In this week’s Namma Pride LGBTIQA article, Madhumitha Venkataraman shares a story which is very close to her heart and has been hugely instrumental in the connect she feels with LGBTIQA community- the story of two very close friends in a relationship and their journey of normalising the ‘different’. Read on to find out more.
The first time I met Sairam Srivatsava Sreedhara (Vatsa) was in the Mercer office in early 2009, and little did I know at that time that the person I was talking to would grow to be one of my closest friends. We worked together on multiple projects during my stint at Mercer and continued to stay in touch after that.
Coming Out To Me
Vatsa is one of the most open and honest people I know. I still remember the first time he came out to me, which was soon after I met him. It was over pizza in the office cafeteria in response to a simple question – “Who are you seeing currently?”
He was very matter of fact about being gay and there was no awkwardness whatsoever (I am usually used to seeing some discomfort when people come out in India). Also, this was no special treatment towards me – whoever asked him the question got the same response.
I would call this extremely courageous given the cultural context where not everyone is open towards people of different sexual orientations. Love is defined by gender and time, and it can be difficult for the LGBTIQ community to be completely out in the open. There is limited awareness and understanding of the concept, and the law is also not supportive.
Vatsa’s coming out is something I think about very often (though it has been a number of years). His openness was endearing and has taught me to be more authentic – if you are comfortable with who you are, then everyone else automatically is.
Falling In Love
This episode brought us closer together, and we began sharing a lot beyond work. Then one day, in early 2010, he told me about someone special – Sapan, who he had started speaking to over the phone – and how the conversations were never ending. The amount he spoke about him was also never ending! He had really found a person with whom he could connect, and the excitement in his voice was obvious. Sapan would send flowers over to the office and Vatsa would be blushing the whole day. It is always nice to see someone in love and smiling all the time!
A couple of months later, I met Sapan at one of our office parties. His fondness for Vatsa was very visible (given he was at a party where he knew no one else) and they were clearly in love. I was amazed at how much one person could do to be with another. Sapan had left his NGO job in another city and moved to Mumbai just to be with Vatsa.
I found Sapan to be simple, straightforward, and caring from the start. I would very often stay over at their place in Mumbai, and I was touched by his warmth and concern for everybody. If you ask Sapan for something, he will do everything in his power to help you. As an American, the way he moulded himself to fit the Indian environment is commendable. Additionally, the fact that he had extended his stay in India, beyond his initial plans, for Vatsa is beautiful. They were opposites in many ways but together they created a complete picture.
Venturing Into Matrimony
A few years ago, Vatsa told me they were thinking of getting married. To be honest, I was speechless, joyous, and a little scared for them – all at the same time. While I was so happy, I also sent up a silent prayer. I knew that they were meant to be together, so there was no doubt on that score. My worry was caused by the cultural context in India. They could never be completely out in the open here – they would not be able to post marriage pictures on Facebook, throw a huge party or even share it with their extended families. But they were absolutely certain that it was the right way to go.
It was wonderful to be a part of the post-wedding party in Mumbai, a small celebration with close friends and family. Given the cultural context and Section 377, I am glad they chose to not be very public about this at that time, and I am equally glad today that they are sharing their journey openly.
The post-wedding party was particularly special. I was moved to tears seeing the warmth Vatsa’s mom and sister showed towards Sapan. I have met them several times, they have even stayed with me before, and the support they have shown to Vatsa and Sapan is amazing, to say the least. For most of us, homosexuality is largely unspoken and unacknowledged, and for the generation prior to ours, it was almost unheard of. So kudos to them.
Courage, Love And Happiness Triumphs
I have seen gay people struggle to live with dignity and come out to even their immediate families for the fear of being ostracised (and the fear is genuine as many have been). So, the support Vatsa and Sapan have from their immediate families clearly sets an example to emulate.
Unfortunately, homosexuality is not still viewed as just another way of being or a form of diversity – In many places, it is viewed as something wrong. I love the way Vatsa and Sapan have undertaken this journey together – with so much courage, love and happiness. I know this is a relationship that is going to last forever.
Liked reading this? Then you might also like Romal Laisram – The Making Of An Inclusive And United Pride.