Down The Rabbit Hole...

Hello All.

Don't worry my dears, I haven't been ignoring you. I have been struck down with a rather nasty bout of glue ear and laryngitis. Yes, that's right, I am currently suffering from a childhood ear infection and I can't even complain audibly about it. Needless to say, I am camped out on the sofa in a blanket watching Wall-E because, in bleak times such as these, only a silent, stranded robot knows how you feel.

(Also, the version of La Vie en Rose in this movie makes my little brown heart all melty. In my opinion, it is everything that is right with the world).

Anyway, let's press on shall we?
A few months ago, a friend of mine (let's call her, "Zsa Zsa") called me up and informed me she was taking me out as an early birthday present. So I got dressed up and met the little glamour puss in the city for a night of cocktails, dancing and, of course, The Ladyboys of Bangkok show. The evening was an absolute riot and made more amusing by the fact that Zsa Zsa's older cousin (let's call her "Sandra") had invited us to attend with her partner and all her loud and lovely friends.
One thing to note about Zsa Zsa, and Sandra, is that they are both Indian and that Sandra's partner was, in fact, a woman.
Well, I don't know about you, Internet, but I have never in my life met an openly gay person of Indian or Pakistani persuasion before, let alone two who were a couple.

So, at first, I was a little like this:

But then it very quickly turned into this:

All throughout the show, I kept staring and grinning at them like a simpleton. We finally had a chance to talk over wine and a giant cheeseboard (thanks Zsa Zsa) in a lovely bar / tearoom after we left the show and, gosh darn it, these women were some of the most fascinating people I had ever met.

Sandra and her partner (let's call her "Savannah") had been together for 10 years and were out and proud with their respective Indian families. So much so that they were currently living with Savannah's parents until they could move to their holiday home in Spain. Being openly gay in a tight knit Asian (Indian / Pakistani) community was not without it's problems but here were two families closing the circle around these girls and offering their support... and I was completely blown away.
To contextualise this a little for you, as a liberal, British Pakistani woman I have never, ever in my life encountered or heard of any openly gay, bi, or transgender individuals in the community. It is something that is never talked about and never seen. It was therefore immensely comforting to see a glimmer of progression on this front. The lives of these women who ran a cupcake company and whose every day was functional and gloriously run of the mill was so liberating to hear about. It was also refreshing to share my experience of an unconventional coupling with people who understood some of the associated cultural and religious pressures.

I wanted to know more and talk for hours but I was mindful of the people who used to quiz me on the intimate details of my Mooish life with Bob and how irritating that could be; so I tried my best to shelve the curiosity. I must say, that I've never been on the other side of it before and do have a little more patience for the questions I receive as a result of this.

I didn't see this couple as a novelty or a spectacle, I was just thrilled to have met them and wanted to know more. I suppose it was the same kind of excitement one of my work colleagues spoke about when a Ghanaian family moved in next door to her. She lives in a very remote town in the countryside, with mostly farming folk and no ethnic minorities at all. So when the Ghanaian lady of the house was walking around town after church in her bright beautiful clothes, my friend was just following her around and waving, waiting for something exciting to happen.
It is this childhood curiosity that I am learning to stomach, because I know now that it comes from an innocent place... as opposed to when people treat you like a conversation piece at parties and your life choices as entertainment. I don't care so much for this approach, it makes me feel a little like a performing monkey.

After our wine and cheeseboard extravaganza we headed out to meet the rest of Sandra and Savannah's friends in the LGBT district of the city centre. Now, I'd been here once or twice as a student with gay friends of mine but never had I ever experienced anything like this before.

As we made our way down the main strip, every single South Asian boy and girl we saw was signalling to Sandra hooting and hollering, some even running up to her, throwing their arms around her neck to say an emphatic hello. She nodded along, taking it all in her stride and tried to give each person enough time whilst still moving us forward to meet her friends. Zsa Zsa and I were completely flabbergasted. I turned to her and saw the very same expression I was wearing on her face also; one of complete surprise mingled with awe.

Little did we know, we had been breaking bread with the Asian Lady Gaga.

One of the boys ran over yelling, " Baji! Baji!" (a term of endearment for an older sister in Urdu and Hindi). Sandra greeted him and he frenetically updated her on his life in about a minute. This boy was a force of nature but Sandra managed to soothe him to the point where he began making sense again.
Amid the many conversations he appeared to be having with everyone around him, we did manage to chat briefly. This boy, let's call him "Ahmed", told me he had known Sandra for years and has always called her Baji because she takes care of him. I asked him if he was Indian or Pakistani and he coyly admitted to being Pakistani but caveated that with a statement about being "very good at hiding it". After more conversation it became clear that, as out as he was in the gay district, he could never be in his family life. Therefore being Pakistani was a part of his identity he was looking to shed on these streets... and fast. With this in mind, the next words out of Ahmed's mouth completely took me by surprise:
"I dance though... and I put on this Asian LGBT club night every month, you should come! We do all kinds of bhangra dancing and play all the Bollywood songs.. and I do my own dance. It's amazing you have to come."
Apparently there were a hundred or so Asian kids that go every month and everyone knew each other and they all danced together, celebrating their roots and bonding over common ground.

Well I was one bowled over bunny let me tell you. How have I been completely oblivious to this? There was an entire underground subculture of Asian boys and girls on the the gay scene and Sandra was their queen.

So, not all of them were out but they had created a community with one another, and found their own way to celebrate their culture to boot. Putting beliefs about religion and life choices aside, that's pretty damn impressive, no?

The night spun on and there were shots and Chinese karaoke bars and, finally, there was getting home at half six in the morning. I don't know about you Internet, but I'm just not built for that kind of partying any more. Those kids were so much fun, but the pace of life is much too fast for me. So, I swapped my ridiculously high heels for slippers and a hot water bottle and crawled into bed with Bob, trying not to wake him and desperate to tell him about my adventures.

Oh, and if you're wondering at all how I got home, I shared a cab with Sandra and Savannah. They live incredibly close by you know......

Right at the top of my mother in law's road.


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