Sometimes it takes a book chat to make us realize that life is more than what we think it is. The 14th Book Chat by Parvatibai Chowgule College, English Tygers’ Club, was held on Funny Boy by Shyam Selvadurai. Shyam Selvadurai is a Sri Lankan Canadian novelist who won the Lambda Literary Award for this fiction. Funny Boy is a tale about Arjie and his journey discovering his sexual identity. Although we celebrated proudly, the Pride Month, we are still to see a lot more happening concerning providing equal rights and recognition for the LGBTQ+ community.
If we did not take this book for discussion, perhaps we would have not attempted to understand what it is for people like Arjie, the protagonist of the novel, to discover their sexuality or identity. Society as we discussed, fashions us according to its norms. It shapes our thinking; it provides us ideas as to what we should aim at becoming and what we must be as male and female persons as rightly pointed out by Anupama Mehra, Principal of Navy Children School, Dabolim. The society nurtures and shapes us, and we become its humble yet proud products that we do not want to mould ourselves further.
We categorize people and their sensibilities into certain labels that victorious histories or powerful people have created in the past. The book opens our horizons to understanding that there is a lot more to life, then the already known categories of male and female. We cannot restrict gender to just these two categories. And if we limit ourselves to these two only, then we lack imagination as noted by Shubhaangi Thakur, an assistant professor of Chowgule College. Sadly, we do not want to think beyond our comfort zones nor allow others who want to think and live freely. Free in their ways of understanding and expressing their sexualities. Religions, for instance, have always boxed human beings into categories. And religious leaders have sometimes been rigid to ideas related to sexuality and marriage.
Although many schools in Christian thought deny homosexual activity and orientation. Pastorally, the Catholic Church believes that we need to handle homosexual persons with more love and affection. Taking them into consideration and not ostracising them. Apart from its view of marriage being restricted to and between, male and female gender, the Church is very supportive of homosexual persons. No one’s sexuality is invulnerable to sin, all of us are susceptible to sin, but what matters is that we dedicate ourselves, our friendships, and companionship to the muse of our lives. Homosexuality, the Church considers, is just an adjective that describes one facet of the person, one part of his or her whole human person. So we cannot stigmatize a person because he or she is a homosexual. The more we can, we need to understand this fact gradually and accept everyone as they are.
Loretta Rodrigues, a student of Chowgules, felt it was irrelevant of the homophobic people to ask the homosexual persons in the relationship as to who was a male or female in the relationship. The confusion or dilemma experienced by Arjie as he said, “I would be caught between the boys' and the girls' worlds, not belonging or wanted in either” (Selvadurai 38). And the rigid mentalities that he and the like of him face on day to day basis.
Our bodies are homes to us, but when we face internal and external conflicts, this home gets distorted. Individually we strive to understand ourselves and make efforts to reconcile with the world. But the world is ready to pounce and create all the more conflicts. Jude Fernandes, a student of MES College, Zuarinagar, said that what made him realize towards the end of the book is that nothing is permanent. For Arjie, he had everything; a house, parents, friends, and relatives. His father owned a luxurious hotel, but because of the Civil War in Sri Lanka between the Sinhala majority and Tamil minority, everything shattered. Unfortunately, society’s rigidity and hard-heartedness have still left us handicapped.
Reading and discussing this book opened our horizons and left us thinking beyond the book. Devanshi Sharma, a bestselling author from Delhi, said that we ought to break from the stereotypes that we have lived with, created by the cinema that we watch, social media that influences us, music, television, and so on.
How shall we break through this? Finoshka Rodrigues, a student of Chowgules, felt that homosexuality, especially in Bollywood, is used as a comic relief until recently. Its representation is becoming authentic now. There is a dire need to present homosexuality in a more mature manner. Kimberley Monteiro, a counsellor of Rosary College, said just like Arjie, who grew from his beliefs in contrast to Radha Aunty in the novel, we need to grow from our beliefs. We need to learn to accept homosexual persons as they are and the homosexual persons should accept themselves as unique, which is difficult but not impossible, said Ryle Souto, a student of Chowgules. We are doing a lot to encourage students to express themselves, but a lot more has to be done. A lot of awareness has to take place among the students, teachers, etc. We must develop empathy and learn to accept rather than alienate the other person who feels different than us. Rujuta Borkar, an assistant professor of Chowgule College, said discussions such as these must be encouraged because they empower us, and the people around us. Finally, we may have concepts in our mind that we are clear about, but we ought to remain open to add and subtract our ideas and beliefs.