Humsafar reaches out to Mumbai gays through voice mail
MUMBAI, March 21 with tears rolling down his cheeks, Sagar Oberoi, a 25 – year – old computer software professional, says, “I feel so unwanted and helpless. It is as if the entire world has ganged up against me. Sometimes I feel it would be better if I was dead.” One of the upwardly mobile competent professional working for a leading software firm, Sagar could be nervous wreck, as he cannot reveal his homosexual identity to anyone and least of all his parents who had fixed up a “decent bride” for him.Geet Khanna, 29, and a painter is a lonely soul. I never had friends in school or in college. Primarily, became I am gay. I never identified with my classmates and their dreams of conquest of so and so girl. Even today, I have few friends. As far as friendship with gay is concerned, most of them want casual fling. I really feel depressed with one-night stands, which have dominated my personal life, “he says.
Sagar and Geet are just two of the lakhs of gays or “invisible minority” as they are called, leading a troubled life. In a conservative society like India where homosexuality I still punishable under Indian Penal Code, by and large there are very few gays who have come to terms with their sexuality which is considered deviant and pervert form of human sexuality.
Socially isolated, increasingly frustrated, at having to lead an insecure double life, many gays end up as nervous wrecks. Help is generally not available and life is a big cross for those who cannot adjust to reality and get along with life.
In addition to personal dilemmas are health problems especially in the context of contracting AIDS. Not many are aware of what actually constitutes of safe sex. Even as advertisements from Health Ministry project that condom is the key to safe sex, confusion is still prevalent among a sizeable section of the gay community about safe sex.
To mitigate problems that afflict the Indian gay, “Humsafar”, as organisation, which exclusively deals with problems that gay face, has set up the first ever-Indian voice mail services in Mumbai, which has one of the largest gay communities in south West Asia. The number of the voice mails has not yet been made public.
“At Humsafar, we have made plans to distribute drop cards at gay cruising joints. These cards will contain the voice mail number. It is primarily meant for troubled souls who have problems related to sexual orientation and health” explained Ashok Row Kavi, the brain behind the Humsafar Trust.
Once a message has been recorded, it will be accessed by a select band of volunteers of Humsafar Trust who will screen the message for authenticity. “See, homophobia is rampant in our society. We do not want to entertain crank calls. After all, it may create trouble for volunteers who attend to that call, “explained Rakesh Malhotra who is a volunteer with the Humsafar Trust.
What has come as a pleasant surprise to Humsafar Trust is the backing from Bombay Municipal Corporation (BMC) AIDS Cell, which has allotted a small room to the Humsafar Trust in West Bombay. In this small room, every Friday, trained health workers and professionals give volunteers of Humsafar Trust guidance and training. Topics covered at typical meeting range from safe sex to psychotherapy to dealing with every day problems that gays face.
It has been around five months since the Humsafar Trust has started its center at Municipality school at Mumbai. However, even in this short period, the response has been tremendous. “What can I say about the response? We have received many calls. It is great. We feel happy that the BMC is supporting the cause and we do hope that we will continue to give guidance to gays not only on personal problems but on health related problems and how to stay away from contracting AIDS,” says Ashok Row Kavi.
The BMC has been actively supporting the Humsafar cause because it is unable to access gays effectively and enlighten them on AIDS and related problems. With homosexuality still a big taboo, Humsafar Trust has in fact shared the burden on the BMC in tackling an explosive situation of rapidly increasing number of AIDS cases in the Metropolis.