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Was my friend a lesbian?

By Kiran Rai Friday, November 10, 2017 - 21:28
Nazma was attracted towards her friend Kavita as they were grew up together in an east Delhi neighbourhood. However, neither she nor Kavita could understand these feelings and they remained bottled up inside her. Years later Kavita found out about Nazma’s unhappy marriage and wondered if things could have been different if Nazma had received support in understanding and exploring her sexuality. Kavita tells us about the girl who ‘missed her a lot’.

Kavita* is a Delhi-based activist.

The early years

I first met Nazma when her family moved from UP to our neighbourhood in east Delhi. Being of the same age, we soon became thick friends and started playing together just like any eight-year-old girls would. Sometimes our brothers too would join us and we enjoyed our time together in the evenings.

Nazma never went to school like us. I used to find that a bit odd but never got around to asking her about it. However, a woman used to come to her house in the afternoons to teach her about religion.

My childhood was spent in her company and I started considering her my best friend.

All good things come to an end and so did our friendship. Nazma’s father moved out of Delhi after handing over his business to his eldest son. Nazma and her younger brother too went back to their village and I did not see her for almost a decade.

The reunion

We lost touch with each other completely. I got busy with my studies and almost forgot about her. However, one day, just like that, she was back in my life again. She had come to Delhi to visit her elder brother and came to meet me at my house. I was elated to see my childhood friend after so many years. We both were seventeen now and had a lot of new emotions and feelings.

After catching up on our lives and sharing much nostalgia, Nazma expressed her desire to get a photo clicked with me as a memoir. We both went to a nearby studio and got a couple of good pictures clicked. We both kept a copy each and exchanged our numbers. Nazma then went back to her village after a brief visit.

The hints

After her return, Nazma would often call me up and tell me that she missed me a lot. At that time, I did not find anything strange about those calls. However, the frequency of calls started increasing with each passing day. One day, she called me and said, ‘I went to the studio and got a few changes done to one of our photos, like the suit you were wearing, I got it photoshopped with a saree’. She also added that she kept staring at my picture ‘all the time’ and ended her call with, ‘I like you a lot’.

I did not expect this and felt weird about why she had got our picture altered. I felt confused about the whole conversation and confided in my friend Seema, who was my senior at the school. She did not say much about the incident but ‘warned’ me about Nazma, saying she was a ‘bad girl’ and I should stay away from her.

The rebuff

My innocent mind did not understand anything about Nazma’s feelings, so I decided to ignore her. She started calling me more often, especially in the mornings, before we began our days. Her first words after I answered her calls were, ‘I miss you a lot’. She would express how she wanted to meet me and how she wishes she was in Delhi.

As time passed by I started becoming anxious about her calls. My mother too saw me on the phone all day and scolded me. I told her about Nazma’s incessant calls and the things she told me. My mother asked me to ignore her calls completely. I followed Ma’s instructions as I too was fed up of the unabated calls and did not understand the logic behind them. On realising that her calls were being ignored, Nazma too eventually stopped calling me.

The end

Almost after a decade of losing touch again, I came to know through a common friend that Nazma had got married in her native village. However, her marriage did not last more than a few months. Nazma would often come back to her parent’s house and as she did not want to live with her husband. However, her parents would repeatedly send her back to her in-laws’ place. She was struggling to adjust to her married life.

I too got married and moved houses. I had lost Nazma’s phone number, so had no way to contact her again. Though I had not thought about her for years, I could not help thinking about the difficult circumstances of my childhood friend.

One day I got to know that Nazma had died and that the police was questioning her in-laws about the death. I was shocked and felt extremely sad about having ignored her all those years ago and now I had no way to make amends.

The beginning

As I was coping with this sad news, I started working with an NGO that worked on sexuality and health issues. My work with the NGO made me realise what my friend had been going through all those years. My friend had been attracted to me and perhaps all her communication with me was an expression of her sexuality. I also have a nagging feeling that somehow her unnatural death may also be connected to her sexuality.

I have no way to find out. My friend is gone and all I did was to ignore her. I often wonder if things could have been different had she and I known more about sexuality as we were growing up. After feeling bitter at myself for what I did unknowingly, I now keep Nazma’s memory close to my heart. It helps me do my work in the field of sexuality with a fierce passion and a personal connection that no amount of knowledge and training could have generated.

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