Oct 31, 2010

Social unshackling thanks to a beautiful gay couple

A few months back, I met a friend on a personals website. He was an elderly man (well, middle-aged by my standards) from Mumbai who was in a long-term relationship with his boyfriend. He seemed genuine in his correspondence to me and tried to keep in touch with me regularly. I got to know from his communications that his boyfriend was much older to him—the boyfriend had undergone cardiac surgery and was recuperating from it.

The good thing about my friend is that he seemed to be interested in me as a friend and didn’t seem to have an ulterior dark side like my other older former friend. In the few months that we had known each other over messages and SMSes, he must have invited me at least three or four times to drop by his apartment, which is quite close to KEM, and visit him and his partner. Once, I had even considered visiting him during my visit to help May out with her apartment hunt.

This Monday, I received an SMS from him. He was inviting me over to his place for dinner. My knee-jerk social-phobic response was in action and I replied almost immediately—“Thanks for the invite, but I’m sorry. I don’t think I’m going to make it to the dinner. I have social phobia and I will definitely feel out of place there.” He replied saying it was alright and that he understood. I was relieved on one hand and was worried on the other hand whether my friend had misunderstood me.

On Tuesday, something happened to me. Something inspired me to break out of my social shackles that I had imposed on myself after traumatic social episodes like this. I sent my friend a message saying that I had reconsidered his invitation and had decided to attend his party. He expressed happiness at my change of mind and offered to host me earlier in an effort to decrease my discomfort levels being with strangers at his party. I agreed and things were all set for my first social adventure in months.

During the week, I learnt that I already knew most of the people that he had invited over to his party. One of them was a guy who I had a huge crush on a year or so back. For a change, things were looking bright. I decided to take a half-day off on Saturday to reach his apartment early and to get to know the couple well before the guests arrived.

My friend greeted me at the gate of this palatial residential complex a stone’s throw away from KEM hospital and ushered me through the sprawling complex into his apartment. On our way up to the sixth floor, I got to know that he was a flight person and had met his partner decades ago in a flight and then went out on a date during which, they would that they were neighbors. Soon they moved in together and have been partners ever since!

In the apartment, I met his wonderful partner—who I had mistakenly assumed for a firangi because of his first name was distinctly anglicized—and together we spent about an hour catching up and knowing each other. There were a few uncomfortable moments of silence here and there, mainly because I was struggling to get my rusted social skills to work in unison.

Eventually, as the guests started trickling in, I came to know more about the wonderful couple. They were freed to converse in the mode that they liked—the guests helped cull wonderful moments from their past and brought out a certain liveliness in the conversation. The older partner, who’s a ballet dancer, was a very jovial person with a unique narratorial style, especially when he described anecdotes.

Over whiskey, vodka, wine, salami, and salmon, we had a good time—at least, I did. Surprisingly enough, one of the guests was a person who I had a weird online acquaintance with. To add to the confusion, we failed to recognize each other initially because we were confused by the distorted images that Yahoo Messenger had provided us with. All in all, it was a fruitful experience—something that has reinvigorated my belief in controlled social partying and my search for a long-term relationship.

Oct 30, 2010

On my reading shelf

Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children

If I remember correctly, this is my third effort to read this classic by Rushdie which has won the Booker of Bookers. I got a decent print from my favorite roadside bookseller a few months back and this time the reading is going on well. Many people have said that they could not get through more than a few pages a Rushdie book. To all of them, I suggest that they try this one.

Suketu Mehta’s Maximum City – Bombay Lost and Found

I got a copy of this from my office colleague from whom I got Persepolis. I just started it and I don’t have any distinct opinion about the book yet. But all I can say is that I can relate to it a lot, having been in Mumbai (or should I say Bombay) for five years!

