Friday, July 14, 2006

Parental "Love" and "Undertanding": disowning a publicly gay son

I have come across this story rather late. 40 year old "Crown-Prince" Manvendra Singh Gohil was disowned by his parents for going public about being gay.
Manvendra is the son of the "king" of one of the richest erstwhile princely states of India, Rajpipla in south-eastern Gujarat. He has been an activist working for prevention of the spread of HIV/AIDS among gay men in Gujarat, and had originally come out as gay to his parents in 2002. He says,
Four years ago I had a nervous breakdown and through that breakdown I spoke to my psychotherapist who helped me. I told my parents I was gay initially it was difficult for them to accept it. They tried to convert me to heterosexuality. The doctors told them that was not possible. And I guess they could not deal with the stigma.
But the straw that apparently broke the proverbial camel's back was his coming out in recent interview to a Gujarat daily. Times of India quotes him:
However, they may not have expected that I would go public with the issue. I did so by giving an interview that was carried prominently. I also said gay relationships were not uncommon in royal families. This, along with my recent interviews regarding a documentary film on gay relationships, seems to have prompted the action.
Manvendra heard about his disinheritance from newspapers-- two public notices were issued by the "royal" family on 22 June. One of them said:
Manvendra is not in control of his mother and involved in activities unacceptable to society”, said one notice, issued by his mother. “Hence, he ceases to have rights as a son over the family property and the power of attorney issued to him also stands cancelled. Henceforth, no one must refer to my name as mother of Manvendra. If any individual or organization dares to do so, it will invite contempt proceedings against him.
All I want to do is to ensure there is a discussion and people talk about homosexuality and that we get some sort of social status.
In its days, the erstwhile princely state of Rajpipla had a thirteen gun salute, my Thirteen Gun Salute to Manvendra.


My Paris travelogue...

... is on my travel blog now. The complete one, with photos.

Since this was probably the first time I carried my laptop to a trip and my blogs are rather new, I was able to maintain a regular travelogue during the trip. Just the last two days (one and a half actually) were missing. I was first lazy to write these two days, and also to process, select, and insert the photos. I solved the usual procrastination problem by putting in the photos day by day and putting the posts up, and then today wrote up the last two days, inserted the photos and made them public. Feels good now. This is the second time in my life I have a full travelogue. The first time was of course a written one during my college trip to Rajasthan in Nov-Dec 1992. Since then I have never finished my travelogues (if I at all did start one). I almost took the one during the Spain trip, but gave up during the last few days. I didn't proceed beyond the first 2 days during my Greece trip last year.


Tuesday, July 11, 2006

the past week and a hectic weekend

Come summer, and life seems to become faster. There is so much to do, so many people to meet up with.

The Sunday after the parade (2nd July), a few of us CSers met up at Marcus' place in the afternoon. Couchsurfing had died the previous week, with Casey the founder send an emotionally charged obitituary. Of course lots of people couldn't accept it, and quite a few people started to try to recover cached stuff. So did Marcus and a few other geeks here. The Sunday meeting was to discuss this and the planned 10-day CS meeting in Eisenstadt and Vienna at the end of July. The Viennese CS recovery efforts seemed quite redundant, as Casey and a large team of volunteers who turned up in Montreal were at it day and night and expected to have the site back and running in a few days. We spoke to Casey on telephone. And indeed, it is up and fully functional (well a few recent modifications to profiles, friends links, references etc have been lost) since this Friday (7th), I think.

On Monday I finally went to the gym after quite a while.

On Tuesday the institute had organized a Football World Cup Party outside with sausages and drinks and a large screen for viewing the semi-final between Germany and Italy. Although I'm certainly not into football, I enjoy it in these kinds of atmospheres-- there were lots of Germans and Italians around. Germany lost, and the Italians ultimately went on to win the cup on Sunday.

