The Love That Dare Not Speak Its Name by Fiza Pathan
The Love That Dare Not Speak Its Name by Fiza Pathan is a collection of twenty-one original short stories, each centered on some aspect of the social, cultural, psychological and emotional issues facing the LGBTQIA community in the world today. False prejudice has blighted much of society’s sensitivity to what is necessarily a human rights issue. Ignorance has compounded it. What if you, as a parent or a family member, are faced with this “coming out” issue? Are you aware what each term in this acronym LGBTQIA really means? Are you aware of the emotional and psychological damage you do to your loved one when you fail to understand and reject their perspective of love, sex and acceptance?
Understanding the implications of the above, the author after months of research has crafted these stories based on actual conditions existing in different countries of the world. You will meet Rocky in “(A)sexual Story,” the psychiatrist Dr. Timothy in “Fix It,” and Jasmine and Randy in “Human Work of Art.” You will learn about DSD—Dysfunction Sexual Disorder in “Isher,” why Bangkok is called the “Kathoey Paradise,” shudder at the public repression of gays by ISIS in Raqqa and the dichotomy that exists in Iran. You will revel at the miracle you witness in “Topanga,” cry for Sameera in “The Girl’s Bathroom,” and be educated in “The Gay Truth.”
And in all these stories and many more you will learn that every human being suffers like you do and rejoices as you do, and deserves the right to choose how he or she should live their life, however different we perceive them to be.
Targeted Age Group:: YA and above
Heat/Violence Level: Heat Level 1 – G Rated Clean Read
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
I had the honor to be interviewed by director Reshel Shah Kapoor, who knew of my interest in transgenders, for her award-winning documentary, Black Sheep—A Journey of Friendship, Family, and Fate, which narrates the heartbreaking journey of the hijras, or kinnars, who belong to a community in Mumbai. I participated in the one-day orientation workshop conducted for them. I found them warm and human, maybe even more human than you and I. The urge to take the story forward led me to research on their origin and life. But the life stories shared by the LGBTQIA people around the world was even more heartwrenching. I learned, in addition to other things, that in Jamaica homosexuals are forced to live in sewers. And in some countries which live in denial, disclosure of the names of homosexuals results in their being lynched or murdered either by the government or by their family members, who do so to avoid repercussions. Then came the pogrom against the LGBT in Raqqa and Chechnya—and the world, by and large, kept quiet. I have picked up my pen to write their stories, albeit in fiction, as best I can. For the revered Master, Jesus, once said: “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.” I prefer living by his words to that of the world’s.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
I spent nine months researching, viewed shared videos on YouTube, read books on the subject.
The Love That Dare Not Speak Its Name
Sreekanth reviewed the letter he had just written. He was sitting at his desk on a Saturday afternoon while babysitting his two younger sisters. His parents were out: mother at the bridge party next door and father at the gymkhana playing tennis.
The letter was neatly written in cursive, which was Sreekanth’s distinctive style of writing since he was in school. Now he was in his final year of college. In a few months, he would hold a bachelor’s degree in literature and hopefully it would be secured with honors. Sreekanth had worked very hard.
“Sreekanth bhaiya (brother) – Sreekanth bhaiya!” called out one of his sisters in an irritated tone of voice. “Why don’t you come when I call you? I want you to play with my tea set!”
“Not coming,” Sreekanth yelled back to his sister, as he read over the letter again. All was quiet once again after that, but after a few minutes both the young girls started bawling. Sreekanth ignored them and turned the ink pen in his hands clumsily.
Sreekanth’s desk was overflowing with papers and books of all sorts. The table was in need of a good dusting, but Sreekanth did not like the maid to meddle with his things. She was snoopy, and he was wary of her.
A picture of Oscar Wilde and Lord Alfred Douglas c. 1894 sat on his desk to the right. Sreekanth’s father, a barrister of great repute, was always puzzled with Sreekanth’s choice of framed paintings and photographs. Sreekanth’s father preferred photographs of famous lawyers and judges in his own study near the kitchen and at times would allow a bit of Burke or Comte to add a bit of color to an otherwise very serious room.
But Sreekanth preferred Oscar Wilde both in personality and in literature. He was hoping to one day be able to write his doctorate in literature in the works of Oscar Wilde, but at this point in time, he was agitated and very anxious.
“Sreekanth bhaiya – Sreekanth bhaiya!”
“I’m not coming,” Sreekanth yelled back, fingering the letter. “I’m busy studying.”
“But father says your degree exam is over!” the girl yelled. “Please come and let us have a make-believe tea party.”
