This item is an audio file.

Oral history interview with Ifti Nasim

An interview with Ifti Nasim conducted by Kareem Khubchandani in 2009, two years before Nasim passed away. Ifti Nasim was one of the founding members of Sangat, an early South Asian LGBT organization in the United States.

Duration: 01:31:47

Date: 2009
Type: Oral History
Source: Archival Creators Fellowship Program
Creator: Kareem Khubchandani

Transcriber: Anonymous

Kareem Khubchandani (KK): 0:00
So, the first thing I want to know is what was a young Ifti like? All sorts of young Iftis...

Ifti Nasim (IN): 0:13
Young Ifti was very confused like everybody else, especially when your gay. And young Ifti was very dark and had a very low image of himself. Considered himself the lowest of the lowly. Because every gay boy, when his first find out that he is different from his own rest of the siblings and friends, first thing you get attacked is the low image. Because normally in any given society gay are [inaudible], they are normally called scum of the earth and they called sinner. And all kinds of... Young Ifti was the victim of that society and that stereotype. And the second thing was because I was the darkest of my family, so most of the time they said... We got you from the gypsies or somewhere, so I was often… And the third thing was, I have a young middle son syndrome, because I was in the middle of everyone. So, I had no choice but to excel and shine. So, young Ifti was very very demure, low self image, and lonely. And I always fell in love with somebody I could never have. It’s like that song you are a distant dream. I can never have you. So, it's like a comic. In fact God was playing comedy with me. So, I was sort of very… How would I say? Always trying to get the approval. And… But I was in love with my family. So, I don't know if they liked me or not. But the thing is to prove that I'm worth it because I'm gay, which I never told anybody. But I knew they're gonna find out one way or the other. So young Ifti was always studying, always trying to excel, and always in competition with a lot of people. And always stood first in my class and all that kind of stuff. Because deep down inside, I have this enormous guilt feeling that I'm a different person.

KK: 2:43
And from a young age were you… I know you went to law school. But did you want to… Was that something you've always wanted to do? Or what were your aspirations when you were five years old? And how did that change through your education?

IN: 2:59
I wanted to be a dancer.

KK: 03:02

IN: 03:02
Let's put it this way, in the Muslim society a boy wanted to be a dancer, right away you're marked with the scarlet letter. He’s sissy, and is disgrace to the family. But I still learned Kathak. And you know... And privately, you know, among friends and others I used to dance. And then at the same time, I started writing poetry. I was very good at writing the poetry because I was studying a lot. So, I studied all classics of Urdu poets and Punjabi poets. And become a very good dancer and I was very thin. I was, according to people, I was very handsome. But deep down inside I never thought I was handsome. You know, people, boys and girls, go gaga over me. And I thought they always liked me because I'm very brilliant and whatever. But I didn't know they liked me as a physical too. So, what happened being a dancer, being the best sporting kind of person, and the studious and all that… So I got my share of a lot of respect. But I didn't know that they were being [inaudible]. Because I was like I said, I have a very low image of myself. So, I wanted to start because I'm gay. They will find out later on. So, I will not have any friends. I’ll die a lonely death. You know, because I thought I’d only live like 35, 40 years old. And after that, either die or I'll commit suicide, something like that. But then, so happened, I started writing poetry. And that was a big release. You know that was a big catharsis for my soul and everything. And so happened that there was a martial law in Pakistan. And I wrote a poem against martial law. There was a big unrest in Pakistan against martial law. Ayyub Khan’s martial law. And I wrote a poem which I was the first year of college like 11th grade. So, I was on the podium and the students were big, enormous. And suddenly, the shot rang. And I don't know what the sound of a gun is, you know. So, one went through my leg, grazing my leg, and the other went… Somebody pulled me down and went over my head as I was reading my poem. And then we ran in the fields, there were the sugarcane fields and all that … We ran inside. Then some one student held my hand. Suddenly, I felt a lot of water in my shoes. So, I said there's a lot of fields, you can expect the water. But when I looked down blood all over. And I came home and I didn't want to tell my family, so I put some thing on it. And I slept. I couldn't sleep. I passed out I guess. Next day my sister came and saw my bed. And it was all blood all over. My leg was like enormous big leg. And we took doctor... that time they don’t use anesthesia. So, he just operated without anesthesia. And by the time I was so weak and numb that I cannot, you know… So I was there for three months in my bed. And after that my leg was sort of weak. So I couldn’t dance after that. So there goes my dancing career.

IN: 06:58
So I started really, really putting myself in the studies and I excelled and all that. Then, I wanted to go to Lahore you know, which was like 80 miles from... And I said that's the only way I can get out of here is to go to school. So, I went to law school. I was not interested in law at all. But my father wanted to... a son as a lawyer. Because I knew they're gonna marry me with a girl. While I was there I looked around the world. And I read the article in Time or Life magazine that there's a thing called gay movement and they're living happily ever after. That gay movement I finally find out was 1969 Stonewall incident where the gay movement started. So I came to this country… I took visa. And I came to this country and I became a part of the whole movement. Because that was… The movement was like two years back. So what I joined my American brothers and sisters. And this is a story from coming to America, but you can ask me any other question.

KK: 8:08

IN: 8:10
No, just see if you can- [inaudible]

KK: 08:15
Who were your friends when you were in Pakistan? Who was the…

IN: 08:20
Okay, I have… You know my father owned a newspaper. And I come from a family, which are very well read family and considered to be very well read family. I didn't come from illiterate family. But the still thing is... The thing is that they still don't understand what gayness is. So, I could not tell them, you know. My friend some of them are very hardcore gay. But they were considered to be catamite candles. We called them [inaudible]... My friend was the hijras of the society, which… Away from the mainstream society, we’d go and do, you know, do our things dance, and this and that. And then also my friend, poets and avant-garde… But the thing is, all of them was very much… Each of them had very much low image of themselves. So they could not talk too much. And some of them are gay, but they didn't tell to their parents. So they eventually got married. Some of them are here in America. They still are gay, but they are married you know. So, I have friends of all walks of society. But my closest friends were the gay friends. Because that's what… And the other closest friend was a poet. One or two, that’s about it.

KK: 9:44
So, how do gay people and you meet... How did you meet other gay people? What... How did you know you existed there?

IN: 9:52
If you remember gay people has a very sensitive gaydars. So, we knew who's gay or not. And unfortunately, most of the people who are there are married people, you know. So they go out and look for the boys. And we knew he's looking for… He’s a predator. And we offer ourselves.. He offers us the money. And we go with them. That's what the norm of the society was at that time, it still is. And ideally, to be honest with you, I hated it. Because from a very childhood, I was very outspoken about everything. But I could not come out because I didn’t have the courage, didn’t have the resources. And emotionally I was not very strong. Spiritually I was not strong. So I waited for my time to come. And in Pakistan, to be gay, openly gay means to be to be tapped by either by bullet are they will cut your… What do they call? Resources. The families will not… The family will not talk to you. So it means your... you were forced to live in a closet. And whole Pakistan is a big closet where everybody's living. It’s a sad thing; very, very sad thing. And when I came to this country, I found out America was a big closet until 1969. Still America is a big closet, you know. Political people… they are bisexual and all that kind of stuff. So human being, I found out in life... Human beings are basically walking… They have their walk in closets with them. They come out and then they hide, go in. But so far as I'm concerned I broke the door of the closets. That's it. Because I don't want to live in any closet.

