Where are you your queer-most self?

Travel Fellow Achal shares one half of a room with his grandmother and makes it queer.

Achal Dodia has participated in the Travel Log programme with The Third Eye for its City Edition. The Travel Log mentored 13 writers and image-makers from across India’s bylanes, who reimagine the idea of the city through a feminist lens.

Achal writes and draws from Vadodara, Gujarat.

This comic is the second of a three part series on looking at spaces through a queer lens.

It was the last day of the semester and, as usual, Shalini and I met at my place for coffee. We sipped it in my balcony overlooking the tree and shrubs. I asked her about Rohan and she said he had moved to Bangalore for work and that was her near future plan, too. The last days of semesters open up some deep rooted questions. Always!
How do I ‘be queer’ in every space? Do I become queer at home? Do I become queer at college? Am I a queer in the streets? Where am I my queer-most self? How many roles do I play? Well, it is easier in my PG situation, where I have the privilege and freedom of privacy, but the role playing starts with the room I live in at my native home, a room I share with my grandmother. Half of the room that I live in – my study, my chair, my paintings etc.- is queer. Second half of the room that’s occupied by my grandma, is non-queer.

How conveniently my dadi called the voice a she. A voice I know she can hear through the phone, as his. But good for us! Until I come out to her.

I’ve played multiple roles everywhere. I’ve played straight in the most vulnerable space of college: the men’s toilet. Not only vulnerable, but also extremely masculine and vulgar. Alongwith toilets, in all other spaces also I need to sit ‘manly’, walk ‘manly’, talk ‘manly’, express ‘manly’. Otherwise, I am a “gud”, “gandu”, etc.

Being alone and queer in public is scary sometimes. You come across people who judge you by your clothing, style of walking, etc. But the same space, if it has more people expressing themselves, becomes a safe space.

There are times when I go on casual dates. That is when I am queer-most in public.

I am queer-most in other spaces, too.
At home, I am out to my parents so if dadi is not visiting us, our home is queer by itself. But, when my boyfriend visits, it becomes the queer-most.
Hearing this, Shalini got furious.

I continued to share the experience I had with Arnab (my boyfriend). No one assumes two guys are having a relationship in a public space. Everyone thinks they are friends and hence, no eyes roll.

Every time he visits home or I visit him, I learn a little more about living this relationship in public. How to be safe and how to find little spaces of intimacy: by holding hands in the dark, interlocking fingers, a little tickle, a quick pat on back, an eye contact, a smile, sharing food, sharing tea, buying a plant together, cruising in a nursery, finding different spots in the city, going to a café, visiting book fair, etc.. Hidden love is full of adrenaline.

But till when?

Achal Dodia, an architecture student based in Vadodara, thinks of architecture more as spaces of kindness rather than buildings of concrete. He likes coffee both as a drink and as a spread on his diary pages. You can also spot him making notes of dark spaces, placement and types of trees or measuring the width of walkways as a pedestrian. Achal paints mandalas and admires all things old, rustic, broken, and those with a story. He likes to create things hands-on, which is also his approach to life.

Suggested read

Skip to content