Victor Wooten’s The Music Lesson

A lot of my friends mistook my messages on Twitter and FaceBook about me starting this Victor Wooten book thinking that I had downloaded a video lesson by him. For those who are unaware who Victor Wooten is, please check this amazing musician’s profile out on Wikipedia. This was gifted by a dear friend of mine, a fellow musician, with whom I have spent a few glorious months in Mumbai. I have gone through half of this book mostly during my daily travel up and down to office from my apartment. I’m about halfway through the book and I’m already bugged by the spirituality part of the book.

Oct 29, 2010

The official birthday threat

My colleagues at work, who I dearly love, to whom I express my love in a very obvious, literal manner on a daily basis, have decided to do something that would be the most unwelcome. They are planning to visit me on Sunday, November 7th, on my birthday—something that I really am not prepared for. In all honesty, this act is going to be very annoying if they eventually pull it off.

They want to do this because I don’t let them celebrate my birthday at work—last year’s birthday came on a Saturday when I had an off day and this years’ is of course on a Sunday. I think they are serious about this and they have given me a warning to clean my apartment up so that it is ‘habitable’ by their standards.

My apartment is never really unclean by any standard. Remember that I’m gay. Also, I have had a history of cleanliness and neatness wherever I have lived. Ask my mother and sister if you need some assurance about this fact. Plus, I have a maid who comes in and does whatever little there is to be taken care off.

Sometimes there are some clothes and guitars strewn around my primarily because there is not enough storage space to put them away. But the main problem with my apartment is that it is dusty and warm. Plus, there are cockroaches and lizards which I don’t really have a problem with because they give me company in my loneliness.

I must admit that I have lost some of the motivation to dust the apartment, take care of cobwebs, and make sure that my sub-mammalian comrades are not excessively proliferating. This coincides with a general lack of motivation that is seeping through my life, especially in all facets of my life other than work. This make me worry a lot—will my colleagues make fun of my apartment’s apparent ‘uncleanness’?

So, in the last two weeks leading up to my birthday, I’ll have to be scared and wary of this impending threat. This is not the right way to shower love to a social phobic, bipolar person like me. Would you you please understand and act accordingly?

Oct 27, 2010

Nightmares

I’m back in Kerala. I’m surrounded by friends who are puzzled at my decision to write an entrance examination again. I can’t seem to properly answer their questions. The setting is not at my parents’ new home, but in my old home, where we used to stay when I wrote the entrance examination to qualify for my MS Orthopedics in Mumbai’s KEM hospital.

I seem to be intent on giving an examination again and qualifying for another residency course. It seems the logical decision to me as the flow back to a surgical career would be smooth. I also am sure that the new degree/diploma would add to my already acquired MS degree. I even urge some of my friends who have established career paths to do the same.

Yes, such things could happen in dreams—more correctly, nightmares. Almost every night, in the last many months, I have had nightmares related to my fledgling surgical career. These nightmares vary in intensity, but leave a clear vision in the mornings, leaving with a burning desire to break away and get back to the hospital. They give me some faith that the difficulties that I will encounter can be faced as and when they come along.

But how can I throw away what precious little that I have acquired in my career in music and editing? My job in editing provides me with the financial stability that I require. It also allows me to do what I want when I want it—a controlled life that a surgical career would not allow. It also allows me to indulge in my music career, which unfortunately is just going nowhere.

How long can I survive these?

Oct 24, 2010

There is something about Ray...

Ray and I hadn’t spoken in months. We were getting into a messy situation of how to break the incommunicado. Every couple of weeks or so, an SMS would arrive from him (or for him from me) asking how things were. There would be a customary reply which would be reciprocated by “Isn’t our friendship fading away?” message. We’d mutually agree that we needed to break the deadlock and start afresh. But we were hesitant to do so.

This status-quo lasted until this Sunday, when in a reply to a customary SMS, I told him about my newly-manifested telephobia. He was surprised and asked me if I was being irregular with my medications. I said I was alright otherwise except for this intense telephobia, especially with my family and friends. I added that I didn’t think that telephobia would manifest with him. I didn’t know why, but I was sure that it wouldn’t be the case.