KK: 12:02
So the day you arrived in America, did you go straight to a gay bar? Or how did you I mean… How did you find your way into a gay community?

IN: 12:10 I just landed in New York. So, I went to 42nd street. There was a YMCA. And...

KK: 12:17 Yeah, [inaudible]?

IN: 12:22
[amused noise] And I was talk, dark, handsome, and exotic. So right away, I got start getting... People who are making passes at me. So even in the toilets when I went there... In fact I wrote a poem about it. I have some sailor made a pass at me. And we went and had a good time. That's the first time I tasted white meat. I like it. Dark meat came a lot later. Okay. I liked it. And… But you know I found Americans, even if they are different, but they were very kind to me. Somehow I found this thing that they were very kind. And American society was very accepting to me. You know, but like I said there, everybody has a walk in closets. They come in and come out.

KK: 13:17
So, how do you just get up and leave Pakistan? Now you did not have the Internet to see where the YMCA was. Who did you know and what visa were you on? How did...

IN: 13:28
Honey, remember this thing. Life went on before you cybernet queens you know… When you cybernet queens came in existence, you know. So we paved your way to walk onto the cyber age. At that time, somebody told me that America is the best country, you should go there. But I never wanted to leave my country. I just wanted to do a CSP and stayed there become a bureaucrat, and all that kind of stuff. But then the fear of being exposed and fear of living a double life was so enormous. I don't want to stay. So I went to the American consulent. I applied for a visa and my LLB, you know, bachelor of law. And they considered it as a what do you call it? People with the profession... America was looking for professional people. So, I got my green card. I didn't even know what a green card is until I came to this country.

KK: 14:36
So you already started the process for a green card before you got here?

IN: 14:39
I got the green card from there.

KK: 14:41
Wow, okay. When was this?

IN: 14:42
So, this was 1971.

KK: 14:46
Okay, I am not going to ask your age.

IN: 14:47
No, no. But you can ask me. I'm 63 years old. Who the hell cares anymore. I’m beautiful looking still. So anyway I took my visa and I came here and ended up in Detroit. Detroit... my father's friend was a lawyer over there. So my father promised me that I should go there. So I said, “Okay.” So I went there but he was not very cordial with me but he was very nice. So I just looked for a job and end up in Detroit. And I took admission at Wayne State University, on my own.

KK: 15:25

IN: 15:26
Okay, when you're immigrant at that time, you don't have to pay too much money.

KK: 15:31

IN: 15:31
You still you don't have to when you're legally here. If you're a student, you have to pay a lot. So, I took some courses in LLM.

KK: 15:42
What’s that?

IN: 15:43
A master of law and registry. And then I switched it to creative side, creative art. So writing and [inaudible]- because I wanted to be a writer all my life. So meanwhile in 74 my father died, so I completely deserted law and get into the creative art. And now here I am I have three books, two books in Urdu, three in Punjabi, four-- nine in Urdu. You know so I write all the time, you know, and that's my life. And... But I'm very lucky that I had a greencard when I came to this country, because as a gay person, you can never get a greencard until now, if you're from a Muslim country, or you can political asylum, you can ask.

KK: 16:36
Tell me about your family. I know you had three older sisters, one younger brother...

IN: 16:42
No, no, no, no, I’ll tell you. I had my father, has two wives. I'm from the first wife, you know. And my father was a generalist. And my mother was a schoolteacher. At that time Muslim woman was not supposed to go to school. But somehow my grandfather, my maternal grandfather was very revolutionary. So, he sent his daughters to school. And my mother has a [inaudible] which is equal to metric in Pakistan and India. And at that time, Muslim woman we're not going to school. And like I said, my mother went to school. And then she become the closest profession, which was considered to be respectable was teacher. So, she became a school teacher. There were a lot of Hindu, Sikh, and Muslim girls, and Christian girls were going to school at that time. And then there were the problem that they were going to get a guy, Muslim boy who's, you know, much higher level as she is. Somehow my father was an orphan person, child. So he was going to school in Lahore - college actually. So, somebody hooked it up, arranged marriage. My father never saw my mother. So when they got married, according to my father, he was trapped in a bad marriage. But he produced like 11 children in a bad marriage. Wait a minute… Nine, nine. Two died. So four sisters and three sons survived. And my father…

KK: 18:37
Two different wives…

IN: 18:38
No, no. My other wife, second wife, two sons.

KK: 18:43
Oh, wow. Okay.

IN: 18:44
And... But it was very interesting that in spite of all that, my father respected my mother. He never divorced her. Because at that time nobody could ever divorce. But he loved her very much. Respected her but not loved. Because my father was the type of person he likes to have... Later on, when I grew up I studied him. He liked the cheap woman of the street. That was his type, you know. Who can be a little bit more prostitute type, you know. And who can go on right down to the street level and all that kind of stuff. And my mother was not like that. My mother was very classy, very elegant. Come from a rich stock. Come from a very rich, not rich family, but you know…

KK: 19:41

IN: 19:42
Respectable family. Very respectful family. And my father liked to have those kind of… So do I, I like to have those kind of guys. But the thing is I pretend that I like... At least I got a few things from my father. But then there was another myth about me. Because of my being so different from my family. That in 1947... And I don't know if it's wrong or… There's a big silence about it. That they found me. I was like one or two days old. At the place where the refugees, you know... One going to India, one coming to Pakistan. In that ground I was found somewhere. That nobody knew if I was a Muslim or Hindu. So, it's like that crazy myth still linger on. Although I am sure I am my father's sons. But then another myth that I am from some other woman. Because my father had a lot of woman. So she didn't want to keep me as a child. So she gave it to my father. And my father gave it to my mother, and he said, “You have to raise him because he’s my child.” So probably, but who knows what.They all are myths. They all are myths, you know, which I refuse to accept. Because I still think my father was my father. My mother was my mother. And that's what it is. You know, those two myths, which I never tell anybody. But it's very, very open in my family. But then nobody talked about it. Because you cannot fight with the success. If I was poor, I was illiterate, and I am gay, and down and out, they would probably killed me by now. And they would refuse me to even accept. So when you are gay, always tried to be successful. Always try to reach and do the best you can in education field.

KK: 21:48
So, what does that mean for poor gay people? What’s it like for gay poor people, both here and in Pakistan?

IN: 21:54
Okay, poor gay people are “gandus”. They consider them... Because I’ve been poor. Remember, I'm not... I work very hard. So, you know, I was selling [inaudible]. Before that, when I did not accept myself as a gay person, I was very, very… Will I was working like $10,000 a year income. So imagine... But what could I do at that time? So, then I sat down with myself and I said to myself, I cannot live like that. I have dreams. So I accepted myself. I announced I’m gay. And, you know... But before I did it, I spiritually and mentally, I made myself very strong through studying. So, every people who are poor, poverty is a curse. It’s a discourage. It's a disease. So you have to get rid of as quickly as you can. Study. One, study as much as you can. And the second thing is work very hard. And work smart.

KK: 23:16
Which means what?

