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Despite his family's openness, a young man fears rejection for his sexual preferences. Will he be able to come out to his family?
Today is senior Banerjee’s fourth death anniversary. Just like every other summer, the entire extended family is home, sipping cold brews and reminiscing fond memories of their beloved old man.
The Banerjees are taught to celebrate their dead, plus senior Banerjee was a force to reckon with. He had lived a colourful life – educated, honourable, and open to new experiences.
Four years ago, when he had passed away unannounced, Aritra lost his greatest confidante. For years, self-rejection had held him inside a closet, the big black one with no doors. When he finally gathered his courage to speak about it, Dadu (his grandfather) helped him install handlebars.
Dadu was liberal and the toxic reality of the orthodox times he grew up in played no role in shaping his intellect. With Dadu abandoning him halfway, Aritra’s secret was to remain inside a closed chest forever. He lacked the courage to twist the closet open, to let the breeze in, to let the mould and cobwebs out.
Two weeks after the funeral, Aritra was back in his dorm, back to his life with Joy, away from prying relatives and more than physically far away from his beloved family. Until he had a dream. Dadu visited him.
He gave Aritra courage, fanned his desire to be out and open, and encouraged him to go the extra mile to come clear to the people who mattered, all from beyond the grave. It took time. But Aritra came through.
Today Aritra has officially introduced his boyfriend to the gathering. Despite the warm atmosphere, their bodies are numb, their lips pale, and their minds blank. They are ready to welcome any heavy antics that may be thrown their way.
As the evening progressed, Aritra realised the stark contrast in the atmosphere. Heavy air loomed over making the tension palpable from their end. The family, however, was extremely cordial, recounting old instances, disclosing childhood stories, laughing and trying their best to get to know Joy better. There were warm smiles and a scrumptious meal spread.
The interaction had Aritra reeling. Shobei kichu bujhte parche ki na? Joy ki thakte shobei comfortable? Dhumuhar ager shanti jen dekhche ami! (Do they not understand the truth? Are they comfortable with Joy being here? Is this the calm before a storm?)
Confused, Aritra blurted out, “Shobei kichu bolun? Amar ei dangor secret ta reveal korchi ami, but no reaction keno?” (So you guys are not gonna question my sudden revelation?)
Amaya came up and hugged Aritra. The cousins followed suit. In less than a second, there was a huge gurgle of mixed emotions filling everyone’s hearts out. Silently wiping her tears, Amaya answered, “Amra shobai tumar sexuality secret ta jaani” (We know about your sexuality). We have been waiting for you to open up to us on your own. When you called Maa (mother) informing that your special one would be visiting us, we were overwhelmed.”
“Wait, you have known about Joy all along! How?”
Amaya looked at her father, “Baba (father), would you do the honours?”
Everyone’s gaze shifted to Aritra’s father, Anand. The spine of the Banerjee household, a celebrated lawyer, Anand was the family’s famed storyteller. “So, it happened exactly three weeks before the day your Dadu left us. He summoned us individually to his study and made us write the biggest secret we thought someone in the family had held through from the others. Amaya, baccha jao diary ta niye asho.” (Amaya, sweetheart go bring the diary.)
Amaya returned a while later with a lavender-coloured hardbound diary and handed it over to Aritra. “It’s time, Bhai (brother). Open it up.”
Aritra flipped through the pages. The top of the first page read, Amar moromer Aritra. Eita proof je tumak shobei aador kore, no matter what. (To my dearest Aritra, this is proof that everyone loves you no matter what./)
Ami mone kori Aritrar ekjon boyfriend ache. O amaku kichu boli na. (I think Aritra has a boyfriend. He hasn’t told me about it.) I thought we were close; I feel sad. – Dip
Aritra’s seeing someone, precisely his roomie from uni. He blushes and phoner dike takiye hashe. (He smiles looking at his phone.) I hope he treats him well. – Masum
My baby brother is obnoxiously in love with his roommate. I saw him when I had gone over for the weekend. I couldn’t help but swoon at his cute smile. Aww, they both look cute together. – Amaya
Baba amar chele special mone hoi. (Father, I think my son is special.) He is beautiful, inside out. I just hope I can protect him from the harsh world. – Anand
Almost everyone in the family had known about him. A secret that was not so secret, just veiled under the respect for his privacy. He looked up, eyes brimming with tears and heart filled with love for them.
Aritra’s father was the first to find his voice. “Baba was present in the room. So there was no chance for us to peep. In the end, he had us gathered in the hall and read the contents.”
“This is so like Dadu. Ami ei prokaror acceptance kothao experience kore ni! (I had never experienced this kind of acceptance anywhere.) If only I had known earlier.”
“Dadu had been a fantastic role model, and you should know ami o’r flesh and blood (we are his flesh and blood). We would never disregard someone based on their personal preference. Let’s not cry over wasted time. Let the flowers in your heart bloom, Babu*. Look around. Everyone loves you the way you are. Be proud and stand tall. We all approve of Joy as the newest addition to the family. Welcome home, Babu.”
*(an endearing term for son)
Top image is a scene from the web series Modern Love Mumbai
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