That was the impetus that we needed. I called him to check if my prophecy would be true. It turned out to be true after all. We had a decidedly healthy conversation lasting almost half an hour, where we chatted like old bum-buddies. But we were careful to avoid the topics that would cause trauma to either side. That’s our forté. And that’s what probably lacking in the conversations with other people that I’m telephobic for!

At the end of it all, we are as good we have ever been! Cheers to me and Ray and our friendship!

Oct 21, 2010

My cousins now know

My sister is currently nursing her baby girlchild. That's an enormous responsibility. She seems to want more. Why else would she shoulder the responsibility of coming out, albeit on my behalf, to my cousins. The ironic and funny thing about this fact is that my parents had forbidden me from doing so myself. So my sister breaks the shackles for me.

It apparently started with two of the closest cousins from my inglorious past. They were surprised, but apparently accepted the news rather graciously. They must have had questions and I don't know how far my rather frail (physically, of course) sister would have been able to handle those. I wish I can help her with the burden -- if only my telephobia would allow me.

Now, these two gentlemen couldn't hold the breaking news to themselves. They confided in their siblings -- a brother and a sister. The brother, the youngest of the four cousins involved in this little fiasco, has already browsed through this blog and read bits and pieces. The sister, however, is grappling to come to her senses having heard the news.

She must have been thinking - 'How could it have happened? He looks normal! He behaves normally. He's funny and intelligent. He's educated and talented. He's just like one of us. I don't believe it!'

Well, the heart of the matter is that, my dear cousin sister, I'm exactly what all you think about me - the positive and negative things. Just the fact that I'm gay. I like men just like the way you like men. I like to have an emotional relationship with a man of my choice. Yes, and have sex with him. Sometimes these things can be mutually exclusive. But the answer is yes.

So, take your time. Let it sink in. At the other end, you will still find me.

Oct 20, 2010

Telephobia

It’s a forgotten fact about my forgettable past. Yes, I used to be an introvert once. My tenure as a medical student and the responsibilities related to my sister’s marriage, which, in turn, was a result of the sheer ineptitude of my father in tact and intrafamilial affairs, had allowed my de-cocooning and metamorphosis into a social butterfly.

Most of my current friends haven’t a clue about this dark aspect of mine. Let me try to put it in a rather complex way: my past is not present in their past related to me because I was not present in their past at that stage. Anyway, my introversion remanifested around the time I had to deal with the mental trauma related to Vinokur’s illness/visit and the eventual separation; it has now established itself to be the primary trait in my present day life.

One of the characteristic features of this shade of my personality is my fear to have phone conversations. A Google search tells me that this is a prevalent, relatively well-known phobia and is referred to as phone phobia, telephone phobia, or telephobia. My telephobia is currently rooted in my fear to have conversations with people who I have a difficult job convincing my side of things in traumatic topics, which include my career choices, familial duties, and depressive tendencies.

Although my best friends (Chuck, Ray, and May) have the level of understanding with me that should enable a conversation, I still fear the trauma associated with the reestablishment of a torn umbilical cord — nature lets the umbilical cord atrophy, we try to put it back together. What I’m trying to say is that - it's that hard for me to speak to anyone, even my best friends.

My telephobia, which is an element of the broad umbrella of social phobia, is acute with my family, relatives, and friends from my past. Please note that the modifier ‘from my past’ was not initially meant for the former two items in my three-item list, but can encapsulate them as well, because of the obvious — I have honestly moved on from my family and relatives, haven’t I?

Thus I don’t take calls from my past and definitely don’t make calls to those associated with it. Simple. Avoid trauma — the reincarnations of the past that I have left behind for good, even though a very tiny part of I may still want that past to be a part of my present.

When not at its inglorious best, my telephobia manifests as rudeness or curtness. Sometimes my perplexity as to what necessitated a phone conversation in the first place, when we could have perfectly avoided it, seeps through, you see. I often forget to sugarcoat my words in the social context and I misunderstood as the consequence. People fail to understand that I’ve never had that part in my machinery to start with — so how can have the oil to lubricate it?