IN: 23:17
Which means do what your heart says. If you want to be a hairdresser, be the best hairdresser in the world. If you want to be a loader on the truck, be the best loader on the truck. Do the best, be the best... You're just drinking and going to bars and doing drugs, isn't gonna get you anywhere. So, I advise to the gay people to study as much as you can. And work as much as you can, especially when you're young. See I came to this country when this was a disco era. I went to school. I had two jobs. And I went to discos every night. Partied to the hill. I went into a bar, it was 1974. When I came out, it was 1984. 10 years of non-stop partying. And studying and you know, all that kind of stuff.

KK: 24:19
And what sort of person did that make you? I mean do you look back fondly on that? Do, you know, was it fun, or do you disavow it? Or what… those 10 years that have seem to have gone and come so fast.

IN: 24:32
Honey, first of all I hardly remember anything. I was drunk most of the time.

KK: 24:38

IN: 24:38
But the thing is even if I was drunk I was studying. I was working very hard. And I have very fond memories, whichever are there. I was young, vivacious. I sold my body. I did everything. I had to survive. Lord it’s so sad to be alone. Help me make it through the night. That situation.

KK: 25:02
Okay, so you said that... I’ll hold it... You said that you came here to join your American brothers and sisters. How did you get involved with a community and a movement? And was it predominantly white? Did you find other Desis or other people of color? Or who was… What was the movement when you joined?

IN: 25:25
First of all, I'm going to start with this... That when I came to this country, I didn't want to come to this country or any other country. I wanted to stay in Pakistan. But when I found out that I'm a gay person, and I have no choice. So, they were trying to marry me off with a girl, which I didn't want to. So, I told my father I'm going to America just to visit. So I came here. I did not visit. I stayed. And of course, at that time there was no cyber thing. No computer, you have to go a gay bar. So, I used to frequent the gay bars in Chicago. And as a matter of fact, Bistro was a bar, Eddie Dugan’s bar, and he used to… His boyfriend or him… Both of them are living at Clark street where I was living in the building. So I went there to go to bars and saw him. We start talking with each other in the building. And he said, “Do you want to come?” And I didn't have a job. So he said, “Why don't you come? And I'll get you a job.” He said, “Do you dance?” I say “Yeah, I dance. I used to do concerts.” So American dance was nothing that much different. Because of the reason, when you know the beats of Indian beats, you know everything. So, I went there. And he said, “Do you want to dance on the music?” I said, “Yeah.” So he made me gogo dancer type of things. You know, like bearded lady was there at that time. And she used to take her clothes off slowly. And it was very funny. And she had a big following. So, I started doing the same thing. I didn't take the clothes out. But the thing is I was dancing on the tables, you know. And I did it for a year and I made a lot of money. So, I said to myself, “My God, I can pay my school.” And I do this and that. And it was a nice atmosphere. Then I met my lover Prem at that time. So we start going to the bars and all that kind of stuff. Then there was some... First of all, there was no Desi at all. There was only one guy, who was my childhood friend. We went to school together. He was gay also. So we both used to go there, over there. There was no desi at that time. Nobody even know where India or Pakistan is, you know. So there was no... All almost lily white. There was Black people but they were not coming into the bar that much. And even if they come, they will stay separately. Okay? And they never mingle. We have very much influx of like South Asian, Filipinos, and those that came from that part of the world. And what happened was... And they were all into white people; they loved white people. Their table stay separately, but they always date white people, okay. So as far as I'm concerned, I was equal climate opportunity. So, I dated black, white, polka dot, green, martian, you name it. I was like a UN whore. You know, I never... I never discriminate when it comes down to sex. But I was very picky. I will not like running around with everybody. Then I found a place called Man’s Country. It was a steam bath. And I went there, also. And I had my share of all kind of experience, which I could never have in my country. In 1980, I fell in love with somebody who was a Pakistani. And that stopped me right in the track of going to baths and all that places. Okay. But I still go to gay bars. But that guy was sort of how would I say? Traditional homosexual? Bisexual? Rather trisexual. Had a girlfriend and had a boyfriend. Are married and all that kind of stuff. And I was not into that. I was a down right one man’s man. And after a while I quit him.

KK: 29:53
So, was he like homophobic?

IN: 29:57
Yeah, homophobic. He didn't want to let anybody know that he have a liaison with another guy. And it went against my philosophy and my everything. So, you know, I quit him. And also I was going to school, I was studying. And also I wanted to be a writer. So I didn't want to waste my time on, I would say drinks and sex and all that. Although I've had my share of drinks a lot, you know, and... That really made me think of I would say, “Okay.”. Instead of sleeping in a bed with somebody like wasting a vast page of your novel. It was like my bad attitude that said look, “If I do it I might not be able to write.” So, I would rather read or write something then do this. And indeed that helped me a lot that attitude. I still have that attitude. And at that time, I joined gay and lesbian, at that time... Jeff McCourt has Windy City, and there was Gay Chicago, and a couple of other newspapers [inaudible]. And then I was going to gay bars. That’s were most of the people, gay people meet at that time.

KK: 31:19

IN: 31:20
They were... Like I said we did not have a computer and didn't have any… Gay bar was the only place where you meet with new people. So, I started reading about gay movements and all that kind of stuff. And eventually, I joined that group. There was Jeff McCourt was there. All was there. Some other people, Gary Chichester, and all of these people. I just joined them and started protesting. We were having gay pride parades. I remember in the beginning, when the gay pride parade, we were… No Indian was there or Pakistani. It was just me and Veeru together. And really it was a very weird thing. But you know, like I said we were doing our best to be where we are standing right now. And even at that time I was very passionate about human rights, gay and lesbian rights, and all that kind of stuff. My stuff is there so we have to...

KK: 32:26
So in terms of the gay activism you were involved in, where are those people now? And do those people still continue in doing activism? And how do you keep in touch with them?

IN: 32:51
First of all, you know, 1982 to 83 and 84 was a very bleak era. Not a bleak era but there was something called AIDS came out. And nobody knew what it is. And the government of America didn't even care. All the conservative like Reagan and all that they didn’t care what AIDS was. They think it is a gay people's disease. And gay people were so much discriminated about these things. And they do not care about AIDS and about gay people. And so, what happened was... Certainly, all the movement gay movement, which have come out of the closet for so much struggle and all that, pushed back into the closet okay. One of my very good friend, beautiful friend died of AIDS. And that disease, which nobody knows that did not have the proper name at that time. They were killed. And due to the government discrimination. And we were very offended. And then the new movement came out, AIDS awareness and all that kind of stuff. And I joined… I started doing South Asian AIDS awareness and prevention. A famous film actress, Shabana Azmi from India, Bombay, Bollywood actress, helped us a lot, you know. I give credit to them, but the thing is desi people have the same attitude towards it, which American people have got you know. They think this is a.. “Gay deserves it” and all that kind of stuff, as a wrath of God. It was very disturbing and very sad, okay. So what we did, you know, like I said, a lot of us, we did a lot of AIDS prevention and awareness. And at that point gay people... AIDS has given a new awareness to gay people. What happened was that at that time there was this minimum STDs among gay people. Because of the awareness, use of condoms and not doing things, which 70s and part 80s generation was doing it. So it was very, very eyeopening thing, where not only gay people, you know, start getting together and doing... I want to call irrational thing, because straight people doing the same thing, you know. Except that nobody pointing the finger towards straight people that they're doing like that. But because of the fact always all the fingers are pointed towards the weaker part of the society. And gays unfortunately were the weak part of the society. And they still are, you know, because over 2,000 years of propaganda against gay people in the world through religion. It's gonna take a little time to get gay people to get out of that, okay. But they are pretty much successful so far, you know. But still every time you get comfortable that you have won the war, certainly somebody else comes in. They push you back in the closet and they take away your rights. Look what happened to Proposition 8. And coming back to this, that some people... The people who started human rights, some of them are still alive, some are dead because of AIDS or natural causes. Because, you know, let's put it this way... When you found out you're gay, the first thing comes to you is that you want to forget all the misery, which come along with this awareness. And a lot of people start drinking, a lot doing drugs, and all that kind of stuff. So, we basically need a very strong brotherhood and support group so that we would not feel abandoned by our families and groups and friends.

