Friday, 3 February 2017


FF #17
Shambhu rubbed his drowsy eyes, shook his unkempt dreadlocks, and gazed again through the fumes of hemp. Oh what dazzling beauty! What flirtatious long eyelashes on the kajal-lined eyes, the lustrous black hair, the glowing dark complexion, the swan-like sway of those hips, the mellifluous giggle. Something was familiar, yet so unfamiliar. He had to have this woman!
He looked down from his vantage point. The churning seems to have ceased now. One of the groups loitered around dejected, possibly conniving. Another group had gathered around the woman, her inviting giggles responsive to their offers. What was going on? Maybe the job was finally done, the drinking was over, or maybe they were all just taking a break. No, the two groups seemed racially divided; there was some dispute in the offing. Yet again! Why did these guys have to fight after deciding to work together! Who cares, Shambhu decided. It was the damsel in his mind. Seldom was he so distracted: he had to have her!
Something had changed by the time he reached. The previously dejected race appeared triumphant, gleefully licking their lips. The other group was still gallivanting with the woman. Murmurs started within this latter group, and suddenly cries of "Thieves!" and "Cheats!" arose. They quickly became aggressive towards their opponents. There'd be yet another fight. He shook his head, ignored them and headed towards the woman.
"Oh beautiful lady!"
Her smile was bewitching. She looked and sounded ever more familiar, but who cares. He leaned forward, bringing his face close to hers.
"You haven't recognized me, Shambhu! I'm Mohan."
"Indeed you are mohan—your beauty has enchanted my mind!"
"No Shambhu, I am your buddy, Mohan. I was helping our friends recover the nectar."
"Everyone is a friend of mine until they succeed in changing the balance of nature. Whoever you are, come to me!"
"Shambhu, you don't understand, I'm a man!"
"Does it matter, Mohan? You are beautiful, beautiful as I had never realized or felt before. I'm enveloped with lust for you. Let us unite together in passion."
Mohan considered, only for a moment, and then fluttered the long eyelashes along his long lotus-petalled eyes and smiled mischievously, "Actually, why not... let's try that too. After all, the world worships your phallus."
3 Feb 2017

Thursday, 13 October 2016

Bus Stop

FF #16
I lean against the gnarled trunk of the majestic raintree at the bus stop. It has an enormous canopy that stretches across to the other side of the road, a nostalgic reminder of the Bangalore that used to be.
I see him as I glance around. An unusually fair complexion; is he Anglo-Indian, I wonder. His medium cropped hair is certainly more brown than black, the heavy stubble on his slightly elongated jaw seems brownish too. His nose is particularly sharp but looks well-balanced by his shy smile that seems to reach his eyes, giving him a friendly look. In his mid to late 20s, he's probably 5'11" in height, but his leanness makes him look taller. He's Hindu, I conclude, as I notice the kara on his left wrist and the several turns of religious red thread tied around the right wrist. He probably isn't Anglo-Indian then, more likely from northern India-- northern Punjab, Kashmir? I notice the yellow soles of his white sneakers as he strolls around the bus stop. His blue and pink checkered shirt lies untucked over his faded blue jeans. Handsome guy. A bus arrives; not mine. He adjusts his grey and orange knapsack and walks towards it.
I'm feeling adventurous this evening, I too get in.
13 Oct 2016

Tuesday, 28 June 2016


R #3
Growing up in India is difficult if you’re a boy and have no interest in cricket, or football, or any of the other sports involving running after balls. I would read a novel when others played cricket at school, or sit and chat with one of the goalkeepers when they played football. Despite trying to keep away from it, the cricket ball has always had an affinity for my face for some reason. Of course my own clumsiness with the ball, bad reflexes, bad hand-eye coordination, and the associated nervousness of demonstrating all these when a ball comes flying at me, would have together contributed to the predicament. In fact I still tremble when I pass by kids playing with a ball. It might come towards me, and even if it isn’t flying at my face, I might have to pick it, throw it or kick it.
Despite, my distaste for the game, I’d read the sports section of the newspaper, just to be able to participate in conversations. My family knew I had zero interest, so did my classmates, and the kids in the neighbourhood, but one does come across other people and doesn’t need to be the focus of this-boy-doesn’t-like-cricket amazement. Particularly when one is an introvert.
When I moved to Germany, people often would tell me, “Ah, you’re from India; please explain to me why you find cricket interesting—nothing happens there, and the game goes on for days and are yet called ‘tests’.”
Initially, I would defend the game, but then I asked myself, the big question: why? Why in Germany of all places, far away from my cricket-crazy nation? So I’d just agree with them and get rid of the topic itself. Yes, I did have to watch football a bit. It at least involves watching fit sweaty men in shorts running around the field. And sausages and alcohol.
And yes, one has come a full circle from childhood. While my straight contemporaries are content watching other people running after a ball on television. I do run after balls these days, the human kind.
28 Jun 2016

