I hit Hyderabad (or rather Hyderabad hit me) in 1986. I had returned from graduate studies in the USA and had to go back into the closet to please my Bombay Parsi family. I was 36. Hyderabad was a land of pearls, minars and seminars (as Prof Sequeira used to say at ASRC). I decided to return to live and work here. The char-baug or four-squared grid of the city emanating from Charminar was the grid of the Persian Paradise and was copied from Isfahan where I had most recently worked.
I longed for an Old City jharokha in which to sit like a character from a Mir poem 18th century Lucknow and see the boys (launday) in embroidered kurtas (chikankari), wearing perfume (attar) and going to the mosque (for Namaz) only to come out later and cut people’s kites (patang) or quarrel at cards (taash) or engage in cock fights (murgha-baazi) at Murgi Chowk near the then shattered Chowmahalla.
Of course, globalisation was upon us and Naidu was dreaming of Cyberabad. We all got boyfriends from the internet and the romance of cruising was dead. Naidu took a leaf out of Tony Blair’s London and the way he had sanitised The Serpentine in Hyde Park by ridding it of its ‘cottages’.
Naidu flood-hit the Public Gardens and took away our Brindaban! Families with screaming kids overran the only quiet gay lovers found on a Friday night! Planet Romeo was safer unless you met the Boston strangler, online!
Returning from late study at the library from Gachibowli, the rocks would look romantic in the moonlight and one could even see a leopard’s silhouette against the full moon once or twice, if one was lucky. That drive was enchanted: lakes, peacocks, gulmohar in bloom and in the spring cherry blossoms and butterflies, even glow-worms and the occasional snake. Eden! ‘When this goes I go!’ I used to tell myself. Now, it is all gone and I have nowhere to go.
Roads became longer, cars became bigger (1,000 new cars pour into the same streets daily), the rocks disappeared, money pours in like never before from the Gulf and America, boys have become meaner, and I, older…
My friend died (he was ‘Nadira’) when his last friend asked him ‘Love kya hai?’ ‘This generation does not know love,’ Terry said to me before he died one Christmas night, slaving in a five-star hotel’s kitchen.
Hum toh samjhe the
Barish mein barsegi sharab
Ayee barsaat toh barsaat ne
Dil tod diya…
(We thought to drink love in the rain, Came cloud-burst and broke our hearts).
Yes, after 70 years of longing as an Indian gay citizen, I’m free to love in the privacy of my own home today. But, 30 years on, the romance is gone…