KK: 37:37
And you said you're doing outreach to the South Asian community? How… I know, I know that you told me before that they changed their responses to you after you started doing activism after 9/11. But why the South Asian community? And like how have you built ties across, you know, religion and, you know, Pakistani, Indian, Bangladeshi? What does the South Asian community mean to you in that sense?

IN: 38:08
Look, the thing is South Asian community means to me a lot, okay. When you're in the beginning… When you come to America, you deny your heritage. It is typical of any immigrants. You have to spear your tie, to put your feet on the ground in the new society. Especially society like America because it’s melting pot. And you come here to become successful. Somehow, if you're gonna still be with your group... Feel like it, it's not true. You still want to be with your own ethnic group. You don't excel in the mainstream America. Things are changing now. But at that time, there was not very many South Asians, you know, Indian, Pakistanis, Bangladeshi, or whatever you call them. And then now there's a whole lot of people out there. And, you know... And I denied my heritage for a long time. But then I found out unless you know, where you come from, you don't know where you're going. So, I accepted my heritage. I embraced that. And to me, there was no Indian, no Pakistani, no Bangladeshi. They were all human beings. So, I took them as a human being. Not as a color and this and that, which a lot of people here... There was a color discrimination in this country a lot, there still is. Black people still like light skinned children, even if they're Black. How bad that could be? In our own culture, if you're a Black girl... a Black girl in our families, we have to pay more dowry to get her married with some guy. Because we are also very color conscious people. And especially when you are a gay guy, you have no place in our society. Because male child is he carrying on the lineage. And when you deny that thing, they deny you completely like you don't exist, we don't exist.

KK: 40:24
So, when you said you denied your heritage when you got here what does that mean? Was it was an internal was an external?

IN: 40:29
It was actually basically internal. Because I don't want to be in the code of anybody to be... To tell them why I'm not married.

KK: 40:40

IN: 40:41
Everybody was asking, “What are you not marrying? Why are you not marrying?” So, I deny that completely, that I don't want to be part of this culture, which is I want my freedom. KK: 40:51

IN: 40:52
But later on I found out that that's their way of saying that they like me. And that their way of saying, they don't like me. So I have to be what I am. They have to be what they are. That's their habits. So I accept them whatever they are. And they probably accepted me the way I am. But I don't think they accepted me the way I am.

KK: 41:19
So, you said that education is really important for gay people. Who were your educators and you know, who are your inspirations and your role models? And who taught you Kathak? Who taught you writing? Who are the people you continue to think of?

IN: 41:35
Okay, 1975 I became the victim of, which every gay person become, paranoia. I because... I was picking up the guys that get picked up from outside. So, you know, I have this paranoia that somebody will come at my home and kill me while I'm sleeping and all that. So, I become the victim of insomnia.

KK: 41:59

IN: 42:00
And I was smart enough to understand that I needed a counselor.

KK: 42:05

IN: 42:06
So, I went to Chicago Health Club organization, which is city sponsored. And I met some... They gave me some American guy. But I could not come to terms with him because he could not understand my heritage. So there was… I saw some desi person over there. So I said, “Who is he?” They said “he’s also a counselor.” I said, “I would like to go to some Indian or Pakistani.” He was an Indian guy. His name is Chandar Ahuja. He was from India, Punjab. From my part of the world. Because I'm from West Punjabi, he’s from East Punjab. So, turn out to be we become… He understood completely what I'm talking about. He knew what the bisexuality is in our society. He knew what… How our society feel about gays and lesbians. And that was the best thing ever happened to me in life. It put me back together. And he made me accept myself. Before that I did not accept myself. He said, “No matter what you are, you have to accept yourself. And go on with your life, otherwise you won't be able to excel in life.” And he asked me also to study as much as I can. And I.. which I... You know, he was God sent some gift to me. That's what... He is my role model. He was a married guy and with children. And all that kind of stuff. But you don't have to be Jewish to like rye bread. So, stright people can have gay people too.

KK: 43:50
You mentioned that he was God sent to you. And you've said “God does not make trash.” But you've also said you're not a practicing Muslim. What is your relationship with God?

IN: 44:01
I love her. I have a very good relation with her, you know. And she always takes care of me. You know, going to mosque, synagogue, our mandir, our whatever places you go to worship is not necessary. It’s just a… That is a trade. They are there to make money off your fears and off you. You can have a relationship with God, even if it's your home or outside sitting in a garden. I'm more like a Sufi, you know, malamati sufi.

KK: 44:39

IN: 44:41
You know I’m like that. Like Rumi, Saadi, Hafiz like that.

KK: 44:45

IN: 44:46
I'm like that, okay. So, I might not practice what a traditional Muslims does or a Hindu does, but the thing is I have a very good relation with God.

KK: 44:57
Okay. I want to ask you specifically about your performances... The different types of performances that you do. What has been some of your most memorable shows that you've done or readings or dances or?

IN: 45:12
The most memorable one which I did it in Pakistan my dances. One of my performance was there in my college. I danced and nobody... Nobody knew that I could dance! I blow everybody's mind. And dancing mean to Pakistani Muslim boys… Means that he is a fair game. And you can have him whenever you want. But they didn't know who they were messing with. So, I had a whole bunch of admirer and aashiqs and all that. And I have a field to play. Excuse me. I use my dancing for my advancement, or my sexual ples… No, I did not…

KK: 46:04
What about gogo dancing? Like did you ever...

IN: 46:07
I was not a gogo dancer! Gogo dancing is when you take your clothes off. No no. It was like, you know...

KK: 46:11
But it was up on the tables..

IN: 46:13
Tables, tables.

KK: 46:14
Were you in drag or were you...

IN: 46:15
No, regular clothes.

KK: 46:16

IN: 46:18
But if you want to be able to get drag you can do it. But I don't know how to dance in a sari. Because I couldn't walk.

KK: 46:26
So, where have you… You said you’ve done drag at some point? Female drag...

IN: 46:29
Yes, I did.

KK: 46:30
Was that in Pakistan?

IN: 46:31
Pakistan and here both.

KK: 46:33

IN: 46:34
My phone-- I go find, I have my drag picture on it

KK: 46:37
So what... What sort of audience did you perform for?

IN: 46:41
All walks of life.

KK: 46:42

IN: 46:43
People from Hollywood to Chicago, avant-garde, and all that.

KK: 46:47
Okay, okay.

IN: 46:50
And I don't ask them who you are where you are. Because you're on the stage and you don't care.

KK: 46:56

IN: 46:57
You know, you just do your job.

KK: 46:59
So, do you prefer performing for sort of an avant-garde artist watching audience or just, you know, whoever?