Monday, 27 June 2016


FF #15
The doorbell rang. I was extremely busy cooking that afternoon; I was hosting a dinner for my colleagues later that evening. My kitchenette was right at the entrance, so between stirrings, I turned and opened the door. There was a lady in her 30s, with three little kids.
“Sprechen Sie Deutsch? Do you speak German, or should we speak in English?”
I said my German was almost non-existent, so I would certainly prefer English.
“I would like to take a few minutes of your time to ask a few questions, if you don’t mind” she said, with a German accent.
I was quite new in Germany, so naïvely, I suggested they all come in, since I was cooking, and had to continue, or at least continue to stir. She seemed rather pleasantly surprised, and they all entered the flat.
“It smells very nice!” The eldest two children, probably seven and five, nodded in agreement with their mother.
“Okay, so my first question is, where do you think the world is headed,” she continued.
I was surprised. But remember, I was new to the country; I was already combating culture shock, so nothing was really surprising now. And I was just about 25, and rather naïve.
I told her that I thought things were progressing well in the world; there was scientific, technological and social progress, poverty was gradually getting reduced. I have always been an optimist anyway.
She disagreed. There were wars, she said. But your EU has totally got rid wars of Europe, for example, I countered. The Iraq war was an anomaly, and had all kinds of reasons.
She brought out a small book. I recognized it; I had seen it with a trainee in the lab and had turned its pages. It was anti-science propaganda literature of Jehovah’s Witnesses, a rather crazy sect of Christianity. No wonder she was surprised that I’d let her in. She made her biggest mistake now; showing me the book, she claimed that science cannot explain everything.
I’d finished the dish I was cooking, and could take a break. I gave her a two and a half hour lecture on Newtonian Mechanics, Relativity, Quantum Physics, Genetics and Evolution.
“I think I have taken a lot of your time; thank you for the discussion,” she said. She looked rather exhausted as she opened the door, the kids in tow.
Back to cooking, I’m sure I had a huge grin on my face.  
27 Jun 2016

Sunday, 26 June 2016

A Love Story

R #2
Agustin and Thomas had taught me rollerblading. Every Sunday for a month, we would meet at the Danube Island and they would hold my hands from either side and we’d rollerblade down several kilometres. I would joke that they were like my parents, teaching me to “walk” on wheels.
Agustin was one of my earliest gay friends in Vienna. Very soon after we’d met, he met Thomas and they clicked immediately. After three dates, they decided to give each other a serious try. Agustin was my age, 29, while Thomas a bit older. The two were very different in most respects. Agustin is Columbian, and had come to Vienna for his PhD. Moving continents, he decided to change himself—he was fully out, right from when he landed in the Austrian capital. Thomas, on the other hand, was from Salzburg; he had been in denial about his sexuality until recently. His friends, his parents, siblings had no clue that he was gay, and he was determined to keep it that way. Agustin is a vegetarian, who dotes on desserts—I’d once made gajar ka halwa for him, and it quickly became a regular in his own kitchen. He loves cartoon films. Thomas loves his sausages and schnitzel and is into SciFi and Horror. There were other mismatches too, and the first two years of their courtship was rather bumpy. Agustin used to call me up and want to go for a walk, and I would know from his tone what I was in for—it would be his resolutions not to see Thomas ever again, because this simply wasn’t working. After the walk, I’m happy to say, he would go back resolved to give it just one more try. Easter and Christmas in Europe are family affairs, and these would be hard for Agustin, as Thomas would be in Salzburg. So Agustin and I would spend these together, and we’d alternate between dinners at his place and mine. But that also meant that I’d to be a vegetarian on these days.
Once Agustin was staying over at Thomas’, when the latter’s brother was ringing the bell from downstairs; he to collect something. Agustin didn’t quite have to hide in the bathroom or the closet, but just had enough time to dress and go up the stairs to the floor above. He was curious about the brother and peeped down to see Thomas’ brother looking up at him. Agustin put his foot down. There has to be a coming out timeline, he insisted, this hide and seek cannot last forever. So Thomas invited his brother and his girlfriend for dinner and introduced Agustin. He also came out to his sister.
The episode of his parents was funny. His father had come to Vienna on some work and dropped by. A friend of Thomas was visiting at that time. A few days later, Thomas’ brother called to say that their father had met their mother in the grocery store (they are divorced but live in the same village) and had confided to her that Thomas might be gay—he had never had a girlfriend, and there was a guy staying over. Thomas’ mother had agreed to find out and had asked his brother, who denied knowing anything about it. Thomas made a trip to Salzburg to come out before his mother confronted him herself. I had to find other things to do during Easter and Christmas from then on.
They moved in together soon afterwards, and got married in 2010, soon after Austria legalized gay marriages. I felt they were a bit too much into each other, and were neglecting the rest of the world, and have been completely out of the gay community for years. Once during a dinner at their place, I had tried to suggest that they should go out more often otherwise they might end up suffocating themselves.
Two years ago, when I emailed Agustin to wish him for his birthday, he hinted that things weren’t going all that well anymore. There were suspicions, trust deficits, terrible rows and lots of tears. Agustin had discovered that he had a fetish, which Thomas wasn’t into, and although the latter had agreed to indulge his fetish, Agustin admitted that he felt a lacuna in his sexual life. He left it at that, it irked Thomas to no end and he started doubting his fidelity. Thomas himself reached out to me during the email exchanges for my birthday. I Skyped with both of them, separately, suggested trying to open up their relationship, having threesomes, trying to do everything to save their marriage. They went to marriage counsellors, but the rows continued. Once during a row, Thomas had said that they should separate, and Agustin said okay. Thomas hadn’t meant it seriously, neither was Agustin’s acquiescence serious. But the avalanche had stared; they applied for divorce with mutual consent, and after the requisite six month period of separation, it was granted a year ago.
The guys who held my hands to teach me to walk on wheels, ask me if their former other half has started dating yet. No, but they do show signs of recovery.

