09 July 2011

Three Letter Word For 'Being Happy'

It's something that I've been wondering about for the past few days. When did I first hear the word being used? It's like trying to remember the first time you heard about the concept of death, or money, or air conditioners, I guess. It's just something that we grew up with.

The word 'gay'.

Before you raise your eye brows in suspicion, let me quell any fears. This is not a pro - gay rights post. Nor is it a religious tirade against homosexuality. Actually, the issue I have, is at the other end of the spectrum.

There's a memorable high school incident that my friends and I always recollect with a chuckle. Once, during a Physics class, two friends of mine were sitting in the last row. One of them, perhaps out of sheer boredom, decides to press the other's knee cap. Don't ask me why, it was Physics class after all. More foolish things have been attempted in classrooms across the country.

Anyhow, the teacher, who was pacing around the class, spotted the knee pressing, from a particularly biased angle. Perhaps out of sheer surprise, she cried out:

"Shankar! What are you doing!"

All of us whipped our heads back, just in time to understand what was happening. And for the next three days, Shankar had quite a tough time in school.

Years later, now I realize something odd about this story. The Physics teacher was, practically speaking, yelling at Shankar for not paying attention in class. But we assumed that she was surprised by Shankar's actions. To us, it was a classic 'gay' joke.

Have you ever heard one of those? A quip or a remark that implied someone was gay? You must have, because they're present everywhere. In classrooms, movies, sitcoms. Especially sitcoms.

It's come to such a stage where guys having a hug, or giving a hand shake, comes under intense scrutiny and subsequent teasing. And sometimes, it gets in the way of real bonds. There's a scene in the Hindi movie Dostana, in which Abhishek Bachhan and John Abraham end up pretending to be gay. After a heartfelt moment, John looks at Abhishek and says, "Don't take this the wrong way, but I love you."

It's a poignant dialog, not just in the case of the movie, but when reflected in our lives as well. We - speaking about guys of all ages - have been so sensitized to 'gay' behavior, that we often forget to act human. Sharing a hug, letting a buddy know that he means a lot to you. All of it is now laughed off with an embarrassed shrug.

I once read a quote by someone who lamented the fact that the word gay - initially meaning 'to be happy' - had assumed negative meaning in popular culture. I have no such laments.

I only wish I wouldn't have to quote John Abraham every time we wanted to tell a guy how important he is to me.

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  1. this is the last place wer i expected this incident to be put up... jackasss...... arrghh... :P :D

    i LOVE you mate....
    best pal a guy can have... :D

  2. For some reason, I remember you writing about this stigma almost 2 years ago. Anyway, good one as usual :)