IN: 47:05

KK: 47:06

IN: 47:07
You know, because you cannot say that I want to do for this and I want to do for that. But reading my poetry, I'm always... I'm very good in writing poetry. And everybody admired me and for that, except some of the stupid Urdu Mushaira people here in this Chicago. Actually it’s all over... Because they hate me. Because the reason is because they think I'm homosexual. And I have let the society down. But the thing is not the homosexuality. It’s just that I'm so good they're jealous of me. I tell them all the time, “Don't be jealous because I'm pretty.” I'll give you enough reasons. But seriously, they're jealous. They're non-poets most of them. These people are... They started doing poetry after 50 years. When they were in their 50s. That's the point where even prostitutes give up their profession, you know. She’ll go and sit in a durga and worship, you know. And these stupid poets, then they don't even know how to write a cuplet, a line. And they decide to compete with me. But I blow them off completely. [directed toward another driver] Oh shit, stupid woman.

KK: 48:24
What are you doing?

IN: 48:25
Oh, I know. Shit.

IN: 48:28

KK: 48:33
And some of your poetry deals with, you know, anti anti-war stuff. Some of it deals with homosexuality. How do you… In your head, in your life, and in your feelings, how do you draw the connections between those things? How do you… Are they part of the same system?

IN: 48:54
Basically, you know, I'm an activist, okay.

KK: 48:56

IN: 48:57
When you fight for one person rights, you fight for everyone rights, okay. If you discriminate with one, you discriminate with everybody, the whole society. It's a ripple effect. When I was fighting for gay and lesbian rights, then I said, “Why not to fight for the people who are underdogs of the society?” Are quote, unquote, I would say, “Capitalist society.” Because right now, any nation who’s rich can conquer the whole world. And war is nothing but a stupid thing of capitalist society. Not that not that socialist or communist won't fight. They will fight too. But the thing is, right now, imperialism is all over the world. Like American imperialism. Before that British imperialism. Arab imperialism and all that. Imperialism is coming back and forth with their ugly heads. So, you know, you have to be very careful when you're doing the things. So, I learned a lot. I read a lot, that you know, in the society... Living in a society, you have to fight for everything. No matter what it is, but not to the point where you take away other people's rights or other people’s acquired things. So, I'm an anti-war activist and anti-gay and lesbian... You know, all that kind of stuff. So, you understand what I'm saying. I dislike color discrimination. You know, anybody's accent, I don't want to make fun of that, you know. And just because you're a minority doesn't mean you should not have rights. So, that's where we’ll go up and I’m going to park the car.

KK: 50:57
So in terms of your poetry, you write in English and Urdu and Punjabi.

IN: 51:02

KK: 51:03
What... Do you think different languages provide you different forms to say different things? Or what... How does language matter to when you're reading poetry and when you're writing as well?

IN: 51:18
Like I said, writing is basically is a catharsis for me, okay. All the three languages, English, Urdu, Punjabi has a different way of expression. Okay, like I said... All three languages are different expression. In English I can use the lingo or the expression, which I cannot use in Urdu you know. Especially the words like penis and pussy, asshole and those kinds of things. Or fucking, sucking. I could not use it in Urdu. Urdu supposedly has a very... It's a very limited language, where you cannot use those words. Because it’s considered to be vulgar. Although it's also considered to be vulgar in English. But with the beatnik poetry, which I'm very much in love with beatnik poetry, like Allen Ginsburg is my guru. Ruhani rishta you can call it. My spiritual guide and spiritual teacher. Allen Ginsburg and I love Beatnik poetry. That's where he started using these words and break the mold. And also in Punjabi you cannot use these word frequently. Although Sufi poets in Punjabi did a wonderful job for same-sex poetry like Madho Lal Hussain. He fell in love… He was in love with Madho. Shah Hussain was in love with sorry... He even... He took his name - Madho Lal Hussain - full name. He gave himself his name. He was so much in love with him. Because to him to be in love with somebody, like him wasn't falling in love with God. So there's a oneness between two of them. So that's what the… Punjabi is a very, very beautiful language just like Urdu. And that's what I started... And that expression which I could not do it in English, I do it in Urdu. And if I cannot do it in Urdu, I do it in Punjabi. So, all three languages, when you have the command on them, and expression is very, very easy for you.

KK: 53:49
And what about using those languages in everyday life? How do you.. Who do you speak to in Punjabi, in Urdu...

IN: 53:57
Punjabi is my mother tongue, you know. So, I speak frequent Punjabi with my friends who are from Punjab. And then I speak Urdu with people who—their mother tongue is Urdu. But I know Urdu, and I know Urdu writer. I write short stories, afsaanay... I, every week I write a column in Urdu you know, and I write poems... My book Narman, which was the first gay book ever came out in Urdu, was in Urdu so is the expression. “Narman” means hermaphrodite... Then my other ghazal’s—a lot is sung by most of the famous Pakistani Indian singers, my ghazals. So, it's like I speak with them in English. I speak with American friends. And the people who cannot speak Urdu and Punjabi.

KK: 54:51
You’ve talked about, in some of your interviews, narmani - the truth poets. Who are they and how do you know about them given the distance and all of that?

IN: 55:04
See language is the thing which defy all the distance, and other the age groups and all that kind of stuff. When I came out with this book Narman, which actually earned me in 1996, Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame, inducted me due to that book and due to my activism. And I'm very honored and thankful to the city of Chicago and gay and lesbian organizations, you know. So, anyway, when I brought that genre out of the Narman book... Although I did not do very much hardcore poetry in Narman, same sex poetry, like I did it in Myrmecophile. You read that, you know, Myrmecophile. But Myrmecophile came after like eight years of Narman. Narman was the first book ever came out in Urdu with the gay and lesbian poetry, okay. And the lingo which I used in that. And when it was getting composed in Pakistan, the publisher who was going to print it found out about it. And he said, “Take away this unholy book before I burn it.” So, my distributor had to pick up everything from there right away. And it was actually distributed underground, most of the time. But the young people when they read this poetry, that was a revelation for them, that somebody can write like that too. So, they become enamored with this poetry. And they start writing about the true feeling, whether it was toward the same sex or towards the woman. Before that our object of love was androgynous, you know. You cannot call him male or female. Now they started calling whatever. If she’s a woman they will call her woman. And if it’s a man, they will call him man. So, they call narmani poetry, mean true poetry to them. Narman means hermaphrodite in modern Persian.

KK: 57:23

IN: 57:24
So, that's what the movement started and it’s still going on. But the like, you know, in Islamic society, you cannot come out like that. Even in any society. Even Christian society, we still have to fight for our rights.

KK: 57:39

IN: 57:40
Look at this... India has got 370 penal code, which I call penile code 377. They abolished it, apparently. But the thing is other conservative groups are still fighting over it.

KK: 57:59
And it’s only in Delhi…

IN: 58:01
Not in... But you cannot get rid of all of that.

KK: 58:04
Yeah. Can you tell me about how you met Mother Veeru? And how you decided to start up Sangat? And what you originally conceived of the organization? And how you found people?

