Excerpt shared from entire narration titled “Outcast Polari”This excerpt was read in English and Tamil at the Chennai Queer LitFest 2018.
Adolescence was most chaotic and unsettling part of my journey so far, where pandemonium reigned. It had different phases of revelations organically and politically which might tumble my little world of faith into a questioning nihilist life. I was god fearing, nation loving patriotic juvenile. But, the revelations questioned every reason of my existence and the ‘cover-up’ which would take massive time for me to understand and accept it; not easy for a young teenager to process the three parallel pillars of lies crumbling at a same time in a perception believed to be a solid truth.
It was before the child abuse disaster happened to me, I had come to this realizations of my allured adoration, attraction towards — Male bodies. Which was perfection of creation by nature itself. The South Indian big burly men had been surrounding my teenage days overall. Luscious swirls of hair over the body, rolled up muscles and flab, dark skin carefully exfoliated by sweat…oh yes had my attention. This troubled me overtly, while my fellow mates were all about girls and pornography. Something never attracted me to that part of exploration at all. My attraction remained monolith, towards the men. And I didn’t understand it, I thought I was alone in this, only defective human attracted to men, romantically and sexually. I was thirteen then, it would take three more years for me to come across the word ‘homosexual’ and six more years to get through the word ‘Gay’.
It was hard struggle within me, how do I communicate. To whom should I talk about these. Will family disown me if such revelations were discussed, and my dependency on them. All put me through a different trauma. I became highly introverted, except two or three classmates I spoke to none.
Sex came to me even before puberty, in form of cruel and violent Child sexual abuse, which put me through an agony that would mess with my ability to communicate with anyone or trust anybody — for few of my following years. In that violence, I had lost my hearing ability in one of my ears and have to live half-deaf for rest of my years. I wouldn’t like to get into details as it still scares me and never felt comfortable when everyone demands to speak out, am pretty sure- It’s not in everyone’s capability to speak out. As my abusers threatened, I treaded through my silence and I seeked my sanctuary in shadows where am not visible.
When I was dealing this trauma alone, at home parents had brewed something to serve me to add salt over my wounds, which would keep me occupied with these battles within.I found my sister bit unusual. Her behaviour changed overall, she was really upset about something. Though my sister was good at studies, she isn’t the girl who would be upset for some low grades. She would stare at wall and suddenly cry, she wept silently. I thought she was in love with someone at school or hiding something which is troubling her. I spoke about this mom
“Ma, Akka has been troubled lately….”
“I know…” Mom replied
“Did you or Dad, said something or is it some trouble at school?” I puzzled and looked at her quizzically.
“Well there is something you must know as well, and we need to talk” mom pointed me to the sofa, asked me to settle. I was troubled a bit because, all that I did wrong manifested in my eyes and I was in maze of thoughts guessing what was it about. Once after deep sigh mom begun
“So, you have been always asking a question- what is our caste or category right?”
“Yes… you had mentioned that there were so many inter-caste marriages that it is too tough to define one caste for us…. Isn’t it?” I eagerly looked into her eyes.
“Well, we do have a caste…. though there were few love marriages in the past, it hasn’t changed much in our lives….or anything to say…” mom almost starts talking in range of her pitch went down slowly, to appropriate the revelation.
“So…who are we? Is there a name?” I asked
“Yes…. Adi Dravidar!” in her lowest possible voice
“You mean…..” in a slight shock
“Yes we are Dalits, Scheduled caste people” she answered in shaking low voice
My mom didn’t expect me to react in that way, but in my mind all that was in past unanswered was getting automatically answered; why my native village is in deep reserved forest, why my mom didn’t take me to yearly events at village, why my mom or dad didn’t come with huge lands as my friend’s parents had, why they had go to through so much oppression in past, all was getting answered in my head. Though it was shocker, but I wasn’t as melodramatic as my sister.
