India: Meet Aruna Desai, mother and ally

As 3 February 2018 marks the Queer Azadi Pride March in Mumbai, we're publishing six compelling coming-out stories: first-person accounts of coming out about your sexuality or gender to friends, loved ones, colleagues or even to yourself. This interview was part of Harish Iyer's 'I’m Coming Out', published by Juggernaut Books, in which the personalities he speaks with explore what it means to be gay in India.

Mumbai is a city that boasts of many things. It is also the queer capital of India, and has a thriving group of empathetic people who work together to help others who are grappling with their sexuality and gender identity. One such admirable person is Aruna Desai.

Aruna Desai is my friend Abhishek Desai’s mother. I fondly call her Aruna Aunty. I first met Aruna Aunty at a parents’ meet organized by Gay Bombay – a support group for gay people. My mother was on the panel and Aruna Aunty was in the audience. While my mother was naïve and shy about speaking in public, Aruna Aunty was exactly the opposite. She is like a modern-day Jhansi ki rani when it comes to standing up for her child’s rights, and for others like him

"I still remember the date when he came out to me. It was 3 December 2007," she said, beaming with pride. "Abhishek and his friend had told me about their friend whose family had not accepted his sexuality. Before that I had not known there was a thing such as homosexuality."

Aruna Aunty was born into a middle-class Maharashtrian family. She has three sisters and a brother. For the past three decades, she has worked in the human resource and administration department of a firm that specialises in making elevators. She is as dedicated to her work as she is to the causes she undertakes – which are several. She often donates money to a children’s home and helps soldiers’ families. Sometimes, you’ll spot her in an old-age home, spending time with people, listening to their stories and making sure they have everything they need. Whenever I bump into her and ask her what she’s up to, the answer is always the same – she is helping someone, either financially or emotionally. She is always the first to step up when it comes to organising events or contributing to social causes. Read more via First Post