IN: 58:18
Okay, I met Mother Veeru through a friend of mine, Roger. Okay, so he told me about him that he the gay guy, and he's trying to establish something here. So, I called her and we met and we decided that we're gonna start or a platform, which is Gay and Lesbian for South Asian, Indian, Pakistani origin, mostly. And... But we took the name of Trikone. We started off as Trikone. Because Trikone was the only one... At that time I was a member of Trikone. So we said, “Why don't we start a branch here?” But fortunately or unfortunately, Trikone was not very responsive of our organization. Because they themselves were in the beginning. So, they didn't know much about it, the how to do it. So, we had a lot of white people involved in our organization because there were not very many South Asian. Even if they were very many South Asian, they didn't want to come out of the closet. So, it's not an easy thing to come out of the closet. So, they started the... Finally we have to decide that we should give it a new name. So, because I'm in the music and the dances and the poetry... So I said, “Why don't we call it Sangat, named Sangat?” Sangat means togetherness, you know. When somebody is playing sitar, and tabla is playing, it’s called Sangat. And all the music fusion are called Sangat. If you’re together, sangeet, sangeet sathi, friend. So I said, “Why don’t we call it Sangat?” They say, “First of all, it's a very common name.” Hindi, Urdu, Punjabi, Sanksrkit, it’s the same name. It’s also used in music very much, and it's a beautiful name.

KK: 1:00:14

IN: 1:00:15
So, we... I gave this name to Sangat. And we said, “Yes, we should do that.” So that's how we started. Like when we started with like about two or three people at that time. Then it ballooned. Started people, coming and going, coming and going. Like every organization, after like 15 years, we got burned out. And there were no young people coming up. Now you guys come and come to Trikone, which I'm very happy about that.

KK: 1:00:46
Why do you think people need an organization to be both gay and South Asian or queer? And, you know, why do we need... Why can’t we just be human or, you know, what, what is... What do you think the feelings are to need...

IN: 1:01:02
Okay, I know what you're trying to say. Because this is called questioning. Gay, lesbian, bisexual questioning people. Questioning is very important in life, you know, without questioning, you cannot get any answer. And without any answer, you cannot understand things. You know why it's important... Because whether you like it or not, same ethnic background, same language, same color, it's a very cliche but it's true: bird of a feather flock together. Okay, so all the smells, all the lingo, all the things, food, make you feel closer to the other person. And a lot of people do that and nothing wrong with that. Unless that together a Sangat become fascist. And they don't accept anybody else. Nothing wrong with that. All these little trickling of water from the top becomes false, then become a little river, or channels, and they all meet, eventually in the sea. So it's nothing wrong with that. As long as you are providing somebody who really wants to be among his own people a platform or a forum. This is basic respect. You know, in this influx of cyber and computer, although the world is under your tip, still you have a glass wall between you and the world. And between you and the human feelings. These kind of organizations bring back the human feeling, touch, smell, you know, all that kind of good stuff.

KK: 1:02:59

IN: 1:03:00
Which when you are sitting on the cyber, on the computer, you cannot get that. You have to meet someplace, somewhere around the line.

KK: 1:03:09
So, where did you used to meet?

IN: 1:03:11
We used to either do it at my place, or Mother Veeru’s place at somebody's house, somebody’s house. Our... Lately we were doing it at the Big Chicks, then, you know, we all meet over there. But then when you’re meeting in a bar, you have to drink. And after a couple of drinks, some people become very obnoxious. And a couple of drinks, everybody wants to sleep with everybody. And like I said, I have my reservations. I'm not against drinking. I love drinking, you know, but the thing is excessive drinking, it make you crazy.

KK: 1:03:55
Who are the other people who joined Sangat as well? Like where were they coming from? And how did you the word out?

IN: 1:04:05
Okay, the word out was either through newspaper like Windy City and Gay Chicago and all that. You would see it all over. Then we got computer and we went through computer. A lot of people likes it. And a lot of people used to come, young students and all that. But the thing is there's a big age discrimination among gay people. Gay culture is basically a sad thing but it's true, is a young people's culture. You always stay young. Even if you have Botox up your ass, you will do that. You know, so they are like to be stay young forever and... But it's not possible. So you have to do something which keep you young like I do. I have writing which keeps me different. And above all that, I get more hit on now by young people than when I was young. Because they look at my achievements. So, you know, a lot of young people came and then this Mother Veeru and… There’s a part of me also I think responsible was getting old, and getting bitchy, and getting opinionated, stupid all that kind of stuff, so they stayed away. So, finally I decided I said look I have no time. I'm burnt out. I have to go on with your life, my life. Thank God you and Perla, they came and started doing…

KK: 1:05:46
In your, not just Sangat, but in your living in a queer world, what about South Asian women? Have you formed strong relationships with them? IN: 1:05:58
We did. We were at a [inaudible]. We asked them any time to join us. But somehow it's a sad thing. Dela Martin said with the gay and lesbian when they got separated that, you know, gay people don't care about woman, so we're going to be separated. So, they have a lesbian separate lesbian. Same thing happened with the woman here in… South Asian woman, they didn't want to associate with gay people. They actually their attitude was that because they wore woman clothes, so they're insulting woman. It's not true. You know, if what her name? If Chastity Bono changed her… Cutting her hair and changing her sex, you know? Do you think she looked ugly? No, to me she's very beautiful. She is more beautiful now than when she was regular Chastity Bono lesbian now that she is transgender and I think she's beautiful. We have to uprise above all that. Why we think that, you know, a transgender person is ugly? Or you don't accept him. One, you want all your rights as a lesbian or as a gay. So, that's one of the reason the lesbian, South Asian lesbian didn’t want to be the part of gay crowd.

KK: 1:07:26
And in terms… I remember when I first met you, you said to me, “Don't insult me and call me a he, call me she.”

IN: 1:07:34
That is…

KK: 1:07:34
How do you think about gender and what is gender to you when you say Mother Veeru and.. So what is...?

IN: 1:07:39
This is a term of endearment, honey.

KK: 1:07:42

IN: 1:07:42
It has nothing to do with insulting and not insulting. It says sometimes we are using this in your face value or as a what do you call shocking, you know. I think you were enough shocked. So, I'm successful. Okay, so to me he or she doesn't matter anymore. You know, my best friend is straight woman. And every gay person has a best friend who's straight.

KK: 1:08:14
Who’s this?

IN: 1:08:14
Dr. Azra Raza she's my best friend and she's straight. And I think we rise above genders and all that kind of stuff. My best friends are gay friends. My best friends are lesbian friends, some of these and... But the thing is I'm very comfortable now with myself and before, you know. Look at this… How old are you?

KK: 1:08:41

You are almost like three times younger than me. Almost like you know I’m 63. So, you're here interviewing me. Apparently, you found something fascinating about me. Okay, so that's the reason, you have to rise above all these things. Discrimination is actually ugly thing. And very ugly, when you think that you got the right to get everything another person does not. So lesbians, they all take it all wrong. We don't want… We don't hate lesbians. But at the same token, bird of a feather flock together. Then there's also a weird things happen. Freaks happen who likes straight woman. Gay person like straight woman. A straight woman like gay person. These are freaks of nature.

KK: 1:09:47
So, I couldn’t find the date for this, but at some point someone tried to attack you in [inaudible].

IN: 1:09:54

KK: 1:09:55
And then you've been shot in the leg as well. And how do you, how do you... What what were those experiences like for you? And how, how do you live without being scared without... Knowing that you're gay and a Muslim and an immigrant? And how do you, you know, remind yourself about how strong you are and all those things?

IN: 1:10:14
Honey, let me tell you something.

KK: 1:10:15
Tell me.

