Starving Towns

Sadooj wandered around aimlessly in the small town he chose to live in. "You know....I don't really have a choice....I need to look after my family...", he would say often, to men and boys who visited his town and asked him why wouldn't he leave with them. He would visit the same street every day in his car. Always in his car. Never on foot. No one walked in this town. Everyone drove. Well...atleast who could afford not to walk. When you did walk, women and men who came to this town to build the roads Sadooj drove on, accompanied you. They would look at you if asking you if you knew where those roads ended. And where their road would begin. Sadooj dreamt small dreams. Small dreams in Sadooj's big house. And his big car. "But everyone has big houses in this town", he would point out often, to men and boys who gawked at sprawling mansions. You think you know Sadooj, but you don't.  

"You know, it's really hard to meet 'decent' guys in this one really talks...or wants to hang out or listen to each other.....", Sadooj said. Troubled by the fact that me doing the bare minimum of listening to him qualified me to be a 'decent guy', I ignored the fact that every fucking person in every fucking city says the same fucking sentence over and over again. To be honest, I was a bit starved myself. I hadn't fucked the whole year and I was desperate to feel a stranger's lips on mine. So intensely impatient for a stranger's hand to graze against mine. "Ok, so tell me about your first boyfriend...your first love...?", I prompted Sadooj because he seemed to be lost in his thoughts while driving along never-ending mustard farms. Nothing gets me on like melancholic homo trauma. But Sadooj didn't have to know that. "We met only once. We got in touch through...uh.....Planet Romeo...I think. He lived in a different state. But he managed to convince his family to go on a trip to Amritsar. He obviously couldn't take out time to meet me while he was with his family because that would have invited unwanted questions about how we knew each other. So we decided that he would get his family to the McDonald's near a tourist spot. I waited for him at the restaurant. When I saw him come in, I went to the bathroom......he came in few minutes later.....and was in the bathroom only for a few seconds. We saw each other from a distance and that was that......didn't even touch each other....", Sadooj ended this story, dramatically taking off his sunglasses and glancing sideways into my eyes. I think he knew this was exactly the kind of story I wanted to hear.

"I like you", Sadooj said.

"This is literally the first time we are meeting. We might not even meet again", I responded within a second, rather rudely. 

"We are going to kiss by the end of this date. I guarantee you", Sadooj said, all too smugly. 

"Acha*....." My mask hid my irritated smile. But it felt so good to be desired after so long! After being hauled up inside many rooms, frantically moving across the world hoping not to catch the virus, only to be hauled up in another set of rooms hoping not to die from the virus. 

Bundala (Punjab), Oct 2020

Sadooj continued driving. More than Sadooj himself, I wanted to see the town that Sadooj refuses to leave. I was curious if romance really was integral to those never ending mustard fields. "You see those apartments? They are the first apartment complex in the city. But no one wants to live there. Who would want to live in an apartment!?", Sadooj pointed towards a dusty empty building with boring colors next to a vibrant mustard field. Ignoring my need to talk about gentrification patterns in rapidly changing towns, I tried focussing on whether Sadooj was a good kisser or not. Instead of imagining that apartment complex as a forced symbol of modernity in between farmer lands, I tried to focus on how steady Sadooj was with his hands. Would he grab my hair and pull it if I asked him to? After all, he had 'guaranteed' that we were going to kiss at some point? He kept driving and I kept wondering..... "What's your type?", I asked, trying to steer conversation towards possible sexy times. "I like guys who are not out know.....

[Yes, I knew]

.....don't get me wrong.....I have nothing against effeminate guys.....but you know....I like guys who are kind of guys are you into?"

"I am into guys who don't say what you just said".

Sadooj nervously laughed. "I like you though......

[Yes, I could tell]

......umm....what else.....uhh.....I don't like dark skinned guys.....

[oh lord]

"But you are pretty dark skinned yourself?"

....Am I though?....oh don't get me wrong....I am not racist....I have been to some 30 countries and I have even hooked up with east asian guys....

"Acha" know I really like talking to you. You just can't talk like this with guys here......they just don't understand...."