“Brats!” hissed Sreekanth, banging his ink pen on his dusty study table. However, he didn’t say it aloud for the girls to hear. Father adored them to insanity and would reprimand him if he did not humor them.
Sreekanth took in his breath and started his pranayama exercise as he read over his letter one final time.
2nd December, 1950
Dear Father (baba),
It may seem odd, that in spite of staying in the same house, I have to write this to you. However, I find that it will be too difficult, almost impossible for me, to break this delicate news to you in person. Therefore, this letter.
You have informed me of your intentions for my future from the time I started my last semester of college. If I am correct; you wish me to get engaged to your close friend Mr. Sharma’s daughter after I graduate with a B.A. in literature. You then wish that by the end of the monsoon season, I should wed the girl and begin my masters in literature at the Bombay University as a married man.
Father, I have always abided by whatever you have said. You wished my elder brother to join you in the law firm while you made my older sister a surgeon and one of India’s first female surgeons at that. When she was at the peak of her career, you plucked her away from our home and married her off to a young Brahmin barrister who had worked under you.
You then wished me to enter the liberal arts stream, though I wished to be an actor and to go to London for my studies in the theater. But father, you commanded and I obeyed. I stayed and studied literature, the only arts subject that interested me.
Sreekanth rubbed his temples with his index fingers. A sparrow alighted on a branch outside his study window. Sreekanth looked up at it. Immediately, it was joined by another sparrow of its like.
“Sreekanth bhaiya – Sreekanth bhaiya! Please let’s play with the dolls at least. See, my doll is crying for you.”
Sreekanth watched the sparrows carefully, as they cuddled close to each other. He wished to touch them. He was always fond of birds. Birds and dolls and tea sets and… and…
The sparrows together flew away into the wide expanse of the family garden. Sreekanth breathed in and out again as he looked down at the letter.
I’ve done everything that you have wished me to do. But father, in all sincerity, I beseech you, do not make me marry Mr. Sharma’s daughter.
Yes, there is another.
I’ve been in love for the past three years but couldn’t bring myself to tell you about the one I adore. I’ve always done whatever you have wished father, but don’t deny me my love.
In the words of Oscar Wilde, mine is a true love, but a love “that dare not speak its name.” You will not understand my love, Father, but it is pure as it is true.
Is this person of good character? Most perfectly.
Is this person from a good family? Indeed, from a barrister’s family just like ours.
Is this person known to you? No, but I shall tell you presently.
Father, do you remember the young man named Samuel Saunders who studies with me in college? I brought him home once or twice and you took to him rather well.
No, not his elder sister, Father.
It is Samuel, Father. I mean to say it is Samuel Saunders whom I love.
“Sreekanth bhaiya – Sreekanth bhaiya! My doll is crying for you. She wants to get married to you. Sreekanth bhaiya – Sreekanth bhaiya!”
Don’t get angry father. No one else knows about our relationship. You are the first to know.
I didn’t want to cause you pain, Father, but I have indeed done all that you have ever wanted me to do from my childhood until now.
I’m not asking you to understand my love, but I’m asking you to please release me from the bond to marry anyone. I’d rather die than be bound to a woman.
Please, Father, I have said it all.
“Sreekanth bhaiya – Sreekanth bhaiya! What are you doing in your study? I’ll tell mother that you did not play with us. Sreekanth bhaiya – Sreekanth bhaiya!”
The younger of the preschool sisters of Sreekanth clutched her cloth doll, which had golden ringlets, and snuggled close to her elder on their bed in the nursery. Both the children were quiet. Both were petrified.
They were playing with their dolls in the nursery in the evening when suddenly they were whisked off to a hasty tea and then put to bed by their Muslim nanny. The younger of the sisters was fondly called Chutki, while the elder, who was in the higher preschool, was simply called by her given name, Lalita.
“Lalita didi (sister),” whispered Chutki in the dark, “why is father yelling at Sreekanth bhaiya? Is it because he didn’t play with us?”
“I don’t think it’s that,” murmured Lalita, holding one arm around her younger sister and the other to her azure fuzzy teddy bear. “Father was reading a letter and then he got all mad.”
“Who wrote that letter to father?” asked Chutki, turning to face her elder sister in the dark. In the background, they could hear their father using his whip, the one around the statue of someone called William Shakespeare. There in the nocturnal light, both sisters half spoke and half listened to the whip beating down on someone who they feared was their elder brother, Sreekanth.
But what had he done to receive the punishment their father only used on the servants and the two Dobermans of the family?
“Please tell me didi, who wrote that letter?” Chutki persisted.
The scream of a man in agony followed her question in the stillness of the night. Both girls shivered.