IN: 1:10:16
Maybe I'm a fatalist, you know. Fear is the worst thing in the world to ever happen to a person. Because fear takes away all your abilities and the best things of life. Fear is the ugliest thing in the world which destroy all the abilities and good things in you. That's one of the reason gay person get rid of that fear as quick as possible, okay. You're lucky you don't have that fear. Our generation was full of guilts and fears, you know. So, first thing I did was to get rid of fear. You only come out of the closet once and you come out of the closet first to yourself. So, I came out to myself first. Then I came out in front of the society. And if I will think that look when a child is born, he is given a paper in his hand by nature with a written death sentence on it. He's gonna die anyway one way. Maybe after 16 year. Maybe after 60 days. Maybe 30 days after. Maybe 100 years. He's gonna die anyway. So, when you get rid of that fear inside you, you don't care. We can never get rid of all the fears, but certain fears you should deal with it head on. One of them is the death fear. If he will not give me, a heart attack will kill me. If an anti-gay person will not kill me, a heart attack might kill me. Cancer might kill me. So what are you going to do? There's no escape. So, you might as well do things and good things. So, even if when you're dying, you will be very happy like... They asked “[inaudible], you're drinking this, you know, you're drinking poison. Why don't you say about that... the [inaudible] revolve around earth.” He said, I'm not going to say that because my eyes... I might die. But my eye has the eyes of the pride to see the planet, which naked eyes cannot see. So, become like that. Do things for the society. Do good things for your groups. Do good things for the human beings. And it's not a cliche, it’s true though. So, I think I'm proud of myself because I did a lot of things for my groups, my ethnic people, for my American brothers and sisters. For bringing them AIDS awareness and bringing them the medicine and the food, and the sick people, you know.

KK: 1:13:15
And what about post-9/11? What was the activism you were doing then?

IN: 1:13:20
Okay, post-9/11 was a very weird era. Because we had a very weird President, Geroge Bush Jr, okay. Okay, post-9/11 everything was against Muslims. Everything was... It’s like whether they did it or not, they were marked with a red scarlet letter. You know, everything whatever a Muslim will do, they were in the binocular, you know. It was going over the big thing, press and all that kind of stuff. And stupid... Muslims are basically illiterate and stupid. Okay, and with this hijab and this beard and all that, it was so weird. They did not have this common sense that what is assimilation is okay. They never did that and they will never because they're illiterate. So, what happened was that 9/11 happen and I was getting all the death threats because I'm a brown and typical Middle Eastern looking man. Even what's his name... George Clinton said that there was a Middle Eastern looking man who blew up in Ohio the building [referencing the Oklahoma City bombing]. That was a stupid thing. They turned to find out that it was McVeigh and Nichols and all that. [sarcastic] They were very Middle Eastern looking. Anyway, so, you know, everything was pointing to us... And after 9/11 I used my activism, which I did for gay and lesbian, for my ethnic background, for Muslims, and you know... And to get this notion that Muslims are another alternate terrorist, there must be some... But then again, terrorists are in Hindus, in Sikhs, in Jews, in Christians everywhere. Terrorists are everywhere. It depends what you call terrorism. So, I did a lot of work for the Pakistani, Indian, Muslim community because they were getting.... Sikhs were getting beaten up because they were thinking they are Muslims, because they wear turban and all that kind of stuff. The typical stereotype and profiling was so much then, you know, I started doing that. And we have rallies and all that kind of... I still do the rallies, activism. But I tell you one thing, I would never live anywhere other than America because I love this country. Because this country gave me self respect. And gave me the power and knowledge how to fight for your rights. That's one of the reason I don't like anybody do anything to this country. First of all, not only this country, I don’t want to... Anywhere in the world no terrorists should blowing up innocent children, man, woman. Now right now, Pakistan every second there, there’s a blast in Pakistan. What do you think of that? That's a terrorism. And who are those terrorists? From the other countries. Powerful countries they are there. Very sad things, very, very sad things.

KK: 1:16:50
In your newspaper editorials, I've only read a couple that are translated... What are the things you take up? Do you take up Muslim political issues or social issues?

IN: 1:17:02
Political issues, social issues. And I took issues of a gay boy who committed suicide because he was gay, you know, because he was gay. So, in a Muslim societies it’s very, very prevalent that they get rejected and all that. I've been rejected, so I know the firsthand what the experience is. That’s why I want them not to reject the gay boy or the lesbian girl.

KK: 1:17:29
And on your radio show, who told you to DJ and...

IN: 1:17:33
I select the music... You should see how much music I have. And then I talk and people love my conversation.

KK: 1:17:39
Yeah, but how did you get into it? What...

IN: 1:17:41
I love old Indian and Pakistani movie songs, so I have a lot of them. So, I decided let me just start one, tell the people what our heritage is. Because, you know, that's how… So, I play songs for the forgotten generation, which is 60s, 70s generation. You know, then came 70s and 80s. So, I play for them.

KK: 1:18:03
And do you ever get political on the show?

IN: 1:18:05

KK: 1:18:06

IN: 1:18:07
You know I tell the woman to go out and learn how to bicycle. How to drive a car, learn computer, and put makeup on. And put underarm deodorant. And have your facial and have a cleaning done, because you have whiskers - a lot of hair on your face. They have more fucking hair than you and I have. Some of these Indian women… Indian women, oh my God, they look like gorilla in the midst. Don't start me on that. In 60s and 70s, heroine in India they look like Elvis Presley with long, long sideburns and the visible mustaches. Oh God please... Especially Rekha.

KK: 1:19:05

I love Rekha.

IN: 1:19:07

KK: 1:19:07
I love Rekha.

IN: 1:19:08
I know now he’s changed but at that time you should see an early picture. And there was also some... You know, Asha Parekh, oh my God, they got whiskers. And Meena Kumari fat. She was... And they were…

KK: 1:19:26
She doesn't know how to dance properly.

IN: 1:19:26

KK: 1:19:27
She doesn't know how to dance properly.

IN: 1:19:28
But they were going all gaga over it. Then we have this Raj Kapoor - sissy as they come. He was so sissy. [Inaudible] was trying to be so macho, but he was so female, femme. I hate all of them. I never liked the heroes, they were so sissy. Like Pardeep Kumar. He had more makeup than the heroine had the makeup. Oh God.

KK: 1:19:54
Did you use to watch the women and want to like… Did you watch Hindi films and want to...

IN: 1:19: 57
Yes, I watch Hindi film. I never identify with them because those women are fat. Most of them are really, really... like Nargis has a face never ends, you know…

KK: 1:20:16
What about the playback singers? Do you know...

IN: 1:20:18
Oh, I love playback singer. I love Mukesh. I love Mukesh. I love Mukesh. Rafi so so, but Mukesh, that was my favorite. Thank God they didn't have any TV at that time. Who wants to be with Lata, honest to God? Why are you laughing?

KK: 1:20:49
For a woman she has a beautiful voice.

IN: 1:20:43
Get out of here! Anyway so, you know, if she sings” bahon mein chale aao hum se sanam kya pardah”... Do you think any man who's not drunk will be with her? God forbid. I am so glad they didn't have a TV at that time.

And what about newer singers? Are you still...

IN: 1:21:03
New singers, yeah some of them I like. New singers, I don't even know their names. But they come and go. Like Himesh Reshmiya

KK: 1:21:15

IN: 1:21:15
Himesh Reshmiya. That girl is too much. She thinks she’s better than Rafi.

