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.