(As told to Joyeeta Talukdar)
(Name changed to protect identity)
I’m Manish, from one of the tea gardens of Upper Assam. My mom and dad both worked in the tea garden’s hospital as nurse and compounder. We were a sweet happy family until I went to school, back in the ‘90s. In the school no child would talk to me. Being in the nursery I found it difficult to understand why the children boycotted me. What was wrong with me?
No one to befriend me
After a month I said to my parents that I didn’t want to go to school. When they asked me the reason, I said no children talked with me and no one wanted to make friends with me. Without a word, the next day I was moved to a boarding school. The school was near my home, yet I was in the hostel and allowed home only during the summer holidays. I wasn’t allowed to make friends with the children near my home. At first it was OK, but as I reached teenage I started having tantrums that I needed to go out and make friends.
So, one Sunday afternoon during my summer holidays in my seventh grade, without even letting my parents know, I skipped from our home. Nearby there was a big field where children were playing cricket. I asked if I could play with them. They said, “No.” I was surprised and asked, “Why can’t I play with you all?” One of the guys, around my age, came forward and said, “No, our parents have said not to talk or make friends with you.”
The shocking truth
I was surprised and asked, “Why?”
They said, “Because you are adopted and you have two mothers and the police will take us and put us in jail if we ever made friendship with you.”
‘Adopted’ wasn’t a shock to me because my parents had explained that to me a long time back. I was abandoned by my family soon after birth in the hospital itself since they had too many mouths to feed. I was in the baby care section of the hospital and my mother used to take care of me and grew fond of me. And so within a month my parents decided to adopt me. That wasn’t the shock.
Shock for me was the two mothers thing.
Yes, it’s true
I said, “What do you mean by I have two mothers?”
The group of boys started laughing and said, “Go ask them yourself.”
They mocked at me, called me names and before I could catch them, they ran away.
Since it was Sunday, I found both my parents at home.
I ran to them and asked, “What do the boys out there mean when they say that I have two mothers?”
They were having their evening tea. Showing no surprise they beckoned me and sat me down on the chair next to them. Out of breath because of anxiety, anger and running, I flopped on the chair panting.
My father said calmly, “Yes, they are right, dear. You have two mothers and we’re sorry for not telling you the truth for so long.”
My mother said, “Yes, we’re both women and your father is actually a lady dressed like a man.”
Suddenly my whole world turned upside down. I stood up and said, ‘Why on earth do you need to dress like a man? Just be as you are!”
My father sighed and said, “It’s complex, dear. In our society it’s a taboo for two ladies to love each other and live together like family. And I love your mother so much that I can do anything to stay with her, even disguising like a man for the rest of my life.”
There were tears in both my parents’ eyes. And they hugged each other tightly. I felt the love and pain between them strongly.
But still I questioned, “Why is it complex? It’s love, right?”
My mother came near me, hugged me tight and said, “I wish the society were like you think it is.”
Only love matters
After this I never discussed this at home and nothing bothered me, not even the taunting, because I knew that my family was different and no matter what, we were together and loved each other deeply.
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I’m 22 now and when I see the crowds coming forward for the rights of the LGBT community, I take pride that when the whole world was against this community and thought them to be the filth of society, somewhere in the northeastern region of India, there lived two brave souls who are proudly my parents. They were able to fight against all the odds and sustain their love, showing that “Love matters. The rest will follow.”