“Are you fine?” My mom asked, actually she brought back me to my senses
“Yes…yes…am fine.” I answered, as for from that time I would get up from the sofa, I am not the same person. I had to get up as strong individual, to fight out any slurs, insults, abuses or even more to come, which I have no clue of. But am I strong enough? I am definitely not. That which troubled me a bit, but nothing made me upset.
“So, if anyone asks should I tell them that, I belong to this community?” I asked Mom
“No definitely not.. “ Mom stood up and went to kitchen got something for me to drink and eat and then she continued.
“You can’t tell to your friends because they’ll start treating you differently, even if they don’t , their parents will ask them to do so. You’ll be avoided, pushed around for nothing you had ever done, thank God you are wheat in color or else you would have faced it already. You know how much Dad faced because his office colleagues knew?” she picked up her crochet, just to keep her stable.
“Listen Sheiji, pay attention to what I say. Don’t reveal who you are to anyone or else whatever we struggling for, your education, it’ll will be hurdled unnecessarily. You can’t say who you are even to people, when you know that they are from same community as you are, it might not be that fruitful. You are God fearing, remain the same- no one will go under there. Never reveal your native. Never reveal what your relatives do. Never ever use the languages of your cousins. Never reveal who is our native God or Goddess is. Never speak about our Buddhist ancestry. Education is your only sail across the unimaginable. Always behave in certain class, don’t ill-treat anyone. Just because you had fallen in this community, don’t forget that you are no less to anyone, you are meant to be happy, you are equal to all and special to us. You can do something to the our community someday if you have wealth or power, but never exploit the community as it happens in our village, but always anonymously. To understand the dynamics of this oppression and politics in future, remember this name ‘Periyar’- you are too young to understand his philosophies, but remember him- you’ll slowly understand, but by chance if anyone knew or someone got offensive- don’t let things happen, take your stand in whatever way you can.”
I was listening to her, something was growing inside me, sprouting out of my skin, spreading across…my chest… my face…I felt like I was wearing a layer on me, and a mask on my face. This is not something new, but it is the one already existing just realizing that it’s not real- the attire. Well, yes the attire I need to wear, or cover me for my own good- or that’s how I had to believe.
“Are you upset?” my mom asked
“No, not really- though it answered the many questions, am not upset” I replied and continued “…is Akka upset because of that?”
“Yeah….she couldn’t accept it at all. She said that it is unfair” mom sighed
“What is unfair? That we being a…..we…this….caste?” I asked
“Yes. She thinks as parents we have betrayed her…… I know it’s our fault to tell her at this age, but all we wanted to do was to keep it a secret so that it won’t affect either of you” mom suddenly stopped her crochet, took deep breaths- looked at me and asked “She will be ok right?”. I nodded my head in a doubtful assuring way.
After finishing up my snacks, I went to talk to talk with my sister, to know what’s on her mind.
“Listen, Mom spoke to me about this caste thing, but why is this troubling you this much?” I enquired my sister
“It can’t be right? We can’t be so….” She initiated the argument
“What makes you to think so?” I asked
“Look at you, dad, mom and many of our relatives- all our skin complexion is wheatish to fair. Paati is fairest of all….how can we be Adi dravidas?”
“You know Venki, My classmate Venkatesh- he claims to be the highest class of Brahmin- but his dad, even a buffalo would feel fair in complexion if it stood next to him, he is that dark. Skin has nothing to do with caste or anything…..wait did you think or believed that Dalits were bad people?”
“In a way yes…but….” She bluffed
“It’s just that you have to change your opinion, you know now that we are just equal to people suffering in unknown places, whatever we have now- be happy about it” I assured
“Ok…but still….I will find the roots” She replied.
It was traumatic for her because all the girls from her friend circle came from affluent elite circle with different caste and class background, always had a bad talks about Dalits. So this had troubled her so much.
