When I was learning French at the Alliance Française in New Delhi, some couple of years back, I came across a half French-half Indian young man called Abhimanyu. I used to see him around the building and would exchange vague smiles or a nod with him.A kind of un-knowing knowing, if that makes any sense 🙂
When we got talking, it was sudden and strange. One Saturday afternoon, I remember sitting idly in the institute’s cafe and reading. The cafe was uncharacteristically meagerly populated. I saw this guy walk in , looking very disturbed. He slammed his books down on a nearby table, sat down and lit a cigarette nervously.Something about the way he started blowing smoke rings, fascinated me and I guess I stared without realizing that I was perhaps being rude. His eyes met mine and I gave him that same vague smile again.He got up with what I felt was barely controlled aggression and walked towards me.
‘Bon jour! I am Abhimanyu and I am gay”, he told me.
Well, that certainly sledgehammered me.Not because he was gay, but the way he said it .And of course, my mind raced to calibrate as to why he said it!
‘Bon jour! I am ——– and I am straight”, I replied.
We looked at each other for an instant and then laughed. We ordered coffee and started talking.Of the French language, of the classes and teachers, of France, of the pain of reading ‘The Outsider’ in French. Many, many things except the strange introduction. Over the weeks that followed we became friends.He was brilliant in French and helped me with my assignments, my accent.
It was out of the blue when he told me about that day. His parents were divorced and he lived with his father.He decided to come out and tell his father that he was gay.He did. And his father closed up completely and hatefully.Told him that he wasn’t ‘normal’. So Abhimanyu decided to find out what a ‘normal’ person’s reaction would be if he introduced himself like that. I remember him grinning and then telling me “But I didn’t know then that you are not ‘normal’ too!”. I had asked him ”Is that a compliment ?” He had replied seriously ‘Yes, because you are free.” He quoted Camus to me “The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion’.
I got reminded of Abhimanyu when I saw this moving video:
This is a video of Kordale Lewis & Kaleb Anthony and their three children. The camera company Nikon has chosen the family to be a part of its new “I am Generation I mage ” ad campaign. The story started with a selfie of the two men while getting their daughters ready for school in Atlanta. It launched a massive online discussion, support, and bigotry around the notion of two black men being lovers, being dads, and raising three kids.
I loved what Lewis says in the beginning of the video :”We just want people to know that, hey, we’re normal. And you can’t judge people on their normal — you really can’t.”
So Simone Beauvoir says ” the ideal should be to be capable of loving a woman or a man; either, a human being, without feeling fear, restraint, or obligation”.
Here’s to tolerance and the celebration of individuality.
Or else, one day we shall face this.
‘ First of all, they came to take the gypsies and I was happy because they pilfered.Then they came to take the Jews and I said nothing, because they were unpleasant to me. Then they came to take homosexuals, and I was relieved, because they were annoying me.Then they came to take the Communists, and I said nothing because I was not a Communist. One day they came to take me, and there was nobody left to protest’ ( Bertold Brecht).