I arrived in
America on Christmas Eve, 1995. The immigration officer, in
a hurry to finish work, tore my visa in half. My twin
brother and I spent the entire night staring out a
dingy apartment window, praying the rest of America
didn't resemble the scene outside our bedroom window.
America was a cold, mean, and depressing place.
In America, I
came across the term gay. In India intimacy between men is
quite common, but I realized then it was much different for
me. The whole realization felt so natural that I
decided to come out.
Contrary to what
I imagined, what followed were some of the most painful
moments of my life. At school, I was picked on. My family
couldn't comprehend the concept of living an
openly gay life, and I drifted away from them and my
culture. I survived high school by devoting all my
energy toward the GSA that I had started.
I moved to San
Francisco and met some wonderful people who taught me
about filmmaking. Once I picked up a camera, everything
bottled inside me came pouring out. I found a way of
expressing emotions I couldn't explain with
words. My first film, Everything, tells of a
young Sikh boy struggling to find acceptance and belonging.
It screened at film festivals including Frameline,
Outfest, and India's Larzish. I've since
made other award-winning films. My documentary, Milind
Soman Made Me Gay, about gay South Asian men,
will be out soon.
I now live in
Washington, D.C., where I am pursuing a doctorate in
anthropology at American University. This year I received a
Point Foundation scholarship, without which I
couldn't have continued my studies.
Almost 10 years
have passed since I left India. I am returning in August
and can't begin to fathom what this trip holds in
store for me. My greatest anxiety is being asked,
"Where are you from?" Before, I used to
say "India." Now I don't know how to
respond. More important, I know the India I'm
visiting is no longer the same place I left behind in
childhood. I am sure the experience will make me stronger,
but I'm also afraid of finding that the place
I've called home for so long is not a place
where I belong.