The year was 1991. Vivek was eight. He realized he was gay. Only he didn't: he just figured that he wanted to be different. And that he was in love - for want of a better word - with Deepak, his best friend. Then Mast Kalandar released, with Anupam Kher playing Pinku, a stereotypical gay character. And Vivek realized he didn't want to be Pinku. So he tried to walk differently, gesticulate differently, and speak in as gruff a voice as he could - all to avoid being Pinku. Funny, poignant, heartwarming, and heart-breaking all at once, this is a memoir of growing up gay in India in the 1990s, with Bollywood, books, and the Bombay sea for company.
"There is a place for everyone in the world and that's how the world should ideally function. It doesn't, but that doesn't mean we don't belong," posits culture writer Tejuja in his charming and candid debut. After being slapped in 1991, at age eight, by his uncle for "dancing like a girl," Tejuja gradually became aware that in South Bombay—where "gender roles were well and truly in place"—his behavior would be strictly monitored. Even so, he remained enamored with the women in his family and committed to "the art of... not confining oneself to what the world expects of you because you happen to be a man." In breezy prose that hums with wit, Tejuja recalls his winding path to embracing his queerness: falling in love with books in his teens, coming out at 19 (and promptly being sent to therapy), and navigating gay chat rooms with a sex education mostly gleaned from Turner Classic Movies (remembering his first kiss, he writes, "I imagined... I would feel the goosebumps... I felt nothing besides a tongue in my mouth"). Despite the occasional trite observation—"Liking someone is so important, either in a homosexual or a heterosexual interaction"—Tejuja's candor renders his coming-of-age tale a delight. It's an entertaining tableau of life as a work in progress, imperfections and all.