There are many things that television is to be thanked for and blamed for equally fervently. And one of those things is people who meet Bent and me and say “Oh you are like Will and Grace.”  Bent and I are, for most part, kindly people. We cringe but refrain from pointing out that we would really rather be Jack and Karen. Full of bite and snap and acid and yet perfectly loving. Instead of the shrill near-heterosexual Will and Grace. It’s easier to identify with the kinky, mean mutual adoration of Jack and Karen than the uneasy air-brushed wholesomeness of the lead couple. Then I wonder where is the kink in my relationship with Bent that justifies the cringing?                             


One evening Bent and I are at Koshy’s. Bent begins to laugh looking around at the table we were sitting at. “This is better than an international LGBT conference,” he exclaims. We all laugh. Us. One gay man, a straight woman, a straight man, a lesbian woman, a bisexual woman, an F-to-M and a hijra.  


I don’t think I knew anyone gay till I was 19. I assumed they were out there in the manner that Eskimos and chiropodists and people who liked strawberry ice-cream were out there. I was not the girl who asked Bent, “But actually…how do men do it?” but I was not much better. Luckily by the time Bent came into my life I had moved past the how-to stage and even past the stage of being actively embarrassed about being straight-ish. It is fortuitous because I now live in the shade of the Queer Tree.


When people ask how we met I say that he was a Christmas gift.


On the first day of Christmas my true love brought to me a partridge in a pear tree.

On the second day of Christmas my true love brought to me a lovely fruit. 


Ten minutes into the fish curry we had got past the small talk and I have been in love with him ever since. Anyone who thinks that this translates into a handy and personable man who you can take anywhere and who actually wants to go shopping with you…think again. Mad Bindu once accused me of using him as a decoy to never seem alone in public spaces while I check out men.  Neatly and heterosexually ignoring the fact that I was being used for the same purpose by Bent.In fact, Bent does do retail therapy but it’s not necessarily a relaxing experience for those who go with him. I did not spend my formative years imbibing alternative sexualities but some osmosis must have happened at some point. I have learnt to watch with ease as Bent’s inner demons battle it out. To go to The Forum and spend time there would be to condone all that it represents. On the other hand there is a Lush store at the Forum, one of the modern world’s last bowers of soft colour, indolent lotus-eater fragrances and pampered skin.  I will sit here quietly while Bent figures it out. To Lush or not to Lush. To Forum or not to Forum. To shoplift or not to shoplift. In fact we figure out most things while sitting here talking of cosmetics and handcuffs.


Sometimes I wonder about the stereotypes about gay men. Is Bent part of an international consortium of gay-stereotype designers? I imagine men in Lady Bracknell-drag saying “Chins are worn high this season. Wrists are worn limp this season” Or is he merely toeing the line of the Western gay stereotype consortium? Do the stereotypes hold true only for the urban gay man in large Indian metros? What about the gay man in Tirunelveli? What is the local equivalent of a limp wrist in Siliguri? Many an earnest and well-intentioned gay man will talk of how stifled he is by the stereotypes. Especially the stereotypes about what a gay man is supposed to look like. But Bent tells people that the stereotypes save him the trouble of outing himself.


Is it just fun for Bent to act out this role? In the way that it amuses him to tell the gay boys’ Thursday night Bingo Club that he is bi and it entertains him to tell the straight women whom he is surrounded by that he wants to be reborn lesbian in his next janam and to tell muscular little lesbians with Nefertiti profiles that he feels maternal towards them. And in the way he insists on carrying heavy bags for me. Or running to the liquor store when at 10.45 we run out of rum. Bent loves borrowing gender trouble.


Bent may declare himself middle aged in gay years (same as dog years) but unlike Andrew Marvell and his coy mistress we have world enough and time while we talk of cosmetics and handcuffs. It is indeed true that we are spending most of love’s long day in Koshy’s but that minor fact we will ignore. He himself may slather himself in unguents of the sea and the forest and the field but I may continue to be not afeard of fine lines.  I know that two decades from now that Bent will still love me and admire me because in his aesthetics there is space for grey women and bald women and wrinkled women. He loves Demon Lover’s 60 year old mother for her large, braless, sloping breasts as well as her killer wit in the classroom.


I take our well-amused peace for granted except for the occasions when people give us the hairy eyeball. This usually happens when Bent and I are overheard discussing loudly such commonplace topics as the differences between lesbian porn for men and lesbian porn for women or why feminism may have been the worst thing to happen to feminist heterosexual couples’ sex lives. Sometimes the hairy eyeball treatment happens simply because as Demon Lover would have it “people sense you are strange no matter how hard you hide it.” One of Demon Lover’s few useful contributions to the world.  On most days we forget to hide it. On most days we forget that the merits of porn from a purely grateful consumer’s point of view is not so cool. And forget that one must get angry when one’s friends have arranged marriages. And forget that some people may not want to know whether Sujata Bhatt was right in the Sherdi poem about using one’s teeth during blow-jobs. And forget that some people may actually prefer TS Eliot to Sujata Bhatt.


So what’s wrong with Bent and me? I despair of thinking of anything. Except that he once overcame my wild objections and made me buy a printed peasant blouse which I could not return. And he lost a gift meant for a new-born infant and lied for three months about it. And can never return his library books.


With the same gift that he manages to lose all mobile phones, he has developed a Maria Von Trapp-ish ability to be never pinned down to a sin. Like Durrel’s magpies he is fascinated by shiny objects and money and money that buys shiny objects. And yet will not abandon impoverishing jobs. Bent is less grasping than most people after years of ‘letting go.’ But is overcome by greed in the face of over-priced white leather designer handbags and hard-bound crime fiction and marginally under-priced volumes of Proust.  


Bent makes the world grossly over-substantial in comparison. And yet he is not playing Ariel to my Caliban. Because he is my canny advisor, who has watched people for as long as he can remember and hence knows to an inch which way and how far people will jump. His joy at spotting clandestine romances is exceeded only by the sudden comprehension of hitherto inexplicable behaviour. He has vicious satisfaction in settling grotty accounts with rain-stained vouchers.


The trouble with Bent is that he renders everything normal and everything tolerable. In a special bubble where red velvet and blue khadi are both wonderful the greatest demand Bent makes from me is an equal tolerance of the world.


There are things that the universe is to be blamed for and thanked for equally ferevently. And one of those things is a gay best friend. On days he may make the rest of the world seem duller but he certainly makes it more tolerable. Neither Ariel nor Caliban, Bent gives the airy nothing of unconditional love a local habitation and a name.



Newer Post Older Post Home