Lalita stammered, “It – it must have been written by a very bad person. Mother told me that only bad people write letters which upset father.”
“Like as bad as the demon Ravana with ten heads?” asked Chutki. Her inquiry was followed by the falling of the whip and another agonizing cry.
“Oh, you silly girl!” exclaimed Lalita. “Ravana is dead and in hell fire, and he couldn’t possibly write letters. There were no post offices in India when he was alive.”
“Aah!” cooed Chutki in realization.
Lalita was satisfied with the reaction. Now they could hear a metallic sound being pounded on someone, again who they feared was their brother Sreekanth.
“Father is using the belt now which has that silver buckle,” announced Lalita quietly. “That letter must have been really terrible.”
“What is terrible?” questioned Chutki, placing her right thumb in her mouth.
“Oh, you silly girl!” admonished her sister in an irritated soft whisper. “Terrible means something worse than bad.”
“Something like being too greedy for lollypops?”
“Yes maybe, well, now I really don’t know,” answered Lalita half in a sleepy doze, her eyes blinking with tiredness. “I’m so sleepy. I’m going to sleep.”
“But you’ve not told me who actually wrote the letter?” persisted Chutki, nudging Lalita with her cloth doll. “Lalita didi – Lalita didi please stay awake. How can you possibly sleep with all the noise?”
But Lalita only nodded to Chutki one last time before she slipped into a deep slumber. Chutki kept on nudging her first with her doll and then with her tiny hand.
“Lalita didi – Lalita didi! Please wake up!”
The belting in the background continued followed by ear-splitting howls, as if one of the Dobermans were being “corrected” as father used to put it.
Giving up on her sister, Chutki turned on her back and listened attentively to the eerie sounds of the correcting her father was administering. Most of what was being said in bursts of anger from her father could not be understood. However, she knew that the words uttered were as her mother put it, “abusive words.”
She picked up a few words and names before she, too, lulled by the sound of the rhythmic belting, went to sleep. The words she picked up were: Samuel Saunders – that friend of Sreekanth bhaiya who visited last month. Eunuch – now what was that? Was it the name of the person who wrote the letter? It couldn’t have been Samuel Saunders for he was a nice and funny man. Always cracking jokes and playing with both her and Lalita. Sodomite – must be a new swear word?
The sounds of various clarinets and trumpets made a melodious but rather ear-shattering sound as Sreekanth, bedecked in a richly embroidered kurta, sat down in front of the sacred marriage fire at the side of the blood-red sari-clad woman. The Hindu priest was chanting mantra after mantra to bless the couple as he poured spoons of sacred ash and oil into the marital fire.
There was a lot of hustle and bustle all around. The maximum commotion was being made by the grand population of children who had been invited along with their families for the wedding of Sreekanth Saxena and Sunita Sharma.
In the midst of all this chaos, Chutki lost her favorite cloth doll as well as Lalita who had, unknown to Chutki, gone to sit right behind the Hindu priest along with her cousins.
“Lalita didi – Lalita didi!” called out Chutki, bedecked in a cream-colored salwar kameez piece, with a dupatta around her neck and a golden-colored shawl pinned to her hair by the Muslim nanny. “Lalita didi! Where is everyone? Where is my gudiya (doll)?”
Chutki with her gold-colored satin slippers passed through crowds of squealing children, older college-going cousins, the flower girls, the hyper servants running to and fro, looking for something or other, and managed in the end to find herself at the entrance of the temple where the marriage was being celebrated.
Guests kept on flowing in with neatly wrapped gifts, garlands of flowers and boxes of sweetmeats.
“Lalita didi – Lalita didi!” squealed Chutki, this time angrily placing both her hands on her hips, “I want my doll right now! Where is the nanny?”
“Chutki dear,” someone called out in a pleasant, sweet-sounding voice. The girl turned around to see who was calling her. She scanned the faces around her, until her eyes fell on a young man with a handsome appearance dressed in a white suit with a white tie. She recognized him immediately. It was Samuel Saunders, Sreekanth’s college friend.
“Hello, Samuel bhaiya,” greeted Chutki, all the worries of her doll and sisters company forgotten as the young Anglo-Indian took the girl into his arms, carrying her on his shoulders.
“So how is my little sister doing?” asked Samuel in a humorous tone of voice. “Is it your wedding? Have all these beautifully dressed people come to see the bride that is you?”
Both of them laughed at that remark until their stomachs started to ache. Well at least where Chutki’s stomach was concerned, for the ache did not exist in Samuel Saunders stomach, but in his heart.