26 Jun 2016

Saturday, 25 June 2016


FF #14
“My daughter will start going to school in a few years, I am seriously considering moving back to India.”
Gourab and I were walking a bit behind the others; his daughter was asleep in the stroller. I had heard of this older fun-loving couple earlier from my Indian friends who lived in Cologne; and now a bunch of the Cologne folks were visiting Munich for the weekend. I’d been showing them around the city. Indeed, he and his wife were both fun to hang out with, and interesting to talk to.
“You see,” he continued, “The other day a senior colleague of mine was telling me that his daughter had announced that she is a lesbian. I love Germany, but I don’t think I want to bring up my daughter here.”
I wasn’t out to this bunch, but I wasn’t going to let this go without protest.
“Gourab, what if your daughter did turn out to be lesbian? Would you force her to get married and lead a painful life?”
“No, no, how could I ever see her pained?” He stopped, bent down to the stroller and brushed her hair.
“So wouldn’t this is a better place for her to be herself, if she were different?”
He walked in silence for a bit. I wondered whether I had offended him.
“Actually, you do have a good point,” he sighed, “I have to really think about it.”
They did move back to Kolkata after a few years. Their daughter would probably be in her mid-teens now, discovering and understanding her own sexuality. It has been a long time that I have completely lost touch with them, but I am pretty sure her parents will dote on her, no matter who she becomes.

25 Jun 2016

Friday, 24 June 2016

Cola in Spain

FF #13
Europeans are spoilt for holidays. Austria, for example, has the highest number: 25 paid vacation days and 13 public holidays. Everyone in Europe, even the lab rat scientist, is particular about their holidays. July and August are usually vacationing time; all holiday destinations in the continent are packed during these two months. Because of this, and because I’d had enough sun in India during my childhood, I would work in peace during July and August, and either travel in Europe in June or September, or visit India during the winter.  
I hadn’t planned my holiday that year. So when Ana mentioned that she was excited about an approaching conference in Salamanca, a pretty university town in western Spain, I decided Spain it’d be for me too. I would fly to Barcelona, spend a few days there, and take a train to Salamanca coinciding with Ana’s visit. We’d hang out in the evenings. She’d return to Munich after her conference, and I’d explore other parts of the country for another week before flying back from Madrid.
I loved Barcelona; Gaudi’s architecture was a revelation. After dinner, I would try out the one of the three famous gay bars of Barcelona. Spanish red wine, the Rioja, is famous. Sadly, I wasn’t much into wine those days. I’ve never been able to develop a taste for beer either. So just for the sake of convenience, I’d order a cola in bars. This was basic Spanish that I had figured out from my Spanish phrasebook: “Una cola, por favor,” one cola, please.  However, whenever I ordered the drink, I was getting rather strange reactions. The barman would stare at me for a few seconds, and then get a bottle of Coke or Pepsi, open it, pour it in a glass, hand it to me—all the while staring at me. Or some variation of this act. I put this to their surprise at my not ordering wine, or maybe they hadn’t seen an Indian in their gay bar before.
Salamanca is a romance in sandstone. Ana’s parents had travelled from Andalucía to meet her there. We went out for dinner together in the evening, and I ordered my drink: Una cola, por favor. Ana was sitting next to me; her eyes widened with horror.
“Neel,” she said in a low stern voice, “In Spain, never, never, say ‘cola’!”
While her parents were ordering, she whispered that ‘cola’ is a child’s word for the penis in Spanish.
She couldn’t stop giggling when I mentioned that I had been ordering colas in the gay bars of Barcelona.
24 Jun 2016