#PrideSpecial: There's an ally for everyone with Apurva Asrani

Six fabulous LGBTQIA+ individuals write heartfelt letters to their first shoulder to lean on! Here's screenwriter and film editor, Asrani's warm words for her first ally, Khursheed.

17 June, 2024
#PrideSpecial: There's an ally for everyone with Apurva Asrani

To my parsi pancake,

I first noticed your laughter. It was a party that I attended by chance. You had short hair, wore blue dungarees, and had a face that screamed ‘Don’t take things too seriously!’. You were unlike anyone I had met. “You look like Meg Ryan,” I had said, referring to my favourite actress. “You are editing Ram Gopal Varma’s new film?” you had asked, impressed, “but you’re only 19?!”

I dropped out of college to build a career in film. I realised soon that I had an aptitude for storytelling and drama. Many closeted people that I know, develop such attributes from a life of pretending to be someone they are not. For many queer folk, a successful career is a way to gain acceptance and respect that is otherwise denied to us.

Of course, I barely knew what the word “gay” meant then, or that there existed communities and cultures that were oriented similarly. I was, for the most part, alone in my world of shame, secretly feeling urges for boys and fantasising over the hero in movies. My father loved me, but was tormented by the fear that I wasn’t ‘man’ enough.

I didn’t enjoy televised sports, preferred arts and craft, and played hopscotch with the girls instead of cricket with the boys.

You and I began dating. It was natural, it was easy. We played board games, travelled, went dancing, and laughed. God, how we laughed! Your spontaneous laughter was a gift to my otherwise serious life. Anything was fun, everything was light. When we met, we were on the floor in stitches from a bad joke or a silly impression. You called me ‘Aps’, and I nicknamed you ‘Parsi Pancake’.


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Khursheed, you were the first person who knew my truth. Maybe even before I could acknowledge it. It began the night we should have had sex, but I slept on a mattress on the floor. You were upset, but you ensured that there was no awkwardness about it. We laughed about it and went about our fixed Saturday nights at the local pub where we mischievously stole pitchers of beer from unmanned tables.

On one such night, when the clock struck 12, like Cinderfella, I excused myself from our revelry for a secret plan. I had discovered Voodoo’s, Bombay’s (now Mumbai) only thriving underground gay bar, said to be populated with others like me. You were disappointed to see me leave, but I lied that I had a birthday to attend.

The bar was small and dingy, but it was safe. I met the flamboyant and the sexual, the genuine and the posers—each of whom knew what it was like to grow up in dark and airless closets. Each of us shared a yearning to date someone, to be held, to be loved, and to be understood. I felt seen.

I told you about my midnight rendezvous at Voodoo’s. How it opened up my world. You went numb.

I asked you to imagine the childhood of a queer person. All around us, we see boys and girls dating, sitting together in class and cafés, holding hands in the park, resting heads on shoulders, standing up for each other.

But ALL of this is denied to us. We grow up around people who project progressive ideals, yet perpetuate this heartbreaking inequality between their children.

You were worried...confused. You insisted on accompanying me to Voodoo’s, to see for yourself what I meant. You seemed shaken to see the world of “deviants” that had become my community. You told me off for ditching our gang for these people, and exited the bar. I ran behind you, but only went as far as your cab. I knew I had to go back in there, and you knew that you couldn’t stop me from doing so.

We broke up the next day. You didn’t speak to me for months, and I had no one to share my secret. And then one day, we spoke. You said you were attempting to understand what it meant to grow up gay and closeted. But you didn’t want me to deal with the confusion by myself. You said you didn’t want to deny me the one thing I was being denied at home—acceptance.

I heard you laugh again, and we made a deal. The next Saturday, we would go to the local pub first and then to Voodoo’s, together.

As we both danced, in peals of laughter, with a glamorous gay boy, I knew that my ‘Parsi Pancake’, the Meg Ryan lookalike, loved me unconditionally for who I was. That very year I met someone who I fell in love with. At first, you were wary and protective, but soon became back-slapping buddies with him.

It’s been almost 30 years since we met, and we are still the closest of friends. You have ditched the dungarees, the daaru (booze), and the dance floor, but you still laugh at the silliest jokes like there’s no tomorrow. We have seen each other through two long-term relationships and several short-term mistakes, calling each other for advice
or just to rant.

Khursheed, you saw me at a time when it was hard for me to see myself. Thank you for holding my hand when it mattered most, and for not leaving it since.

I love you,

This article originally appeared in Cosmopolitan India Magazine's May-June 2024 print issue.

Image credit: Shradha Swaminathan

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