I don’t know about most of you, but I always wanted my first flight to be to a naturesque place like Machu Picchu, and one that didn’t land me in an urban jungle. Flying is a luxury, a privilege which I cannot afford. Travelling, just like flying, even to a domestic place, was something I could only think of after years of saving money. It costs a lot.
However distant (read: expensive) a dream that may have been (to fly to Machu Picchu), I settled for something more domestic, but still (importantly) close to nature. I took my first flight to Shillong, a city 3000 kms away from my hometown, Mumbai, all by myself. Was it freeing for my queer self? Yes. Was it too scary for my queerness? Very much. Politically, this land, like all of the North-Eastern states of India, is at the periphery of the centre. To reach the state of Meghalaya, there are only a few flights, and no trains at all. In a way, I did feel free – away from the ‘centre’, at the margins, at the periphery. Because that’s also where I think my ‘queerness’ lies―at the margins.
The online dating scene back in Mumbai, at least for me, had become dull and monotonous; it’s difficult for a romantic queer like me. I started using ‘Fake GPS’ apps which allowed me to virtually be in Shillong while still in Mumbai. I swiped right on a few profiles, but I gave up soon. The excitement was wearing off. But I was still waiting for something to spark.
Clothes, and deciding what goes with what, is important to me and so is my comfort; they help me express myself and hence my first airport ‘look’ was important. I chose wisely wearing my DIY ripped jeans and a shirt. On reaching Shillong, I realised it was freezing and that I could have worn something warmer. Even the summers in Shillong are colder than winters in Mumbai. Nevertheless, it was the perfect weather to snuggle up, and, if one is lucky, cuddle.
The curious cat in me wanted to meet people, in a ‘foreign’ land, among a different ethnic group, learn new names, be able to pronounce them correctly, to know their political inclination, and how they navigate their gender and sexual identities with the politics of their other identities. The only way that was possible (with the amount of anxiety I carry) was to grab every opportunity to meet someone in Shillong. I realised, being a visitor, on the app, especially from Mumbai (and its image of a global or ‘progressive’ city), it was easier for people to confide in and open up to me. At the same time, though, it was all the scarier for me in this ‘foreign’ land.
There is this age-old fight between Mumbai and Delhi. The former’s distaste for the latter is due to some stereotypes about Delhi people being ‘loud’. More importantly, the idea that cis-men in the national capital are hyper-masculine and that there is a need for them to check on their toxic behaviour. These stereotypes had induced anxiety and that was enough for me to maintain my distance from Delhiites. In Shillong, at least for the seven days I was there, however, there are hardly any people like this, and the rest are either from Guwahati or Bangladesh.
With a lot of trepidation, I agreed to meet a ‘match’ from Delhi, who also happened to be visiting Shillong, at their place. I wore something comfortable, but carefully selected. On my way to their place, I thought of ghosting them, for the sole reason that they are from Delhi. It was cold and I set my preconceived notions aside and to my disbelief met this wonderful soul. A soul so beautiful that they reminded me of the whiff of fresh air, the stars, and the moon.
I was 23 and they were 20, we had so much to talk about. It was probably the first time I was meeting with a person from Delhi. I have never been to Delhi nor have met anyone from Delhi in Mumbai. The day I met them was the day I visited Cherrapunjee, where I was just overwhelmed by what nature had to offer. My ‘date’ and I had a lot to talk about: I remember we spent some time discussing how the education system was inducing constant stress through professors and assignments. I believe all of us need someone, once in a while, to vent to, and that’s what we did for three hours. We spoke like there was no tomorrow and all this only made me eager to lean in for a kiss. However, I could not take the initiative because, well, anxiety! Ironic how my Mars is in Leo (if you know what I mean). In the three hours that we spoke and listened, we both wished we could cuddle and do the same. But our anxieties didn’t allow us to touch each other.
Soon, we were breathing in sync, and it created moments of mutual stillness. Breathing into each other, we kissed. They made me comfortable, they were gentle, and their skin to mine was ecstasy, discovering each other’s bodies right from the head to the toe. A blanket kept us warm. While all the talking happened we forgot to have dinner and then at 2 am in the night they got ready to make me a snack. I declined, only because I didn’t wish to miss another second of their warmth, and as it turned out, they had the same thought.
Through years of policing myself, I have become conscious of my body, and my anxiety is such that I insist on keeping the lights off when with someone. They agreed without any reluctance. The night broke into dawn and waking up next to someone had always been something I fantasised about; it was something I could happily get used to. I could be waking up next to someone in deep sleep but I woke up next to someone who wanted to kiss me first thing in the morning, even when my breath smells the way it might post eating onion. I couldn’t have asked for a better start to the day.
It has been nearly eight months since I met them, and I haven’t come across anything purer than the time spent with them. After parting ways, I let them know through a letter how incredible they were, and what they can make a person feel. I ended the letter to them with this quote which I had read on Twitter:
“Being at home means only one thing, at heart: being at peace. The geography part is the least of it.”