As per Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, love is a fundamental human need. At different stages of life, we all seek love, and for those of us who are romantics, we seek that one person who fills the gaps in between our fingers and holds our hands firmly through all the ups and downs of life. I met that person when I was 16. I had recently passed Class X. The adrenaline rush was at its peak and so was my consciousness about my predicament as someone with an ‘alternate’ sexuality.
It was customary for my family to spend winters at our ancestral Delhi house ― our schools used to have a three-month-long vacation, and bearing the cold chills of Kashmir was not our cup of tea. This year, however, was the first time I was away from my family. My parents were keen to send me out of the country for higher studies so I was in Delhi seeking various coaching classes. Those days, we had a limited number of internet cafés. I somehow managed to get an internet connection at my home and used to surf the internet without any time restrictions. Keen to find a boyfriend, I used to search for sites where I could find like-minded people. Within weeks of my appearance on that site, I came across a profile which was a sight for sore eyes. It wasn’t that the guy had posted a particularly good looking picture, but the conversation I had with him was very sensible and humorous.
Our conversations continued for weeks and we finally decided to meet at the end of March, 2005. I still get goosebumps when I recall the day I first met Aaftab. Six-feet tall with a great physique, it was a perfect description of what I imagined ‘Tall, Dark and Handsome’ to be. This was my first time ever encountering a date, and I didn’t know how to react. We met over lunch and discussed everything from our personal lives to politics to the weather and what not. We kept meeting often, and somehow, deep down in my heart, I knew I wanted to spend my life with him. The funniest thing was when I started calling him “Aaftab bhai”, as he was nine years elder to me. He never took it the wrong way, but I somehow knew even then that we wanted to remove this suffix.
Aaftab, at that time, was working with AT&T as a customer care agent, and was also an aspiring model. He used to stay in a rented accommodation in South Delhi, with other flatmates. He belonged to Nagpur. For the first few months, we used to meet outside for coffee, movies, house parties, lunches, and dinners. By now we were introduced to each other’s friends as well. In the beginning, I never dared to ask him to come over to my place, and vice-versa. But one fine day, I invited him over my house for dinner. It was one of the most joyous moments of my life to have him in ‘my’ space.
We had been acquainted only six months, and getting intimate was never an alluring factor between us. Though we used to discuss this topic a lot, trying to decide who would make the first move was challenging. Every time he had to go back to his home, I found my confidence in jeopardy, as a lot of people used to keep an eye on him. I took courage, one day, and decided to speak to my father, asking him to let out two rooms of our flat on rent, as, this way, I would also get some company. The intent here was to have Aaftab with me. My dad agreed to it and I convinced Aaftab to move in. It was like nature itself was conspiring to settle things in a way that my wish was a command to be full filled. A few days later, Aaftab moved in to my house and from here our journey of togetherness started. We used to cook together, clean the home, and wash clothes while singing and dancing. The urge to make my thoughts clear to him was at its peak, but I still couldn’t gather the courage to confess my feelings to him.
One fine day, while he was at work, I thought of writing a letter to him. To get it all out, I might have torn out and filled the pages of an entire notebook, but I still couldn’t quite articulate the words. I decided to speak to him face-to-face. When he arrived, I grasped all the courage I could and expressed my feelings to him. It was a one-sided conversation for almost 45 minutes where I was talking and weeping simultaneously. I sensed that I was about to get hurt and everything would be over. To my surprise, he grabbed me in his arms, and lifted me up. The kiss was so passionate that my lips started to swell and bleed, but I couldn’t feel the pain.
The joy of him accepting our relationship was just like a fairytale coming true. The next question was what role we were going to play in this relationship. We both were on the same wavelength, and wanted to explore all the things love had to offer. At last! I started to live my dream. We were called the most adorable couple by a lot of people around us. They said it was because of how we complemented each other in the best of ways. I was very possessive about him, and he was the epitome of love and care for me. Soon I introduced him to my family as a tenant and a good friend and also took him to my home town.
For so many queer people, acceptance is hard to come by. But sometimes, it comes in the form of loving someone much like yourself. We were together for seven happy years and I always believe that to be the golden era of my life. Not only did we flourish from the love, care, and respect we had for each other, we were also there as a support system for each other. I learnt a lot about life from him. It was he who introduced me to the world of glitz and glamour, and I started my modelling career with him. Going on shoots and walking on the ramp with him was just so perfect. Not only was I with someone I loved and cherished, but it was a way for me to learn to accept myself for who I am. And isn’t that something everyone should have a chance to do?