“Why does he hate me?” Shekhar asked in an anguished whisper to Maya.
Stroking his hair gently, Maya replied, “He doesn’t hate you. He doesn’t understand that you are different. That scares him.”
“Didi, add a bit of kinnari on your dupatta, it will look gorgeous!” Shekhar said to Maya, his elder sister. Maya laughingly replied. “What a wonderful idea. My outfit for Pinky’s wedding is going to look amazing!”
“Shekhar, have you completed your studies?”
A deep voice interrupted their conversation. Shekhar automatically straightened his shoulders before replying, “Yes, bauji!”
Manohar Lal looked at his eighteen-year-old son and bit back a curse. How overjoyed he and Sarita had been when Shekhar was born. They had waited eight years after Maya before the gods had favoured them again. While they loved Maya, they still desired a boy to carry on the family’s name.
But of late, Manohar had been feeling uncomfortable about Shekhar. Something was not right with the boy. Manohar had found him more than once gossiping and discussing fashion with Maya. Instead of posters of heroines, his walls were papered with posters of Bollywood heroes. An irritated Manohar used to shout at Shekhar to behave ‘like a man’.
Shekhar had started avoiding Manohar, preferring to stay in his room if Manohar was at home. His mind was in a constant state of turmoil. He knew why he was not like other boys but shied away from verbalizing it. Confused, he tried to hide his reality from society’s censure and mould himself into Manohar’s template of what a man should be.
Matters came to a head that afternoon when the whole family had gone to a wedding. Shekhar had made the excuse that he wanted to study. The truth was he knew that once the music started playing, he would not be able to resist dancing. And that would make Manohar angry.
Alone and bored, Shekhar decided to try on Maya’s make-up. Maya wouldn’t mind, she knew he enjoyed playing with make-up but never dared to when Manohar was home. A pleasant hour went by. He was putting on lip gloss as a finishing touch when Shekhar sensed an intrusion. He turned around to see Manohar staring at his makeup-laden face in shock.
Coming closer, Manohar slapped Shekhar hard. “You need this nonsense beaten out of you!” he screamed, leaving Shekhar sobbing on the floor where Maya found him.
“How I do make him love me?” Shekhar asked.
“You need to accept yourself first“, Maya replied gently.
Shekhar was quiet after hearing Maya’s words. He understood it was time to embrace his inner rainbow.
The next morning, everyone was surprised when Shekhar walked in wearing make-up.
Manohar shouted, “Again? Wash your face, or I will kick you out of the house!”
“No”, Shekhar replied calmly. “I am gay. I like wearing make-up, and I love fashion. It is time we both accepted me as I am.”
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