So, hearing what my sister had to say, I went into solitude. I had so many things already running in my mind. The lustful attraction towards men, the violence of sexual abuse on me and now am a dalit. To process this alone was bit suffocating. If I raise any other topic amidst my parents’ disclosure of caste identity would curdle the situation entirely. I decided to bury it with me. Then I had to wear an attire for my parents now- my own secret, My orientation and my abuse. It boiled and simmered within me, but still my mom has this ability or you can call it intuition, her thoughts and presence of mind are always sharp. So I just adapted to her words, and breathed with breeze of decisions. Words what my mom spoke run in my head- She spent almost fifteen years to cover me and my sister from the exposure of caste, but while advising — she spilled the pearls that I can hide my orientation not only from the big patriarchal society but I can also hide my face from my own family.
“You can’t tell to your friends because they’ll start treating you differently, even if they don’t, their parents will ask them to do so”
I wouldn’t talk about my orientation to friends, or anyone else. So that the secret survives. If I talk or have anything spoken of related to my thoughts, I will be isolated. Even if any individual wants to be kind on me, but society won’t allow them too- either they have to mock me or they have to be mocked along with me. At home if I have to speak it out, I would be burdening someone, so No. Then most of them aren’t strong enough to leave behind their pride. I shall be silent- or else I would be forcefully silenced.
“You’ll be avoided, pushed around for nothing you had ever done”
For whatever happening with me, to the true words I know it’s organic, but sexual abuse I didn’t ask for. I was threatened- made to feel guilty for blunders that I haven’t done. Had no sanctuary nor a person to talk to. Sounds the same. Let it sink in and never peep out again.
“You can’t say who you are even to people when you know that they are from same community as you are, it might not be that fruitful.”
It made sense for me, even if I meet someone of my similar thoughts- I have to hide myself or act this is something happened to me which I had no clue of because I can’t afford anything of this “normal” life which my family is trying to build to be shattered. Though I can build formidable friends, allies and support system- but it will affect me- that’s how I believed.
“You are God fearing, remain the same- no one will go under there”
Best cover ever, just be God fearing — act all devoted and cultural leaning to ‘right’, you can get away with any sort of crime. You would know it already. I don’t have to explain it, saves paper and press. Works Best with families.
“Never reveal your native. Never reveal what your relatives do”
Well, destinations I go and return. Nothing shall be revealed. My acquaintances identity will never be revealed. I have to do it alone but will do it anyway. I shall not reveal what they do, what they study….not in a needle in haystack, I shall blur everything.
“Education is your only sail across the unimaginable”
On right age I will study on myself, I will run through all books possible. Will find every document ever written and know myself. Technology would pave way am sure of. Knowledge is my only way to know that am not mistake of manifestation.
“Always behave in certain class, don’t ill-treat anyone”
I would reach out to best of things on Earth. Whether it’s self-care , education or job I will get, it needs to be the best and loving so I stay in class. Always in an independent end, so if something spreads- I don’t go on depending on someone or something. In a sense being dependent. And yes, by words, by act, by force, by emotions and by situations- I wouldn’t hurt anyone- at least something I can agree to.
“Just because you had fallen in this community, don’t forget that you are no less to anyone, you are meant to be happy, you are equal to all and special to us”
A minute sanctuary in words, I shall know always that whatever happens, I am no less to anyone. I wouldn’t allow shame or guilt or oppression or dominance to take away the thought that I am an equal among every citizen. Whether it’s my orientation or it’s my caste nothing can bring me down. And yes, I hope in future- when you aren’t troubled we will talk about it.
“You can do something to the our community someday if you have wealth or power, but never exploit the community as it happens in our village”
I was destined to speak the politics of the community but all I had to do was to remain anonymous. That which am doing now, as it turns out speaking of every form of oppression was important.
“……but by chance if anyone knew or someone got offensive- don’t let things happen, take your stand in whatever way you can.”
Though I am silenced now, but I shall retaliate here on- individually I shall not be silenced I shall take a stand, I am weak-shy-introverted- non-confrontable but it can’t be crafted against me.
To understand the dynamics of this oppression and politics in future, remember this name ‘Periyar’
I shall get to know him Someday.