Maybe this post is not cogent and is rather disoriented. But the final message is this — for telephobic folks like me, SMSes, e-mails, and even face-to-face conversations work better. There it is for you; that little snippet of me is out.

Oct 19, 2010

Persepolis

Yesterday, after a long period of time, I finished a book. Not quite a book really - well, it was a graphic novel called Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi. It is a French-language autobiographical comic (translated to English, of course) by Marjane Satrapi depicting her childhood up to her early adult years in Iran during and after the Islamic revolution. It is an engrossing read and keeps you entertained and informed with tidbits of political commentary and humor sprinkled all over.
But the part that I related most to was the narrative about little Marjane's break-up with her high-school boyfriend Markus, who was found to have been cheating on her. I'll quote a little passage from the book which summarizes the way I felt and continually feel after my break-up with Vinokur.
My breakup with Markus represented more than a simple separation. I had just lost my one emotional support, the only person who cared for me, and to who I was also wholly attached.

I had no family or friends; I had counted on this relationship for everything. The world had just crumbled in front of my eyes.

“Leave me alone, please!”

Everything reminded me of Markus. This bedspread, it was his birthday present to me.

This posted, he bought for me at the Picasso show at the Museum of Modern Art.

His T-shirt. Oh, his T-shirt.

Aside from him, who else was sincerely interested in me during these four years in Vienna.

Where was my mother to stroke my hair?

Where was my grandmother to tell me that lover, I would have them by the dozen?

Where was my father to punish this boy who hurt his daughter? Where?

In this room, everything evoked Markus. I couldn’t stand it anymore.

I took my bag, my passport, the plane ticket my parents had given me to visit them at Christmas, and a little money.
Of course, I don't have close ties with my family and parents, nor do I have plane tickets to go back home -- I don't want to go back home, actually -- the life of Marjane resembles mine in a variety of aspects. The way she breaks down after her break-up, the way she considers herself to be a loser and goes into depression after having failed at being what her parents had hoped her to be, the way she isolated herself from her friends and family, and the way her first marriage breaks up -- all this represents what I am going through right now.

I think I have gotten way too emotional with this blog post already. The take home message is, folks, read the book. Or at least watch the movie.

Oct 13, 2010

I become an uncle

Half a year ago, I was all excited about the prospect of becoming an uncle. I was happy to share the news with everyone at my office and was generally looking forward to being an uncle. But things have changed for the worse, again.

Today, my sister delivered a baby girl. My sister sent me a message early in the morning saying that she's starting to get labor pains. She had called me later in the morning, when I was still asleep. From then on, I remained incommunicado with my family except through SMS. I didn't pick up calls from anyone - including those from my parents and brother-in-law informing me about the baby being born at around 6.14 pm (my Dad's SMS told me that -- he's an astrologer, you see).

It must have been the shame that made me do it. Shame of having let down my sister and my family, of not being there when she needed it. Shame of being a failure in life. Shame of having thrown away the best opportunities that I have had. This shame is parallel to my mental state which wreaks of negativity.

The drugs aren't so effective after all.

Oct 1, 2010

An unhealthy open relationship - part 2

I had a chat conversation with my friend whom I blogged about yesterday. Since the last time we talked -- we had met at his apartment -- he had met and broken the heart of the Bangladeshi boy who was visiting him. It was well over 10 days after this unlucky boy had arrived. I asked my friend...

"Hey, how are you?"

"I'm good. Thanks."

"Has he left?"

"Nope. He's still here. He's a nice boy."

"But wouldn't you have liked that he left?"

"Nope. Why? I would have liked him had he stayed."

"What about your boyfriend then?"

"He'll be there too!"

"What? What will they both go through then?"

"Nothing. This is part of life. They will get on with it... and there will be more boys like this!"

"Alright."

....

"Chalo, I'll say good night to you then. Bye."

"Bye."

I couldn't believe what I was hearing. It broke my heart. And now, I have decided to not actively get into a conversation with him again.