KK: 1:21:22
But what do you think about Bollywood Indian actors being gay but not being out? And like do you think… And Hollywood actors...

IN: 1:21:32
Hollywood, the same thing is in Hollywood. In 30s and 40s everybody was fucking everybody in Hollywood…

KK: 1:21:38
If you think they came out, they would change…

IN: 1:21:40
No… Yeah. If they came out, they will not get any work done. You know, Jodie Foster here in this country, Hollywood... Do you think if she was the love interest of anybody in the movie, people will believe it?

KK: 1:21:54

IN: 1:21:55
No. Richard Gere, no matter how much he kiss Shilpa Shetty, she still a girl. And so, it's not that... It's a sad thing but this is true. In dramas, you know, see what happen is a make believe world. Hollywood or Bollywood or drama or natik. You are what you're not. But people believe in it. In olden time, Radha and Sita was played by boys. So, everybody knew they’re boys. But the thing is, it’s a make believe. In Shakespeare drama, they are most of them, women are played by guys. Like in that play says “No, please, don't let me play a woman. I have a beard coming.”

KK: 1:22:51
That’s Midsummer Night's Dream.

IN: 1:22:54
Midsummer Night's Dream, yes.

KK: 1:22:59
I want to ask you something a little different. How did you and Prem meet?

IN: 1:23:06
We met in a restaurant, you know?

KK: 1:23:09
Can you tell me the...

IN: 1:23:12
No, there was no glamour story. I was hungry. I was yearning for Indian food or Pakastani food. The closest thing I got, somebody said there’s this… And I went there and I met Prem over there. So, he fried me and he rolled my heart through my stomach. That's the glamour story you want to hear. There's no glamour story. He was there, he was working there. He was a chef... And whenever some Indian comes or Pakistani looking, they meet each other and I met him. And then we start dating. And then I found out he was married. So, I quit because I don't want to do anything with married people. So, I met him after three, four years. And he was in a bad shape. And I ask “What happened to you?” He said “Now I'm divorced.” And you know this and this… So, we start dating again. And then we start living together. That's how we are. Now we’re living like old couple who don't do anything with each other.

KK: 1:24:20
In your activism and your performances, has he played a role...

IN: 1:24:25
The biggest role he played was this, that he put my feet on the ground. Because I was a very flighty person. I was running around, you know, here and there. But he brought stability in my life, you know. So, I bought this place and he’s partner… He's with me for all the time and, you know, he cooks food. And he still thinks he's straight. So, I'd never let him know that he's not because of the reason he's dating me. He thinks he’s straight. So, I let him be. If he thinks he’s… So what if he slept with a guy for 20 years, doesn’t make him gay. So then a big glamorous story behind it is a boy met a boy and that’s it.

KK: 1:25:20
But not many people have that story, or not enough people have that story.

IN: 1:25:24
Doesn’t matter, you know, partnership… I would rather have a good partnership than a bad partnership. I would rather not have any partnership than a bad partnership. So, you know, we are partners in life. So that's what it is. And, you know, like everybody else, I have dreams that I should have this and that, but, you know... Under the name of life, whatever you get, and if you're comfortable with it, just do it.

KK: 1:25:59
In terms of your everyday life, you're one of the best dressers I've seen. What… Who is your inspiration?

IN: 1:26:09
Nobodys my inspiration!

KK: 1:26:10
When you're getting ready to go out into the world...

IN: 1:26:11

KK: 1:26:12
And you look in your gorgeous closet of all your furs, how do you make your decisions?

IN: 1:26:17
It's just at the whim of whatever I feel, you know. Today, I wanted to go out because I haven't been out for a couple of days, so I wanted to wear leather. So, I picked up the leather coat, leather pants, and put some jewelry on. And that's what it is.

KK: 1:26:35
You said before that you would come back to your life as when you were prostituting yourself…

IN: 1:26:44
But still do, still do.

KK: 1:26:46
You still do?

IN: 1:26:46
Yeah, sometime. If I get a blind man… I am just kidding.

KK: 1:26:54
I mean what...

IN: 1:26:55
I do brain prostitution: I write.

KK: 1:26:58
You sell your mind.

IN: 1:26:59

KK: 1:27:00
You know, you keep joking with me and sometimes I’m not sure if you're joking about selling my body, but how do you, you know... How do you feel about prostitution? About that time in your life and about people who do need to prostitute themselves? And what are the material conditions that put them in that position now?

IN: 1:27:22
Honey, you're looking at me when I'm old and ugly. You should have seen me when I was young and ugly. Anyway, that's not the point. The point is that... From early childhood I knew that my body is gonna change. My metabolism is gonna change. Because a gay person age very fast. You know, when you're 16 in dog years, in gay years you're 60. Trust me. And what happened was…

KK: 1:27:53
Are you saying that from your perspective or from the perspective of the gay community?

IN: 1:27:56
Gay community perspective and my perspective at the same time because I'm a part of the gay community. You can disagree with me on everything. You can do whatever you want to do. But the thing is, my experience is that... Do whatever you have to do to help it make it through the light. Nobody’s going to help you in a gay word. You know, especially straight people are never going to help you. It's a very sad thing. In the real life… In a gay person's real life, not only you... A lot of people will not understand your gayness. So, you have to do whatever you have to do to make your life the best life in the world. You know, and if... At this point in my age if I was down and out or mediocre nobody would care. Now they care for me because I showed them gay people are not... doesn't mean loser. Anybody could be a loser and anybody could be a winner. You have to be what you are and follow your heart. Follow that yellow brick road. It will take you to Texas. It will take you anywhere. Kansas, Dorothy. You should follow that yellow brick road. That will take you to Kansas. So, that's what I did: I follow my heart and did whatever I had to to make my life better. I never looked down upon anybody. I never looked down upon myself. I was like Mae West, I would rather be looked over and than overlooked. That's why I wear the best clothes whenever I can get. And it doesn't take much to wear the best clothes. There's a very few dollars difference. But I wear it with a mix and match. I love it. You know I... There's a Vogue magazine sitting here. I... Look at this, in spite of all the intellectual, beautiful books, philosophy books, I still sponsor Inquirer and Vogue. And I love it. I learn a lot from this.

KK: 1:30:33

IN: 1:30:34
So, you know, I know when I move, go in a room I... Who said that? Effortlessly I take over the whole thing. Yeah, he said that. What’s his name? Dustin, he wrote that synopsis, that Ifti whenever he gets in a room, “He effortlessly becomes the main focus of the room.” And I learn that trick too, because I have to sell my bod when I was young. So, now it’s payback time! Oh, ouch. Any other question? When will we keep on... It’s interesting. But we will keep on doing it, but let me just rest a little bit.

KK: 1:31:28
Yes, now I was gonna say, yeah, I want to end on that note.

IN: 1:31:32
Don’t end it on that note!

KK: 1:31:33
Just today, I want to end today...

IN: 1:31:35
Today on that note.

KK: 1:31:36
Because I like that a lot.

IN: 1:31:37
I’m tired.

KK: 1:31:40
Before anything, do you have questions you want to ask me or anything?

IN: 1:31:45

KK: 1:31:46
No, okay.

Collection: Mustafa Saifuddin Fellowship Project
Item History: 2020-03-09 (created); 2021-12-30 (modified)

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