Out and about: Three special men

Stories of three men who are part of the LGBTQ and their straight-ally collective.

 |  6-minute read |   27-06-2020
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As a 47-year-old gay man, this Pride month I share the stories of three very special men. Each one touching 28 years of age. Aamir Rabbani and Pandurang Saghbor are gay men. Vardaan Marwah is straight. Each of them is comfortable in his own skin, and so comfortable accepting others for who they are. Here are their stories, part of the LGBTQ and their straight-ally collective.

Treading with pride

Aamir Rabbani, an openly gay Muslim artist from Bihar, was born in Muzaffarpur. A small town, it still gave him all the tutelage and encouragement necessary to think big and act bold. At 18 he left Muzaffarpur to study in New Delhi. It was in Delhi that Aamir came out to friends and acquaintances even as he was discovering his own self. His work found new life and vigour as he freed himself from the chains of shame, self-doubt and denial. It is thus befitting to find in his work a deep understanding of societal norms and traditions. His compositions, lines and strokes, colours and stories, tell the tales of ordinary middle-class people, happy and sad, hungry and fulfilled, working and celebrating. His statements on life are not just about sexual identity, but also about human relations and humanity.

Winner of the Inside-Out art competition for Pride 2019 at the Lalit, New Delhi, and featured at the 2020 India Art Fair, Aamir’s work finds critical acclaim as easily as he wins friends and their admiration and respect. His is a wisdom and maturity that stems from what seems to be generational decency and decorum. That he was the art director and chief illustrator for Ravish Kapoor is but fitting for a man with such an incredible gift with pen and brush. What is most wonderful to see in Aamir’s work and person is the living and artistic rendering of a man at ease with himself and with the world he shares with others.

His life and work tread rather confidently with the vicissitudes of life seen by one that is a minority. Threading together stories of his gay identity with his Muslim birth, Aamir weaves images that raise as many questions as the emotions of awe they inspire. Wholesome art that speaks of a fulsome life. He paints imagery that might look plain, but the brilliance of his work lies in the masterful detailing. In the steady quirk of his brush strokes, swift delicacy of his water colouring, and masterful sketching, Aamir astounds and delights eyes, minds and hearts.

That a 28-year-old Muslim Bihari gay man living in New Delhi in 2020 is finding such ready welcome and comfort around sexuality and professional life, is a testament to how India is progressing in the right direction. I am proud to share this painting titled Treading and Threading (above) as inspiration for Pride Month. To see more of Aamir’s pieces and to purchase his work, visit his site at www.aamirrabbani.com.

How to find your grounding in life

Having come of age in Ahmednagar, Maharasthra, Pandurang Sagbhor moved to study architecture at the most prestigious School of Planning and Architecture (SPA) in New Delhi.

In between structure and layouts, drafting drawings and plans, Pandu, as he is known to friends, happened to put on heels and dance to a Beyoncé song. That day he found freedom, both from shackles he had put around himself and those put around him by societal judgment. The hot pants and high heels, new dress for him, gave resonance to the man and being he had known well all his life and had learned to hide from family, friend, and foe. In the rhythm of the music, he found grounding for his soul.

In the precarious challenge of the heels he found new purpose for honest reflection and introspection. In his bold performance, he inadvertently found a new métier — dance. Typical of his generation, he is comfortable trying whatever is presented to him by life and circumstance and then deciding if it’s for him or not. In a world that still grapples with endless cycles of bigotry and hate, where minorities themselves marginalize other minorities, the youngest among us are often the smartest in our brood.

Asked how dance and architecture can cohabit in one person, Pandu says, “Dance has given me a different perspective to look at my design practice as an architect. A choreographer sees things differently than an architect. As a dancer, I make sure I listen to my body and breathe into the movement. Architecture should breathe too. Designs turn out to be positively different once they find the ‘dance’ within. Rhythm, if articulated perfectly, can set an entirely different show for any piece of architecture.”

Pandurang is the name for Lord Vishnu, the preserver of all life. No surprise then that Pandu says he finds confidence in being himself and sharing his own truth “when I put on heels. More content, proud, and myself. I believe everyone must find their heels — grounding really— that makes them come alive in earnest.”

His Aai (mother) lives in Nashik, and that is where he calls home. Even though he has tried to come out to his mom a few times to no avail, he feels wherever one’s mother anchors, becomes one’s home. And in between going back home for Mom’s love, Pandu finds himself dancing and designing, creating and performing–both with soulful and soul-stirring rhythm.

Sweet blessing, indeed

Vardaan Marwah came into my life when I was least looking for a mentee or son. While dining at Rooh, a progressive Indian restaurant in Delhi, I found myself staring at a man who, with the sweetest, most sincere smile, handled a tricky situation for a restaurant and chef. That he was barely 27 and so wise made me think on my feet. Every challenge thrown deliberately his way he handled with utmost grace and savvy. What might have flummoxed and embarrassed his boss, the executive chef/owner, he approached with cheer and refreshing honesty. His was innocent candor with mature reflective reactions.

Mistakes are only misses if we do not learn from them. They are negatives when we cannot glean positives out of them. Vardaan soon after became the Chef de Cuisine of my restaurant, The House of Celeste in Gurgaon, working very closely with me on the menu and in setting the tone for business as a restaurant team.

As we wait and see how a restaurant offering fun dining in a finely nuanced and storied setting might survive the Covid lockdown, Delhi’s luck has turned for the better as Vardaan diligently works on baking delicious bespoke memories for the cognizant through his Instagram bakery, @GlazeFactory.

Glazing cakes, working hard as a loyal mentee, or simply being a decent and kind man, Vardaan shines where others might tremble and fall. His is an integrity and brilliance autochthonous to his mind, body and soul. Below he shares a recipe for Pistachio and Raisin Cookies. Make these and bless him, or bless yourself by ordering through Glaze Factory.

(Courtesy of Mail Today)

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Suvir Saran Suvir Saran @suvirsaran

Suvir Saran is a highly acclaimed and award winning chef, author, and public speaker

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