A British girl called Katie had posted on Vienna Expats about wanting to start a free print magazine in English for expats in Vienna. There wasn't much enthusiasm on VE, but I found it to be a great idea. We met up on Wednesday evening and chatted quite a bit. She has written for such a magazine for German-speakers in London. The English-language expat magazine in Berlin apparently became so popular that they had to change it to a proper subscription-magazine. Katie has a very good idea of what she wants and has planned almost everything. She wants to start it from October, and we discussed that I'd write the monthly restaurant review column and contribute to features-- one on CS, for example.

Theatre group on Thursday was fun-- Clark and Rosie were not there, but we had good fun and always watched the video of their performance of our piece from Pulp Fiction at a private function on Monday. I had not participated (as I was away in Paris during the rehersals) and Justin did "my" (Samuel Jackson's) role. Ella did the role Claudia had done (Tarentino). The audience wasn't great, and there weren't a lot of laughs. Next Thursday (day after tomorrwo) Ella will be away, but we do our proper rehersals for Daylight Saving. I haven't learnt any of my lines yet...

I went to the gym for a quick session on Friday before meeting up with Adam S. at Cafe Berg. The food was excellent like last time (I wonder why I neglected this place for so long)-- I had beef pepper steak, and afterwards we went to the cinema to watch The Lake House. The film has an interesting concept, but a different ending would have been better. I realized I'm not a big fan of Keanu Reeves.

I slept in on Saturday, and then went shopping for shoes with Fabien. I bought three pairs (well one was very cheap-- EUR 20), and Fabien bought a pair. I also bought earphones and a 512 MB USB stick. Later we went to Fabien's place and ate ice cream and we listened to the cd of Jethu's songs that I had brought for him-- he said he liked them. Since the weather was so beautiful, we decided to go to the Donauinsel (Danube Island), but as we were getting out, I closed the inner door of Fabien's flat (it has a double door) by mistake. He doesn't carry keys for it, and so we had to call the locksmith to open the door, and had to pay him EUR 160 for a 30 second job (we shared the expense). We had dinner at a Greek place on the Donauinsel that they call "Copa Kagrana" (after the Copacabana beach in Brazil) because that district is called Kagran. The food was really good.

I got up at 9 am on Sunday as I had said I'd go swimming with Fabien. Sunanda called soon after (very conveniently we can speak after I wake up in the morning in Vienna and before she goes to bed in San Fancisco) and we spoke for half an hour, but couldn't finish the conversation because Fabien called to "wake" me.
The swimming pool he had selected was near the Schönbrunn (but not the expensive one in the Schönbrunn). The pool here is indoor, but there is a decent sized outdoor park attached where people lie in the sun. The place was full of families, and hence kids. I am a bad swimmer. Bad in the sense that I cannot do the popular (and easier) breast-stroke. I only go for free-style, but in this I cannot do the associated rhythmic breathing. As a result, I either have to keep my head up all the time, which is terribly tiring because of the immense drag, or I have to do it in one breath. So of course doing lengths like everyone else is difficult for me, and I prefer to do breadths (in one breath), but then this is not very convenient as one bumps into everyone else because they are doing lengths. However this pool was good in a way because most of the people in it were kids jumping around or playing with balls in the shallow part. There were few others who were doing lengths, and so I could easily do a lot of breadths in the deep part.
Let's see what happens in the next weeks. Fabien wants to go to the one in the Schönbrunn because he thinks a lot of gay people go there, but that would be reason I wouldn't want to go there and show everybody my poor swimming skills, not to speak of showing off my embarassing physique...
I had lunch at home-- "Greek" salad and spaghetti, and then called up home. Ma had gone out and I spoke to Baba for quite a bit.
Met up with Fabien again to go to Cafe Berg at 3 pm. A while ago I had started a club called FriendsinVienna on Gayromeo to meet people in a non-sexual English speaking enviroment. A lot of people (40 at the time of blogging) joined up, but my attempts at prodding them to talk in the forums weren't very successful. I had tried to organized two meetings before, and few responded and then backed out. This was my third attempt. I had been anonymous as the owner/organizer in previous attempts. Now I have "come out" and made sure my friends were coming. Nenad and Marcus had signed up for the club and had promised to support it. Nenad isn't around I think (he hasn't logged on for a while). Marcus was undecided and also said he doesn't like posting on the forum. Like last times, another guy who had signed up backed out a day before. Fabian and I went to Cafe Berg. Marcus and Adam S. joined later. Although no one else turned up, it was fun.
Afterwards, Fabien and I were taking a walk and had in fact returning to our respective flats when we saw a Vietnamese Restaurant near Karlsplatz. We both said we wanted to eat there sometime. I half jokingly suggested "now", and Fabien said "yes, why not? We should be spontaneous". We ordered a starter each-- he, a plate of fried prawns, and I, some delicious stuffed chicken wings. For the main course we both ordered the same thing, which turned out to be very elaborate. Each of us had 7-8 thin "rice-papers" and a plate with some noodles, mashed beef rolled in basil (?) leaves, and some leaves and shoots. One had to roll the stuff on the plate in the rice-papers and dip it in sauce before eating.

