Varta brings you the ‘Queer Kolkata Oral History Project’, an initiative to document five decades of queer lives in Kolkata (1960-2000). Our aim in this project is to go back in time and bring forward diverse queer voices through a series of interviews, which will provide a landmark to Kolkata city’s queer history.
Typically, the focus will be on the queer scenario in Kolkata during the growing up years of each interviewee – how it was to be queer in Kolkata in different decades since the 1960s till more recent times. The effort will be to bring forward a mix of the well known and the lesser known voices.
Apart from the excerpts published here, the project also aims to publish a collection of the interviews in different formats. All interviews are based on informed consent and where requested, all markers of identity have been removed for reasons of confidentiality.
In this issue we bring you the second part of an interview with Suresh, 68, a teacher of marketing management who used to live in Kolkata till the late 1990s and is now based in a coastal town in southern India. In the first part of the interview (published in the August 2016 issue of Varta) Suresh talked about his early sexual discoveries. In this part, he talks about more sexual encounters as an adult, affairs of the heart, marriage and divorce.
The interview was conducted by Pawan Dhall over Skype on June 4, 2016, and later transcribed by the interviewer.
Pawan: Okay, so talking about your college years and older people going to certain places to find sexual partners, question is where would they go, like in your school days, you had space at home, then also at your friend’s place. But where would these older people go?
Suresh: Some of them had gone to RS [park], and I think they were chased by police or something like that – they came running and were telling stories about that . . .
Pawan: Hmm, so, you said they were chased by someone?
Suresh: Chased by supposedly police, I don’t know . . . Or somebody acting like police, moral police.
Pawan: By now we are talking about the late ‘60s and early ‘70s?
Pawan: Okay. Alright, so when did you start venturing out?
Suresh: That is when I started going out on tours, for my company.
Suresh: First I was teaching in a college, PQR College, chemistry I was teaching. Because chemistry honours was my subject – and then I saw an advertisement from XYZ Ltd., I’ve applied for it and I got the job. My first posting was in Bombay.
Suresh: And Bombay was heaven (laughs).
Pawan: Why do you say that?
Suresh: In our hostel itself there were gay people, and there was a . . . hotel where we used to go and you know have drinks and some gay shows were put up . . . some Caesar’s Palace, that it was . . .
Pawan: Achha, that’s very interesting!
Suresh: Don’t know exact name, achha that, then after that when I was sent on tour – to Kolhapur, Belgaum, those places . . . there was a, this . . . room boys and others, some of them were willing . . . so, with some of them I had sex. I was always the top, of course, and paid them money – at that time it was just about maybe 30 rupees or fifty rupees, for one go.
Pawan: So, all this while, did you share this with anyone else, with your family or any other friends?
Suresh: No, at that time not so open, society was not so open that I – we could share. With friends, we can just whisper and tell – our urge what was, they knew, and we used to whisper and talk because they also used to tell us about their experience. So those things were there.
Pawan: And then what about girl friends?
Suresh: We never thought about girl friends.
Pawan: Achha (laughs).
Pawan: So then how was your relationship with your wife?
Suresh: It was not – any strain as such, but she also used to, you know, because she was working in LMN, so she would go out to different places with different boys and girls, to parties and other things . . . so the relationship was not bad till I was transferred to Guwahati. And when we came to Guwahati, there was this one person working in ASL who became quite friendly with her.
Suresh: Of course, by that time, my daughter was born already. And this boy had some sort of an affair with her, apparently. Once, when I came back from Siliguri, the door was closed actually. The servant said that they are together, inside the bedroom . . . since this thing was there, so I sued for divorce. Separation was given and then finally divorce was granted, because she wanted to marry that boy. Meanwhile, we had a child, who is abroad now, my daughter . . . Fourteen years which I was married, I did not waiver; I was straight at that time.
Pawan: Okay, you did not have any other sexual relations?
Suresh: No, no.
Pawan: So when you separated or divorced, how old was your daughter?
Suresh: Hmm, she must have been . . . 12 or 13, I think.
Pawan: Achha, okay.
Suresh: No, 11, she was 11 and she was actually in DEF girls’ hostel, in Kolkata.
To be continued.
Main graphic credit: Pawan Dhall