“Is Jhanvi ready? And why are you glued to the television when ….. ” Rajat’s words diluted as he stood aghast seeing his wife, Neelam watching the live pride parade in the city when the Guptas were coming to finalize their son’s marriage proposal with Rajat and Neelam’s daughter.
Rajat noticed people wearing vibrant coloured dresses gyrating to the rhythmic beat of the music in the parade.
Girls and boys were seen hugging and kissing their likes. Multicolored flags fluttered in the breeze.
A frisson ran through Rajat’s body when he spotted Jhanvi amongst the exuberant crowd.
He noticed that their daughter’s appearance in the LGBTQ community parade, hugging a girl, seemed to have no adverse effect on Neelam. She looked as serene as always.
A deja vu struck Rajat.
‘Please help your brother and Chandini. They just cannot carry on with this wedlock. Accept the fact that Ajit is sexually inclined toward men. Chandini has approached me for help. Being the elder son of the family you should do something.’
Neelam’s wistful words uttered twenty-five years ago, reverberated in Rajat’s ears.
Being gay was considered blasphemous then.
Rajat’s parents had forcefully got his brother, Ajit, married to Chandini, knowing well that he was reluctant to tie the knot.
Due to parental pressure and fear of judgemental oppression from society, Ajit struggled to satiate his sexual yearnings with a like-minded male partner and soon took to drinking and smoking, while Chandini longed for physical intimacy.
She had confided in Neelam, but Neelam, the subtle kind could do nothing to help her after her efforts to draw Rajat’s attention towards the issue failed miserably.
Divorce being taboo then, Chandini had to carry on with the farce relationship. When she reached the threshold of endurance, the poor girl committed suicide.
Ridden with guilt for having been unable to help her Neelam grieved within. The pent-up frustrations erupted today like lava.
“It is high time we recognise our daughter and let her live. Why spoil her life and that of a young boy?” She flared at Rajat.
“Even Ajit lived a suppressed life and died a sad man.” Neelam’s voice quivered in exasperation.
“Jhanvi is not a coward, neither would she end her life nor try to find solace in drugs. She will live her life the way she wants. To accept her would be a wise decision.”
Though his daughter’s lesbianism caught him unaware, Rajat decided to emerge out of a self-made cocoon.
His wife’s words hit him hard.
He had been too narrow-minded then. Also, his parents would never have compromised. But things had changed over the years.
Even if people were still wary about homosexuality, pleasing the world at the cost of his daughter’s happiness didn’t seem worthy.
Throwing an apologetic glance at his wife he gestured to her to accompany him to the pride parade and encourage Jhanvi and cheer the others there.
After many years there was a smile on Neelam’s face.
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