Ashok Row Kavi's letter to Riyad on the lgbt-india list-serve

4 Dec 2003

Dear Riyad,

I'm now composed and can write sensibly. So many of my messages disappear into cyber space that wonder where they go. Maybe into a secret cache where a special person reads them. I'm sure you'll read this one too and smile at we mortals still trudging down on planet earth.

Remember when we met that rather special sunny morning when you called me in to write about the intro to BomGay? We discussed about the old times, about the emerging same-sex sub cultures in India and how you were planning to paint Raj Rao's poems onto celluoid. We both laughed/sniggered about the secret loves of our Bollywood elite and giggled about the times gone by.

Of course, both of us knew we went a long way back. My Dad was your uncle Homi's partner in Basant Film Distributers, the first to set up office in the spanking new Naz Cinema complex in the late 1940s and distributed 'Hunterwali' and 'Sampoorna Ramayan' to boot.

I told you how I was there as a gawking child when Homi's friend, the fearless Nadia, hugged me tight during the annual Laxmi Puja, covering my ears with her huge breasts and I couldn't hear the pujari mumble his mantras. However, I always got my silver rupee from her even if Dad forgot to give it to me. What I remembered was her hearty laughter as she talked to everybody from the peons to the manager up in her own sing-song Anglo-Hindustani (Kaisa Hai Tum Man. Happy Lux-mee Poooojaaa).

And then like the whirlwind, you got into the social scene. I either read about you on Page 3 or through friends in the social stratosphere like Dolly Thakore or Sobhaa De. I had left that world far behind after my stint in journalism over two decades. Those were hard times -- you trying to break into Bollywood and me trying to get Humsafar Trust and Bombay Dost on their feet.

I remember you took such a long time to pay me for the back cover ad in Bombay Dost and we decided to share the booty from selling the video casettes of BomGay, a surreptious and subversive not very successful enterprise as the film was never censored and it was a criminal act to send it via the Indian postal service.

Of course, we had common friends. So we shall not name them but it was fun to consult each other when the top multinational bank officer got robbed by his doodhwala who he was giving BJs to and the crazy dinner we had when that naughty jewish American ordered a whole leg of roast beef and neither of us was willing to take the doggy bags home.

And sometimes you lost hope; you thought gay lib would never come to India with its strong suffocating family system and its closed circuit social scene where everybody bitched about everybody. Sometimes we would exchange family gossip or we would lament at how slow things were.

To cut matters short, you finally made it! Though you were always getting to every damn international film festival, you were really pissed off that they didn't give you work back home here. But you did manage to finally make it and that's the sad part. You were racing against time. And it was flying by at an horrendous pace.

When you phoned me that fateful morning to say that you weren't all that well, my heart sank. We laughed and shared the last email which you sent about the great gay and lesbian festival where there wasn't much to see from India (because they didn't think BomGay was worth showing).

We laughed our heads off at the pretentious piffle of the 'lesbo-fascists', as you called them, hiding behind hidebound hatred which would never be returned because it wasn't worth it.

You had an infectious laughter; it sort of blew the clouds away. And we had both decided on a course of action. The sad part is now it's a lonely furrow to plough and the way is dark and dreary.

But it was wonderful knowing you Riyad. Wherever you are, I remember you saying once that there were many Indias and that you were fighting the demons in just one of them.

Well, I am fighting them too. In another India!! And you can take it from me -- we will win the war though we may have lost a few battles on the way....

Farewell dear friend. As Ramakrishna of Dakshineswar used to say -- "When a servant says 'My Ram and My Laxman', he knows home is somewhere else. The servant knows that his master's house is never his own and neither are his master's children his own. His real home is somewhere else and he must return there someday".

Farewell friend, you have returned home.

Riyad Vinci Wadia. Rest in Peace

Ashok Row Kavi
4th.December 2003

PS: We had a special memorial for you in Maheshwari Garden on December 1. We stood in a huge circle under the stars, lit candles and we actually maintained a two-minute silence to wish you well.