There are scores of people who despite being part of minority groups, having limited access to resources & opportunities or exposure live a life of their own choice. They brave the society and carve their path risking their and their family’s reputation, career and sometimes even life. Mohan Sindhu is one of them. I am always left numb hearing the stories I write for the MIST page and it was no different with Mohan.
Mohan was born in a middle class family in a village in Rohtak, Haryana where masculinity and patriarchy runs deep in every aspect of life. Growing up, school life was a nightmare for him. His femininity, the way he walked made him a target for bullying. There were comments from peers and villagers alike. Mohan was not even aware that he is gay back then and he often wondered why he was an object of humiliation for everyone.
Soon, a 14-15 year old teenager’s defence mechanism kicked in and he changed his behaviour. For years to come, he was the one who constantly mocked and humiliated girls, made fun of people who dressed differently and of members of the community he himself belonged to.
“I acted straight. I became like everyone else, and blended in well. On the other hand, I was chatting with men online, meeting them, and watching gay porn secretly. Nobody saw what I saw on my phone. I did what I did because I was afraid – I did not want to be treated as others are, I wanted to be valued.”
By the time he turned 23-24, Mohan knew it was enough and he could not continue to live a dual life. Slowly his life began to change its beat. Mohan recalls the time when he was in Chandigarh. One of his gym trainers was also gay and together they used to explore the gay community together. This was the time internet access was limited and so was awareness. He was oblivious to social networking platforms like Planet Romeo, Grindr and even Orkut. Slowly, he came to meet a few people and the community unravelled. He found that there are others on the spectrum and they are closeted too, just like him.
One day, Mohan mustered courage and came out to his manager when he asked him if he could bring the guy he was dating to an office event. His manager didn’t bat an eye and that was about it. Ever since then, Mohan continued to gather courage to be himself. He then came out to one of his female cousins, whose patient ear, support and love was all he needed. He kept coming out to friends, co-workers, cousins and every single time found acceptance, support and love.
Come 2015, Mohan was finally able to allow himself to fall for someone. This was counter to the narrative he has built and believed for himself that love is just not possible. “I was committed to one person and it was a very sweet feeling. We lived together and my family came to see him as a dear friend.” His boyfriend met all his family members a couple of times and even attended Mohan’s sister’s wedding.
The 2018 verdict decriminalising consensual sexual intercourse between same sex individuals was a landmark moment for the community. Mohan was jubilant like everyone in the community. It encouraged him to come out to his parents. He wanted them to know about his sexuality and the then love of his life. The conversation was difficult. It began with a talk around marriage, urging him to do things at the right age. Mohan finally did say that he does want to get married to someone they know. His parents started shooting off the names of girls they knew he was friends with. But he pointed out that it was not a girl. His parents were shell shocked. His father said that he had an inkling about it, but was not sure.
It was an emotional moment for Mohan, he asked them to understand and accept him. He also pointed out that he has been there for him since the start (Mohan started working in a BPO at the age of 18 to support his family). His mother kissed him and told him that if he is happy, they are. She mentioned that there are always sub-stratas in the society and one has to be ready to face the challenges that come with the differences. She asked if he was prepared. Mohan told her he has been, since a long time. “My sexuality is not hidden from anyone. I came out to society way before you. Cousins, friends, people at work all of them know and my sexuality is not hidden from anyone.”
For months, there was not a discussion around his sexuality or the relationship. Mohan mentions that they are still in denial. “Even when I ended breaking up, my mother consoled me saying that he is gone for a good reason and I should get settled now. I should get married (to a girl), heterosexual relationships last longer and will lead to kids who will take care of me when I grow old.”
Mohan sighed, while speaking to his mother and narrating this incident to me. He told her that he is not interested in girls and he will only marry someone he truly loves. “They are still in a denial phase. I am now in a relationship with another man, she treats him like a son. But there is a long way to go. They do not say anything but deep down have not accepted it.”
While Mohan is grateful that his parents have not reacted untowardly, he wonders if it would not have been the case had he not taken up the family responsibilities and supported the family. “If I would have been dependent on them, their reaction might have been different. There have been instances where boys have been threatened or killed and luckily I have evaded that fate.”
I also asked Mohan about his work. While he has been working a long time, he is currently a Senior Corporate Trainer at Koeing Solutions in Delhi. He has been around for almost two years now and conducts training for Microsoft’s courses like Dynamics 365 CRM and Power Platform for a host of reputed clients.
Now, with things in place – love life, work life, relationship with family, Mohan is looking to give back to the community. His first effort was to participate in the Mr Gay India pageant. “I realised that over time I had become confident and that directly or indirectly influenced people. People would reach out to me and tell me how I impacted their lives, who they want to be. They said that they are inspired by my courage. I wondered if just by being myself I can do this, what if I am on a stage?!.” He applied and made it to the top 6 but could not continue to the finals as he was not keeping well.
Mohan now plans on building the mindsets and behaviours at a young age itself. He wants to create an actual school, where along with the regular curriculum, students will learn life skills. “Changing behaviour is my job role but seminars are not enough. How would youngsters know if being gay is normal? Villages are untouched and those are in places who are in crucial need. When you are educated – there is no stopping you, you can achieve anything.” Mohan adds that over the past years his confidence has taken him places and he wants to enable this for others. “I want to give them the community the power of choice.” The young ones on the LGBTIAQ+ spectrum and who are part of other minority groups need just that.
~Interviewed & Writted by Luv Kumar