Five years ago, the opportunity to quit London and move to Mumbai in the interests of my work presented itself. Various quirky charms of this city was quite unknown to me. As some sensible person would do, I went around asking people what they thought of the matter.
Only in my case, they were some people who knew I was then a gay lad of 21, so there had to be some special considerations.
No one said it was bad. They all said it was far different from the gay scene I had known in England since my pre-pubescent days. I didn’t understand but I was sure I would have a lot of fun in Mumbai – a city of more than 6 million, practically ruled by men - as a young well-off entrepreneur. That was all set to be changed.
Here’s what I found out about the gay scene in Mumbai. I should have known most people I asked were being awfully English when saying ‘different’ for ‘drastically damnable’.
There isn’t a gay scene in Mumbai neither in Delhi.
There are hundreds of thousands of gay people here but if you did a survey, you would think it was a curiously homogeneously heterosexual city. There are some rather strange straight people in Mumbai who pretend to be gay on some days of the week, particularly when the wife is not being too obliging.
There is no gay scene in Mumbai because you can’t tell anyone that you’re gay – even though it does not constitute a crime, not even under the bizarre load of bull euphemistically called the legal system. If you tell your neighbors what you are, they’d probably never speak to you again and avoid you if they have the chance. If you tell your co-employees, they’d think you’re the assault-in-the-office-loo type. If you tell the social services, - but I ramble now, what social services?
I don’t deny there are some organizations in India, particularly in Delhi which claim to do social work for the homo cause. More often than not, they are like political parties with one person at the helm of affairs, the affair usually being all about his great charm to impress the media every now and then.
There are gay people everywhere, just as there are straight people. My friend says it just doesn’t work out if you admit as much anywhere between Istanbul and Bangkok. I’ve observed this to be so true. You may have had bed breaking sex with a man in Mumbai, but four minutes after ejaculation, he would deny knowing you. Or worse, he would kill you for being an immoral person too rich for the good of his nation. This I will try and explain to myself in view of the fact that 76% of the Indian populace lives on just about 20 rupees a day (£1 = 80 rupees, roughly).
It isn’t like this is not a ‘modern’ city or country. Mumbai and Delhi are progressive cities, after all. Could gay bars and gay nightlife places are all that difficult to run? Well, Mumbai faring only slightly better, I can say of Delhi that the gay bars here should immediately close down. They do more damage to the non-existent scene than one could ever imagine.
Maybe it’s that 20 rupees thing again, but most of the urban unemployed/underemployed male seems to have realized that there is a niche market for their bodies here, irrespective of sexual orientation, served on a nightly basis. You’d only ever find rent boys in the gay bars and not in night walks. The term ‘escort’ is far too dignified to be applied to the version available in Mumbai and Delhi. Again, there are bars everywhere, but where’s the good one?
I can safely declare India as a hellhole for anyone who happens to be gay and looking for the finer things in life. I’m glad I have the choice to go back, and that I’ve lived to tell the tale to others.