#PrideSpecial: There's an ally for everyone with Kaustav Dey

Six fabulous LGBTQIA+ individuals write heartfelt letters to their first shoulder to lean on! Here's Dey, vice president-marketing at Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein, with warm words for his first ally, his mum.

17 June, 2024
#PrideSpecial: There's an ally for everyone with Kaustav Dey

My mumum dearest, 

Do you know that I have been putting off writing this letter to you until the very last minute?

Why, you ask?

I don’t know how to tell you why you are my first ally.

I know that you are, of course—I just don’t know how to articulate it.

Especially to you.

Is it because you taught me that who I was, was enough? You never tried to change anything about me...you just let me be me.

It did not bother you that instead of playing in the evenings, like the other little boys of his age, your son would rather sit at your feet watching you get ready. You’d be looking into the dressing table mirror, drawing on a small red bindi or fastening the back of your earrings—and I’d be staring at you, open-mouthed. I was in awe of how beautiful you looked in one of your Benarasi saris—and nothing gave me more joy than being a small but helpful hand in the rituals of your shringaar [the act of dressing up].


A post shared by Kaustav Dey (@kaustav.dey)

You saw it all—but you didn’t ask me to leave, or hand me a bat and ball to try and make a man of me. No...in fact you took delight in our evenings together, always making sure that I would also have something to help with—a choker clasp closed or the bottom of your sari’s pleats straightened and pulled down one final time.

You taught me that I could be who I was. I learnt that I did not need to change anything about myself, because there was nothing wrong with me.

Outside our small world of two, everyone told me otherwise though. And as I grew older, their slurs got louder, crasser, and occasionally, more violent. But through it all, no matter where in the world I was, I knew that if you loved me as I was, then I must be worthy of it.

Now tell me, how shall I find one way of telling you why you are my first ally? Not even a thousand will do.

You are so wonderful, mumum—you have taught me everything that has made me who I am today. 

That all life is valuable and not just the human kind, that God is a private relationship based on love, not a performative ritual born from hate; that nations are but lines drawn in the sand; that beauty exists everywhere, even across borders of where we are allowed to belong.

I know now that these are lessons that are rare, even conspiratorial, in today’s world—and for that I am eternally grateful to you, my comrade. You taught me: all that mattered was that we were true to ourselves, and two hoots to everyone else and their rules.

Freedom—you taught me to prize it, to protect it, to go to war for it. And that is why, today, the most important thing in the world to me is my freedom... to be exactly who I am.

You told me that I should love who I want to, look how I wish to, and live how I like—and no matter how much the world tells me the exact opposite, I know...if you said it, it must be right, everyone else is wrong.

And that is why you are my first ALLY, my best friend, my mentor, my muse, my mumum.

I love you,

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

Image credit: Shradha Swaminathan

Also read: #PrideSpecial: There's an ally for everyone with Sushant Divgikr

Also read: 8 Indian LGBTQIA+ Influencers to Follow on Instagram