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How to be Gay and Indian // A Must-Read Essay by Manil Suri in Granta Magazine

The Bombay I grew up in during the 60s and 70s was quite incontestably unenlightened. Homosexuality was not mentioned, it didn’t exist. I never once met anyone I knew to be gay. The only media input I remember was a single article in a women’s magazine during my college years talking vaguely about far-away beaches where men supposedly found each other. There were, of course, occasional bursts of lusty gay sex steaming up the pages of widely read novels like ‘Dreams Die First’ by Harold Robbins. Although immensely titillating, these novels only deepened my sense of isolation, since the characters and situations were so clearly foreign.

Since the idea of exploring my sexuality in India seemed so impossible, in 1979, at age twenty, I came to the US. (Though this was not the reason I gave in my visa interview.) By the time I returned to Bombay for a vacation two years later, I was in a same-sex relationship. I decided to come out to my mother about it.

Manil Suri is the best-selling author of The City of DeviThe Death of Vishnu, a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award, and The Age of Shiva. A native of Mumbai, he is a professor of mathematics at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.