling in love with strangers was all I knew. And distance was the only way I knew closeness. I think I don't have as many insecurities as I did then but every fantasy now comes with a tinge of regret. Like there is something missing. More than what was missing back then. It is anger at the lack of figuring out my own patterns. That regret is fear of not able to get with the times of online apps. That regret is my inability to not being clear/direct and getting too lost in ambiguity. That regret is knowing that I should have learnt by now where to place my intimacies but still channeling it at the wrong
And while my D satisfied me in ways no man ever could I still wondered what would have happened if while getting out of the car when that d dropped me home that night, instead of saying goodnight I kissed him instead.