Gay Times Magazine - - Hungama - Words Ryan Lanji @ryan­lanji

As she wrapped her sari, I sat en­chanted in the bath­room door­way Pa­tiently wait­ing for her to ask me which bindi she should wear The tear drop one, def­i­nitely the tear drop.

I sat there know­ing what nail pol­ish would go per­fectly

I just had to wait for her to ask.

It had to be the deep red, not the bright red.

She would turn to me and ask how she looked

I would re­ply, “You look like Aish­warya”. I was ten and I had the an­swers for her, but not the an­swers for me.

The ado­ra­tion of my cul­ture was in­stinc­tual. Who can deny the colours, the magic, the beauty, the op­u­lence? It was some­thing I needn’t dream about, as it was dis­played be­fore me on the sil­ver screen of Bol­ly­wood. Ro­mance, pas­sion, danc­ing, and love.

At a young age, Bol­ly­wood made sense to me. I knew what films would be hits, what songs would go to num­ber one, and if you sang a song, I knew ex­actly which film it was from.

I was en­rap­tured by the grace of Rekha, the danc­ing of Mad­huri, and Ka­jol’s un­par­al­leled in­no­cence. I be­lieved that if you love some­one, that com­mit­ment only made sense as a three-hour-long saga, with an in­ter­mis­sion, mu­si­cal breaks and un­nec­es­sary doses of drama.

I was re­minded about my cul­ture through ev­ery move­ment of my mother, my un­tapped imag­i­na­tion, her be­lief in Hin­duism and my be­lief in Bol­ly­wood. To­gether, we brought the beauty of cin­ema and cul­ture into our lives. She was my best friend.

I was a teenager when I re­alised I had to say good­bye to it all. My mother would wink at me around the other aun­ties and tell me there was no place for me in the kitchen, and I should keep my male cousins com­pany down­stairs.

The flam­boy­ance of Bol­ly­wood didn’t make sense to my cousins who wanted to watch “the game” dur­ing Di­wali. The Top 10 count­down on B4U didn’t stand a chance when the the plas­tic sleeve on the lat­est game was un­wrapped and in­serted into the Xbox.

It was then I re­alised my cul­ture had no place for me. As a gay asian teen, I had lost my best friend and the movie magic that made my life such a mag­i­cal place.

I had to be­come the pro­jec­tion of their ex­pec­ta­tions -- the boy with the good grades, the son who played sports and the young man who would grow up to marry the per­fect In­dian girl.

I made a pact to my­self that I would put on this act un­til I was able to es­cape to a place that would em­brace me and love me un­con­di­tion­ally.

I was 19 when it all went side­ways and my par­ents found out about my sex­u­al­ity. I de­cided it would be best to leave school and es­cape be­cause they could never love me for who I was.

I be­gan par­ty­ing and meet­ing peo­ple from all walks of life. My world turned into an un­der­ground art film. I met the world of pop, art and hip­sters.

These things, as amaz­ing as they were, never had a place for my asian up­bring­ing. I al­ways had to choose be­tween be­ing “cool” and be­ing “cul­tured”.

At the age of 22, I met my part­ner and es­caped to Lon­don. I fol­lowed my path of cu­ra­tion and delved deep into the world of fash­ion and art. I be­gan work­ing with some of Lon­don’s most amaz­ing tal­ents and in­spir­ing cre­atives, but deep in my heart I still had a void.

At 29, I re­alised that I wasn’t be­ing my true self. I longed for the colour, the op­u­lence, the danc­ing, the ro­mance. I missed my mother and my cul­ture. I missed home.

I re­call when I would sit in the liv­ing room at her feet while she would rem­i­nisce about fam­ily get to­geth­ers; she would of­ten de­scribe those mo­ments as “Hungama”, which in Hindi and Urdu means chaos and ex­cite­ment.

I de­cided to take mat­ters into my own hands and cre­ate not only a place for me, but a home for ev­ery­one. A place of love, magic and Hungama.

Hungama started as a night to have a ‘big In­dian Gay Wed­ding’ for my­self. I en­listed the help of bound­less tal­ents, like Max Allen and Club Kali. I wanted to bring to­gether Bol­ly­wood, Lon­don and my love of all things cul­ture. I wanted to marry them and throw a big cel­e­bra­tion of love and ac­cep­tance.

Lit­tle did I know that I would re­ceive mes­sages all over the UK from queer Asians thank­ing me for cre­at­ing space for all of us to dance, party and be our­selves. Fi­nally, Bol­ly­wood had a place for all of us.

I fi­nally have the an­swer for me: be ev­ery bit of who you are.

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