Not a bad weekend, albeit a bit expensive, considering all the eating out, shopping and the locksmith.

Yesterday and today I have been updating blogs. I have updated 10 days of my Paris trip in my travelogue (i.e., put in the photos) and now this main blog. The last two days of the travelogue still remain. I should actually be doing other stuff. For example, tomorrow I have to present a paper in the PcG journal club of Leonie's group, and I have selected Jürg's complicated paper, but my favourite from his lab. I should be working on that... although I was in his lab when this work was being done, the experiments and the interpretations are so complicated that I have to really spend time on reading it. Also I will have CS guests tomorrow, so a massive cleaning up of the flat is urgently required.
Plus of course there is lots of work in the lab that I have been neglecting.


Monday, July 03, 2006

Regenbogen Parade in Vienna

(started on 3 July, completed and posted on 11 July)
The Regenbogen Parade ("Rainbow"/Gay Parade) of Vienna was on Saturday, 1 July. The previous week had excellent weather, but the forecast for Saturday was bad-- cloudy and rain. Fortunately there wasn't anything more than a few drops here and there.

Since the more than three years that I have been in Vienna, I have attended all of these, though to varying extents. Saturday's was possibly the maximum time I spent in it and in the subsequent events.

I met Clovis and Michael around 3 pm in front of the Village Cinemas. The parade had just started from the Stadtpark. Although this is a couple of minutes from my place, I have never seen the actual beginning. This year we just about missed it. It started at exactly 3 pm, and there was a slight misunderstanding about where exactly Clovis & Michael and I would meet, so by the time we found each other and made it to Stubentor where the Stadtpark ends, it had already started.

The parade starts at the Stadtpark and goes along the Ring via Swedenplatz, Schottenring, Schottentor, in front of the Rathaus/Burgtheater and the Parliament and ends at the Heldenplatz (or in the courtyard of the Museumsquartier as it did in 2003, my first Gay Parade in Vienna-- actually my first Gay Parade, if I don't count the one in Berlin that we had stumbled upon. [I was visiting Hari in Berlin in 1999 and it just happened that it was the Gay Parade weekend. At that time Hari (or nobody) knew that I was gay, and while we were loitering around Berlin, we stumbled upon a parade that we much later realized was the Gay Pride Parade... I should blog on this at some point.] It was also during the 2003 Regenbogen Parade that I first met Clovis. We had "met" on the internet and had been exchanging emails and had planned to meet up during the parade. However the parade was so noisy, that we couldn't hear each others' phone calls and finally met when the parade ended at the MQ.