[lolz I mean can you blame them]

Sadooj kept driving. He would stop his car every now and then to pee at a gas station. When he left the car to pee, I would send frantic voice notes to my friends hysterically describing what had just transpired before. It was somehow calming to imagine a world on my phone where some people (like me) also found this equal part entertaining, equal part horny and equal part exasperating. Seriously though, were we going to kiss or not? I hadn't been touched for over a year. It seems, Sadooj too, was eager to find a spot in between those fields where he could stop his car. 

"You know I had a really famous photography Instagram account.....


....I used to take pictures of streets, of people, of buildings....I even had some 60k+ followers....


....but my ex boyfriend made me delete that account. He didn't like I was getting so much attention online and suspected that I was talking to a lot of guys online...

[lolz does any story end on a good note with him?] know I am quite dominant in bed......I like to be a little forceful..."



Sadooj finally began slowing down his car on the highway. He had found a spot in between the fields to park his car....unnoticed. The second he stopped his car in the middle of a farm, we both took our masks off and I leaned in to kiss him. Damn. He was a good kisser. Our tongues explored each other's mouths just as our hands moved towards each other's hard dicks. EXCUSE ME, WAS I GOING TO HAVE HOT STEAMY CAR SEX IN THE MIDDLE OF A FARM IN PUNJAB??? And just as I started unzipping his pants, we heard motorbikes come out of the field. Lolz. Two dashing sardar men on their motorbikes just passing through. We stopped making out - I smirked and Sadooj seemed tensed. I guess I didn't realize that I didn't carry the tension of being 'outed' in this small town. I was a 'visitor' after all. The motorbike men looked at us curiously and moved on. I saw this pause as an enterprising opportunity and got out of the car. "You are a good photographer, no? Take a picture of me like I am Simran running in DDLJ?", I asked. Sadooj smiled and directed me to a spot in between the farm and took some pictures of me. Damn. He was a good photographer. 

"Would you mind if I did something crazy?", he asked me. Oh god, he was going to say some more dumb shit. But, he asked me if we could go to his house together. I wasn't too keen, because I knew what that meant AND he wasn't out to his family. I think I have crossed that age where I pretend to be a guy's 'friend' just so that I could 'pass'. "I think your parents will obviously know I am not your 'friend'. And if they ask me how we know each other, I am straight up going to tell them that we are on a date", I spat out, a bit rudely. But Sadooj insisted that his parents never care enough to ask. I think I knew why he felt comfortable taking me to his house. I started spiralling. I felt shitty for not living my true 'gender non-conforming' self. I felt disappointed in my queerness. I felt that I was letting myself down just for a quick fuck. As if getting fucked is not queerness? I knew the answers to my questions and my answers invited more questions and so on. Instead of vomiting out all of my dilemma(s) to Sadooj, I just told him that going back to his house would feel like I am taking steps back in my own queer-femme journey. That it would feel like I was being dishonest to myself and that his closet/not-in-the-closet journey was being forced onto me when I wanted nothing to do with it. We think we are 'passing' in front of our hook up's family but c'mon, we are not. And I knew this would be constantly on my mind when his parents/household members would look at me. Wow. I wanted to be the carefree foreign return gurl sucking a dick in the middle of a farm but I was being pushed into a cliché small town homo narrative! 

