101 Q Dates: With the Beautiful as a HUG volunteer


Editor’s note: 101 Q Dates is an initiative by Dolly Koshy, a social activist from Bangalore. This is an account of her 101 dates with different people from the LGBTQIA+ community. All 101 Q dates will be blogged. The aim of these 101 dates is LGBTQIA+ sensitisation more than finding a partner.

Shruti sang her way into my heart. I first noticed and started talking to her at a dinner organized by ASQ: All Sorts of Queer. As I kept in touch with her after that night, I got to know how dedicated and loving she is to her family and friends and of her many talents including singing and poetry writing. Despite being very young, she has the maturity and depth that I rarely see even in many older people.

Shruti is a data analyst in an IT company and will soon be leaving India to do her master in Italy. In her own words, “At any given time I can be seen reading books, singing to a random tune or writing”.  I was completely bowled over when she sang a song in Malayalam. A non speaker of Malayalam singing a Malayalam song so well amazed me beyond words.

Date 2 of 101 was sponsored by HUG – Gift a meal. HUG is a group of citizens that have come together to create a Hunger Free Society.

Any restaurant or cafe can sign up to be a HUG certified restaurant. This allows the outlets to place table cards informing diners that if they choose to pay Rs. 30/- over and above their docked bill, HUG will ensure that it goes toward a hot meal for the underprivileged.

When Madhumita Kalauny who I know through The Friday Convent (TFC) came to know about the 101 Q Dates, she asked if one of my dates and I wanted to volunteer at a HUG’s event and I agreed to volunteer without an after thought.

After numerous feeding programs and months of understanding the gaps, HUG launched the Gift a meal with a HUG at World on a Plate. Hug’s #GiftAMeal program was announced and endorsed by the Masterchefs at the WORLD ON A PLATE 2017.  The event started with the  lovely children of Sahasra Deepika interacting with the chefs and having a breakfast treat of dosas made by them.

The day of our date was a gorgeous Saturday morning. I was determined to not let butterflies get the better of me and let my anxiety make a mess of my date. I reached Shruti’s place early and while I waited to pick her up, I decided it was time for a dose of caffeine to soothe my frazzled nerves.

Shruti had mentioned the previous night that she would be little nervous and to excuse her, if she was not her normal self on the date, so I was determined to make her feel very comfortable that she would forget her nervousness.

We arrived at the venue at 8.50 and met Paluk Khanna who had arrived with the kids much earlier. She put us in charge of looking after the kids and arranging the stall where HUG was going to sell baked products from home bakers donated for the cause.  I met a friend Geetha Krishnan who is also from The Friday Convent (TFC) was a volunteer for the HUG stall.

The lovely children of Sahasra Deepika who HUG brought to interact with the chefs were bunch of disciplined, full-of-life young girls. Most of them were sure of what they wanted from their future. I could not help but think that if these young girls were allowed to live their life and future as they envisioned, India would be better place. Why does patriarchy crumple the dreams of so many young girls?

After the kids finished having the dosas, it was time for us to leave. We handed the kids back to Paluk Khanna. And obviously, the smell of dosas had left us very hungry. So we stopped for tea at one of Shruthi’s favorite place. As we bonded over masala chai, I looked for some masala of my own: I asked her why she went out on a date with me. To which Shruti said, “It is to make myself and the people who read the blog understand that it’s the same as any other date. Two people hanging out, talking about their lives, seeing if they like the other person. I was homophobic a few years ago. Now, on the other side of the fence, I expected to see scandalous things, except they’re not. We are all human and our needs to love, be loved and find a partner, are all the same.”

As we headed back home, I couldn’t help but think about how regardless of our differences, we all have similar dreams, desires and hopes. I guess that’s what makes us human. And that’s what makes us a community.

Shruthi’s Experience and Version of the Date

I thought being differently oriented in gender and sexual identities from the “norm” was a difficult situation, especially in a country like ours. But only recently have I been witness to stories of horror and hatred. I can empathize how something so different from the hetero-normative can be seen as a threat – it’s unknown, rarely seen much less understood. Hence this attempt at understanding the lives of the LGBTQI seems like the right way to spread awareness and dispel any antagonism towards all precious life.

The first time I met Dolly, she resembled a lion (not a lioness, a lion!), all raring to go at the Pride. She was the epitome of what I thought a “Lesbian” looked like. I was impressed, although the ‘Out & Proud’ attitude was more than I could handle. I had only recently discovered myself.

The second time I met Dolly, it was at a fun night at Nosh & Tipple. Dolly was drunk and was flirting with me. She managed to outrage me with almost all that she said. I was convinced that I would most likely never see her again. But in between that night and the date, 3 things made me realize that there’s much more to Dolly than what I had seen in one evening:

  1. I read a novel she co-authored that I loved (Book: Broken Jars; Fistful of Dreams). A must read for all, as it deals with a lot of psychological and social issues.
  2. She made intelligent conversation  whenever I talked to her
  3.  And she has this huge heart which tells her to do too much (atrociously too much) good to others!

So, when Dolly called me on the night before the date and asked me out for a ‘Volunteering’ date, I was initially disappointed that she only considered me a filler (the person she had planned the volunteering event with could not make it at the last moment). But, I realised that this kind of filler asking out could only come with a sense of trust and comfort. After making her promise she won’t kill a flower for me, I agreed.

On Date Day, Dolly is overcompensating and arrives early to pick me up. I am ready with a bag full of handkerchiefs for my cold (so there goes the possibility of kissing, sigh!) and off we go. She’s a careful rider, I am the irritating pillion that you never want sitting behind you. We reach our destination and are put in charge of the most disciplined set of girls. All we had to say was ‘Attention!’ and they’d be ready for NDA.

The kids, a surprise run-in with an old friend, the volunteering cause (hunger management) and all the hullabaloo around the Master chefs made it a very satisfying and fun event. I was immensely moved by the two things I saw that day – compassion for life, and the complete normalcy in a same sex date. (Yes, nothing scandalous occurred, imagine that!)

After the event, we went to a cosy tea place and spoke some more. Dolly gave me her complete attention the whole time, which I loved! (except for a call on car insurance. After all, car insurance is definitely a priority). And as we headed back home, I had a smile on my face for the wonderful time and utter comfort I felt in the presence of Dolly. I knew Dolly, the activist, who helps every person she could. This date left me with a feeling of immense pride for a soul whose compassion for life is unquestionable. And yes, now I am a little less scared of dates.

Disclaimer: Hidden Pockets is media partner with 101 Q Dates. Published with author permission from the original blog

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