We waited for all the floats to pass by and then started walking along with the parade, taking photos, chatting, catching up, meeting friends and acquaintences (mainly Clovis'), eating ice creams and ogling at people. This year I also had the rainbow flag sticking in my bag... and that was nice, because since I don't dress up for the occasion, and my usual attire is very non-gay, an onlooker wouldn't be able to figure out whether I'm just another onlooker or tourist taking photos, or am actually a participant. The flag I bought in Paris was very suitable for the purpose.

After the Parisian parade, this one really looked small, and the floats rather simple. But it was good fun.
The beginning of the parade had a carriage with a Sissi and a Franz-Josef, both in drag-- so a guy was Sissi and a girl Franz-Josef.
There were the usual floats of the the political parties: the Socialists and the Greens-- the latter distributing green balloons. And of course there was a float of HOSI, the organizers of the parade.

The Rosa Lila Villa, a GLBT resource centre in Vienna that also has a great cafe-- Cafe Willendorf; Cafe Berg, another lovely cafe with excellent food; Felixx, a nice bar, & Why Not, a popular or unpopular (depends on your perspective) tiny disco that are jointly owned; and Löwenherz the gay bookshop next door to Cafe Berg-- all had their floats.

There were great costumes as usual.

Body paints, and innovative advertising.
The AIDS-Hilfe distributed free condoms.

There was a float from Salzburg where the guys and girls dressed in Austrian costumes were dancing to traditional music.

And of course there were quite a few cute guys around, on the floats and on the streets.

Clovis and Michael left around 5 pm when we were near the Rathausplatz, as they were yet to do their weekend grocery shopping. Almost immediately afterwards, I saw Marcus and we walked along for the rest of the way. When I was near the Hofburg, Vijay called as he was also near there, and we finally found each other. Daniel didn't want to come as one of his aunts had died and he wasn't in the mood, and usually he keeps away from things like this anyway.

We watched the parade end and went to Heldenplatz where there was a huge crowd and a lot of singing and dancing. We met Josef, a guy I had talked to and met earlier.
Clark had called to ask where I was. It was stupid, because I had contacted most of my gay friends before and tried to see if we could all go to the parade together. I had met Clark on Thursday at the theatre group, but since he stayed back after I left, I didn't get around to discussing it with him, and later forgot to call him. It was a shame because Thomas was working, and so Clark was all alone at the parade. The stupid guy didn't call me earlier either. Well, he went back soon after I met Vijay as he didn't know that there was a lot of post-parade stuff going on in Heldenplatz.
We sms-ed back and forth and I persuaded him (and Thomas) to come to the Heldenplatz, but after an hour.
Vijay wanted to leave, and I went with him to his place because I needed to pee (I didn't realize that there were several temporary toilets in Heldenplatz for the occasion).
So we went to his place, I chatted a bit with Daniel who was watching football and then went back to Heldenplatz, which by now wasn't as crowded anymore.
Clark and Thomas arrived soon, and they were hungry, so we went to Cafe Berg for dinner.

Clark wanted to go clubbing, at WUK, and asking Leo's friends who were also in Berg, we figured that WUK was also the only place one could go for gay clubbing that evening. So after a delcious meal (chicken breast stuffed with pesto) at Cafe Berg (actually it was the first time I ate there) and a few drinks, we walked down to the WUK.

There were two or three parallel events going on-- one of them was the Homooriental that I usually enjoy, with Eastern music (mainly Balkan and Turkish, probably Arabic, rarely Indian/Bollywood), but this was in a small room, and the other more crowded room with what I was told was House music. It was really crowded and hot, nevertheless it was fun.
I even saw straight guys from the institute, Ruben from the lab (I don't think he saw me) and Lionel from the Wagner lab (he saw me, and said hello, but dunno whether he caught on that I might be gay!). Clark and Thomas left at around 2 am, I stayed on for a couple of hours more (yes!).

But yes, I went back alone. Not that there weren't people interested, or interesting people, but I realize that I don't know how to pull.