I remember when I was five years old, I used to play with my mother’s clothes – her sarees and dupattas. Instead of judging me and shouting at me, she supported me.
We would play a game where I would be the mumma, and she’d be the baby. We really enjoyed this – it was the first time I was comfortable with someone. It was like an indirect coming out. Her motherly instinct knew that my soul was liberated by the colours of the rainbow.
Unfortunately, all this didn’t last long as I lost my mother. My perspective of the world started to change. I used to be alone at home as my siblings would go to school, and my dad to work. In this void, I lived with my imagination in which I would fantasize to be a girl. I was very satisfied with my boy body but I also wanted to be a girl at the same time. I kept myself busy studying and playing. Gradually, I reached class 10 when I fell in love with a girl. She was my ‘first love’ but it ended badly, leaving me broken-hearted. I was depressed and underwent multiple sessions of counselling. I would cry and have sleepless nights.
Then one fine day, I got a call from NatGeo. They told me that they got my details and portfolio from my subscription account and that they wanted me to be a part of their LGBTQIA documentary. That meant I had to come out to everyone on television! I was scared and I went blank. I rushed to the teacher I was closest to and hurriedly explained everything to her. She said “Be bold, Tish! Go for it.” I took a long breath and then went to their studio the next day. And we had a shoot and I came out to my friends and teachers. Luckily, they supported me quite well.
I came out openly and after a series of bad relationships. I consider those relationships as having cleansed my mind. Out of the blue, a man came into my life, who brought me out of this dark, star-less place. He helped me turn my life around and he was obviously a guy I was in love with. This was a few months ago, when I had an actual relationship.
He was the first person in my life whom I could call my mumma angel. We had a great time dating each other, making love and all that, but eventually, it didn’t work out.
It must have been love but it’s over now. I moved on and start attending my studies and my modelling career.
These days, I am at peace, after struggling to become the real me for almost two years. I realised that if you are lost, then you can always be found because it’s never too late to turn your life around. I am currently a successful model attending my events and walking ramps.
By day, I study psychology and literature, as well as drama in performing arts. But by night, I turn into a fierce drag queen known as Shabnam Be-Wa-Fa. She’s everything I always wanted to be and this was made possible by inspirations like Prateek Sachdeva (aka Betta Naan Stop) and the openly gay hotelier Keshav Suri! I was India’s youngest person to come out internationally when I was 17. And now, at the age of 19, I am India’s youngest drag queen.
I want to quote something for everyone who is reading this: “Suppose you’ve eaten a piece of cake, and you loved it. But society says this cake isn’t meant for you! Would you stop eating that cake? The answer will be no! So, why do we stop loving someone if society tells us so? Loving someone is as easy as eating a piece of cake.”