Chutki said, “I’m so happy to see you Samuel bhaiya. I lost my cloth gudiya (doll), as well as Lalita, and I don’t know where both of them have gone.”
“You mean that old doll with the golden locks like Goldilocks?” quizzed Samuel with feigned happiness.
“Yes, that one. Great golly you actually remember her!”
“I don’t think I will be able to forget anything about your family Chutki,” replied Samuel biting his lips to hold back his tears. “Chutki, may I ask you for a favor?”
“Sure, Samuel bhaiya.”
“You’ll promise to fulfill it, please, little one.”
“Come on, Samuel bhaiya, just ask and I’ll give you the moon.” Chutki dramatically stretched her arms wide open, and both of them chuckled. “Isn’t it a nice sentence? I read it with mother in a storybook where a prince tells it to the princess whom he loves very much.”
“Indeed, very much,” replied Samuel, looking tenderly into Chutki’s eyes. “Chutki dear, I’m in a spot you see,” he said in a mocked serious tone. “I came here for your brother’s wedding but – but, I forgot my invitation card so the watchmen won’t let me into the temple grounds. Chutki, dear, if you could – if you could just help an old friend and get me into the temple to have one look at your brother in his wedding get up, I’ll gift you as many dolls as you want in place of your old Goldilocks.”
Chutki thought intently for a minute. Not getting an answer from her, Samuel Saunders pleaded, “Even – even if I can get through the back entrance or something of that sort. That will do for me. I will be grateful to you for a lifetime.”
Immediately a light bulb of an idea sprang up in Chutki’s brain at the sound of the words back entrance.
“Samuel bhaiya, I got it. There is a back entrance to this old temple where they keep the sacred cows. I just went there this morning when the decorations were being put up.”
Chutki then dropped down to the floor and motioned Samuel to follow her, which he did with all sincerity.
Chutki’s golden shawl, like a veil, danced in the breeze. To Samuel, she seemed like an Indian princess. As they skirted along toward the back entrance of the temple, dashing into heavily scented and bedecked guests, Samuel observed this tiny angel who was leading him onward to maybe, his last and final glance at the man he had grown to respect, admire and, yes, love.
The innocent girl of five years was made more beautiful by the bright pink lipstick she wore; her yellow bindi (Hindu ceremonial mark); the talcum powder on her face, which smelled of pear drops; her mehndi on both hands; and finally, the payal that she wore. They jingled with every step she took, and Samuel Saunders wondered if she earnestly intended to take him to see her brother, the groom.
“Here we are Samuel bhaiya. Watch it! Don’t push the cows. They are sacred.”
Chutki then held Samuel’s right hand, motioning him to lift her up on his shoulders, which he did at once. For a while, among the cow dung cakes and fresh grass, the little girl scanned the crowd like a scout with her left hand over her eyes, shielding them from the sun. Samuel couldn’t see anything except the hides of the nudging cows and the backs of guests. He grew sadder by the minute and a sort of painful anxiety took over his countenance.
However, to his joy, the girl pointed toward the left. Samuel looked in her direction and almost let his emotions get the better of him.
There rose Sreekanth in his heavily embroidered kurta and red sherwani, with a crown of jasmine flowers covering his face. Along with his bride, he bent and stood repeatedly taking the blessings of their elders by touching their feet.
“Oh, if only he parted those jasmine flowers covering his face, then—” Samuel said to himself, but Chutki heard him.
She jumped off Samuel’s shoulder and before he could catch her, she ran between the legs of the distinguished guests until she reached Sreekanth.
Samuel Saunders’s lower lip quivered. The girl was carried by Sreekanth in his arms, and the moment she reached her brother’s shoulder, she gently parted the jasmine flower string and looked in the direction of the cow shed.
Sreekanth smiled and looked in her direction. At first, he couldn’t make out the smartly dressed man in the cow shed. He recognized Samuel after a while by the way he waved at him. Sreekanth’s eyes brimmed over with tears. He kissed the cheek of his toddler sister, Chutki, and put her down.
Then, spontaneously, Sreekanth waved at the figure in the back entrance of the temple.
No one noticed his gesture. They were too busy with the ceremony. Sreekanth watched as his little Chutki ran back to the cow shed and caught hold of Samuel’s left index finger. Sreekanth wiped his tears and Samuel sighed.
“That it should be so, the world does not understand. The world mocks it, and sometimes puts one in the pillory for it.”—Oscar Wilde
The above words of Sreekanth’s favorite writer penetrated his very being as he watched Samuel and Chutki leave the temple. They disappeared into the crowd, leaving Sreekanth melancholy and contemplative as he covered his face again with the jasmine crown strings.
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