As the banging on the door continued Karan felt the chill in his body quietly abate – he didn’t feel the cold fear he had moments ago.
He lived in a crowded residential area and through the open window he could see over the thatched fences, some of his neighbours peering through their partially open windows, with one or two of them actually coming out of their homes to see what the soldiers were about. He knew he would have to answer the door soon and that he had no time to change back into his shorts and tee shirt – and then, suddenly, he felt a kind of calm sweep over the room – and felt as if nothing could really happen to him. He walked to the door and opened it, but instead of stepping back into the house, he stepped out and told the soldiers quite loudly that his mother was not at home. They were taken aback for a moment by the attractive young woman, then one of them, speaking in Tamil, asked who else lived there. After Karan told the soldier that it was only the two of them and that they were well known to their neighbours and local authorities, curiously enough they decided to leave and went next door for the next check. He was aware that his neighbours were staring at him – he wasn’t sure if it was that they didn’t know who it was, but deep down he knew that they would know it couldn’t be anyone else. And that was his ‘coming out’, as it were.
He told his mother what had taken place when she returned and she was more than a little bit surprised that the soldiers hadn’t entered the house and searched it, as they habitually did. But the next day, she heard from the neighbours what had really taken place and didn’t know what to think, as she had no idea of his fetish. When she asked him about it, he replied that he was trying out a costume for a part that he was to play at the Festival of Lights, and that seemed to settle it.
His interest in the English language had been encouraged by his English teacher at school and he had developed quite early, a voracious appetite for just about any book he could lay his hands on. His teacher possessed a substantial collection of novels, classics, books on art and philosophy, comparative religion and existentialism, and he had slowly but surely read many of them over the years, discussing content and ideas with the older lady and her retired surveyor husband. The Broken Palmyrah was one of his favourites, as it dealt with the life-situation that he was immersed in. He discussed the futility of war, the ethnic question, the brutality of the Tigers that equalled the brutality of the forces. He saw hardly any difference in their mindsets – all he knew was that both sides were equally responsible for the fear and misery felt everywhere the killing took place – whether in the north, south or elsewhere in the country. Never having left his home, he knew of no other existence and often wondered if what he read about and saw on television was really true, or if it was some drama enacted to distract him.
His other loves were music and movies – and these he learned of through some of his friends who had relatives abroad and who managed to get themselves CDs and DVDs. Together they would listen to all types of music ranging from Karnatic to rock and roll, with some top forty and hip hop thrown in. His forays in cyberspace brought him into contact with directors like Ingmar Bergman and Satyajit Ray and a writer friend of his mother just happened to have movies like Scenes From a Marriage and The Apu Trilogy. He was also increasingly interested in getting involved with action groups for human rights and gay rights, and would spend as much time as he could (whenever the power was on), at the computer he had his mother buy him on the pretext that he needed it for his ‘A’ level studies in English literature. Some of his writings had been picked up by both English and Tamil magazines and he sent one of these, along with his bio-data, to a Professor of English in answer to an advertisement in the newspaper for applications for scholarships to a university in East London – and was accepted. As he had relatives in London, his board and accommodation would be taken care of, so together, his mother and he made the trip to Colombo, so that he could work on his visa and get used to life in the city in order to adapt to life outside the constraints he had known since birth.
The trip to Colombo was an ‘other-world’ experience for him. And after he got over the culture shock and settled with his maternal uncle, he made contact with some of the writers of blogs that he had exchanged comments and views with, met some of them and soon grew comfortable in his new surroundings. The Internet Café around the corner from his uncle’s house enabled him to keep up with his e-mail and check out the sites he wanted to. And as he was interested in human rights and gay rights, he accessed many related sites and learned a lot. Soon he worked on a proposal to bring sexual awareness to Tamil speaking sexual minorities and sent it to an established Gay Rights organization.
After a few months with him in Colombo, his mother left him with her brother and returned to their home in Jaffna, where she would move in with her niece. His uncle, who worked with an NGO, would spend days at a time in the eastern province, but had arranged for another nephew to stay with him during his absence and, as they were good friends, the two of them had a lot of fun together. His cross-dressing continued when his uncle was away and he would sometimes go out in drag with his cousin to a movie or to the kovil, where invariably, he would attract the attention of young men. Some of them would strike up conversations, but he was careful to pretend that he was ‘with’ his cousin, so they wouldn’t get too interested.
It was during the New Year that he met Siva – and it was like love at first sight. He had never felt anything like this before. The few sexual encounters he experienced back home were more for sensual gratification than anything even remotely romantic, or what he considered to be ‘love’. But this, he knew was going to be different – the only problem was that Siva saw him as Karen and not Karan, and he feared that the attraction Siva felt for him would be seriously jeopardized if he revealed himself. They met – a few times at the start, when his uncle was away and in the company of his cousin, who kept up the pretense and would leave them alone with some excuse to be gone for an hour or more. The physical part of the relationship was limited to holding hands and sweet-talk – like in the early Tamil movies – and they even kissed a few times, but Karan was so afraid that Siva would either try to fondle his ‘breasts’ or, in the heat of the moment, find out what the restrained lump in his crotch really was, he never allowed anything to go too far. But he could see that Siva was deeply in love with him and it would be a matter of time before he would not be able to put him off anymore. He wondered how he could solve his dilemma, but couldn’t come up with any ideas. His cousin, who was stalwart in his support, couldn’t think of anything either.
And then it happened.
Java’s back with his incisive observation that this is dragging on – again. Besides, I’m running out of steam, so – stay tuned!