Before I came to Delhi, my parents, like every other concerned parent, warned me about what they often termed as the “nasty” culture of Delhi. According to them, the definition of “nasty” included drugs, smoking, alcohol and any other kind of juvenile activity they thought I could be influenced by. Having already spent two months in Delhi, I was no longer surprised by simple peculiarities of the place, like how they prefer mayonnaise with momo (an awful choice) or how abuses are adjectives in daily conversations. But more than anything else, I think, Delhi is all about the diversity within it.
My classroom comprises of 70 students who hail from different backgrounds, and it becomes a battleground of ideas during debates. I have never missed a single lecture, not just because I don’t have a life beyond classes, but because my professors have done a great job of shattering every founding idea that had shaped my existence until I joined college: be it religion, nationalism, or patriarchy.
I remember it was one of those few days when we had a gap of three hours between two classes and my friend, and I decided to look for an empty classroom. It’s difficult to find one in Miranda, so we had to walk all the way to the second floor of the Science Block, which involves a lot of physical effort for two tiny people like us.
We finally found one and settled ourselves. We bonded over writing poetry that nobody read and how much we hated not being a part of any society. We discussed a few things and then started telling each other about ourselves. It was then that she told me that she was a lesbian. I knew how I was supposed to react to drugs, alcohol, or cigarettes but well, this thing was out of syllabus. I knew what the word meant, I knew my crush Neil Patrick Harris was gay which meant I had no chance with him, I just didn’t know how to react to this situation that I was in right now. She sensed my confusion and the uneasy air of the empty classroom and I knew she didn’t want me to feel uncomfortable as much as I didn’t want to feel uncomfortable. My discomfort, to be honest, was due to my lack of information about the LGBTQ+ community which my friend changed in the next three hours of awkward questions and lame jokes on my part, which was received by blank looks.
I remember bombarding her with different questions about people from the LGBTQ+ community and one of her replies is still etched in my mind, though I can hardly remember the daft question that provoked this response. She said, “I don’t just jump on the next girl I see.” That statement, I would say, is way more educational than one can anticipate. She was the same person who walked with me to college with a pocket knife in her backpack because she is paranoid about being attacked. She was the same person she was yesterday, nothing really had changed between us.
I concluded that our fears and reservations, all of these rest on misinformation or lack of information about the differences that surround us; be it racial, sexual, regional, or communal. My friend has been my guide to the LGBTQ+ community and understanding the discriminations they are subjected to, and also the differences that run within that community itself.
My friend and her team had begun the Miranda House Queer Collective (MHQC) last year, which aims to conduct events and raise awareness about the LGBTQ+ community for the general public. I am a proud ally of the MHQC, and I think this is a huge achievement because never in the history of Miranda House has such an initiative been taken and achieved success.
My friend had given me the pride flag that she got from the Pride March organised in Delhi, and I hang it on the wall of my room to remind myself that I too have a responsibility towards the empowerment of the LGBTQ+ community because I am a part of the society that discriminates against them. I had read in my sixth standard Political Science book that India is a special country because it has “unity in diversity,” and I grew up realising that insecurities, reservations, fear, and hate is sugar coated into this brittle unity which aims at homogenising a population. Let us foster tolerance, empathy and respect towards each other not because it is the most difficult time to do it but because it has never been easy in the first place.