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Meeting of minds

Women who have fought their battles and arrived in life, refrain from judging and excluding people, come together to celebrate life

The biggest personal battle we fight is to acknowledge ourselves as we are, and not pretend to be who we aren’t for social consumption. Coming out may therefore be traumatic as well as an empowering  experience, sometimes life saving. It’s not just about sexuality.

After the battle is fought and won, these women meet often to spend time with each other. That’s their way of celebrating life, to get stoned and drunk, share a meal prepared together. And because they are so comfortable in their skin, and so content, they invariably are fun to be with.

They are not militant about who they are, it’s not even mentioned — they don’t hide it either. They feel no need to convert others, or judge them, or exclude them. They don’t go about advocating their point of view to the rest of the world. But they are supportive of all those who are trying to come to terms with their reality.

One of them, the bright star, is Anumitra Ghosh. A chef par excellence, also a PhD in linguistics, she is one of many hosts of such gatherings. She takes the responsibility of feeding the crowd, they all join in, help her cook, while getting drunk. She has a charismatic presence, all seem to love her for their own good reasons.

In her own unpretentious way, she exemplifies the contours of an alternative life. Fluidity, or lack of binaries, is her credo. She is attracted to the feminine energy in people, not necessarily confined to a gender.

Unlike ‘hen parties’— considered the feminine counterpart of stag parties — there’ll be like-minded people from all walks of life.  A typical invite would read, ‘Now that the monsoon is finally here, it’s time to party! XXX’s mother’s house in Gurgaon is conveniently free, so come by on Sunday for a cool, breezy, rainy party. We’ll have the food, music, terrace, garden and dog on tap. You bring the booze. Let us know if you’re interested and we’ll send you the address and directions. You’re welcome to stay the night!’

So, typically, all sit around in a circle, there’s a ready supply of alcohol, people are encouraged to open doors of perception so that they may shed inhibitions that are quintessentially the burden of self, and do what they want to, and not what they are supposed to do. People end up doing things that please them, not please others, and that’s what makes the evening, which is a social gathering, a personal affair.

There are times, gregarious people are seen sitting in a corner, smoking a cigarette, staring into oblivion, enjoying their solitude in a crowd. Music is played loud, in that state of mind people tend to internalise every note, every word. Music then becomes a universal heartbeat, all are in sync with it. Songs, familiar, heard a thousand times before, seem so different and enthralling.

These are, mostly women, of varied age groups, successful in their chosen areas of work: journalists, artists, photographers, corporate types, chefs and academics. They make one wholesome group, packed like sardines. But each of them have a personal bond with each other, empathise, absorb and observe. They are interested and invested, are frank and candid, heartfelt in their deliberations. It’s a retreat, not just a treat.

People dress up, not for the occasion, but for themselves. So if there’s a dress code, it’s random.  Anumitra usually wears a lungi and a short kurta with sleeves rolled up. A young lady who works in the corporate sector wears saris. Her partner is androgynous with a soft heart, dressed in jeans and shirt.  A photographer and journalist with a streak of white hair exudes an air of stability, aplomb and dances like nobody’s watching.

Of course, there are jealousies and heartburn. There are insecurities on display. It’s a venue to celebrate vulnerabilities. “I will not say no to you,” or “You are allowed to do anything to me,” are assertions of confidence.

They are committed to the extent of dedication to share their mind, to own up, to explore.  It does so much good to confess love for someone. Or to be face to face with one’s forlornness.

When the mind is relaxed, everything looks bright in the umbral light, candles flickering at a distance, the simmering red at the mouth of a cigarette, smoke hanging low, defining the nebulousness of the whole experience.