Well turned out Sadooj thought otherwise. He kept insisting on going back to his house and I kept saying no. The romantic fields suddenly felt hostile. It dawned on me that I had no clue where these highways led. Sadooj was burly and could easily overpower me. When the town I was somewhat familiar with started coming into our view, I felt a little assured. Sadooj kept insisting and I kept saying no. "Alright, just the main gate of my house. Just come say hello to my dogs and that's it", he said. Doggo > Sadooj. He stopped his car in front of his house and I cautiously walked to the gate. My whole body was so fucking tensed! I could feel the hardness of every inch of my shoulders. He called out to his dog (I forget his name...) and his dog was gorgeous! I hugged him. I played with him. I took photographs with him. "Why don't you come inside...there are dog treats inside the main entrance hall and you can feed him?". Ok, that didn't seem too bad. Also, I am not stupid. I knew what game Sadooj was playing. So we went in to the main hall and guess what. Both of his parents see me and give me very shifty eyes. They knew. A part of me felt a little happy about not 'passing off' as one of his bros. I fed his dog and told him that it really was time for me to leave and get back to my house and could he please drop me? While we move out of the hall, in front of his mother, Sadooj starts walking upstairs. He says, "hey, your hands must be dirty after playing with the dog. Why don't you use the washroom in my room to clean yourself up?" This entitled FUCKER. I swear to god if ever there has ever been a moment in my life when I felt outing someone just purely out of spite - it was right then. Who the fuck was he fooling! Also fuck me for acting like a coy twink. I think I use this category as a shield to maneuver masculinities around me - but Sadooj's house was not the right moment. Red sirens went off in my head (they were beeping every now and then but this time, they exploded) and I started walking out of the house, very casually and smiling and oh-so-daintily and "gosh no I am already imposing, please I MUST get back to my home haha". His mother continued to glare at me, not realizing that her son was possibly going to assault me in his room because, you know, he is so dominant in bed and all the men he has met in his life loved that about him. 🙄 😒  After seeing me walk out of the house, Sadooj followed me to his car parked outside. I did not utter a single word, thanking the mask for saving me from controlling my face's emotions - and mostly hiding my anger-fear-disgust-exhaustion. Finally, fucking finally, Sadooj started driving me back to my house. 

- - - - - - -

While driving back from his home to his date's house, Sadooj felt the heaviness of his heart. His fingers shook a little while steering his car amidst the evening traffic. His eyes shifted in between the road and his date along with shifting gears. Why don't people ever follow the traffic rules in this town! Ah crap, the traffic police! Sadooj quickly put his face mask back on. He had already been fined by them thrice. The date was going well....until it wasn't. He thought he had finally met someone who he could spend time with. "Are you okay?", Sadooj asked his date. 

"Yeah..I am fine. I just want to get to my house. Please don't loiter around. It's a pretty straightforward route", the date answered.

God, why was he being so rude! Sadooj had been so nice to him. Much nicer than he usually is with the men in this town, to be honest. Nobody listens to him! He even took the date to his house goddamnit. Made him meet the doggo! Took amazing pictures of him! "Are you okay?", the date asked. Well...that was surprising. Sadooj got the impression that the date didn't care much. He wasn't expecting this question back. "I am okay...just a little sad", he answered. 

"Sad? Why?", the rude date asked...a bit rudely.

"I keep falling for the wrong kind of men.........the kind who wouldn't love me back........" Wait, did the date just roll his fucking eyes at him! Fucking NRIs**. Think they are better than everyone here. He should have just left him in the middle of those fields on the highway. Why is to hard to connect with people in this town! Sadooj wondered if running away to Delhi once every two months was the only way he would meet guys who are not as stuck up as this date. Nevertheless, he drove around the town ignoring the date's incessant annoying demands to drop him to his house immediately. Despite all his rude misgivings, he wanted to spend more time with the date. "You can just drop me here, my house is just a few minutes walking distance", the date said. "No-no. I'll drop you in front of your house. We are quite chivalrous in this town", Sadooj smiled kindly. Wow, the date just rolled his eyes again. Ok fuck this. Sadooj thought about shoving the date out of his moving car but applauded himself for his patience. They finally reached the date's house. Sadooj reached out for a hug and kissed him on his cheek. He was chivalrous after all! And kind. And polite. And sexy. And so horny. He bid the date goodbye. Good riddance! Sadooj didn't look back in the rear-view mirror like he usually would whenever he would drop his dates to their homes. He was sad and a bit glad that his Simran actually turned out to be more like Simran's father. 

"They think they know me....but they don't", Sadooj muttered under his breath while driving back to his home, thinking about that beer can in his refrigerator he hadn't opened yet. Maybe he would watch DDLJ tonight....hmm....

Jalandhar (Punjab), November 2020


*Acha (Hindi): Usually 'acha' is used to indicate agreement or uttered to indicate that you understand the sentence spoken - but could also indicate sarcasm or disapproval depending on the speaker's tone. I think it's one of the those ambiguous Hindi terms that could be used ways. He he

** NRI - Non-resident Indians. In Punjab particularly, there is a massive cultural desire to become a 'NRI' - which has less to do with economic mobility and more to do with socio-cultural capital and conspicuous consumerism


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