I have known Ajesh for a little more than 10 years now. The first time I met him was at work. He struck me as a quite, thoughtful guy. It took him a couple of months to really get comfortable and open up. That’s when I realized that he has a really cool sense of humor, incisive wit and a sharp unique outlook to life. And ofcourse, he is very talented at what he does. A few months of his joining our team, I remember someone teasing him about his “special friend”. And that’s all the encouragement I needed to really launch into a full scale inquisition into who his love interest was, does he have a picture we could gawk at, what is she like, etc. Yes, I assumed his friend was a girl. All of us at work did. And now when I think back, Ajesh didn’t correct us. He never did wear his sexuality on his sleeve. Straight people don’t so why would one expect him to be different.
Back then I was very young, foolish, insensitive and too full of myself to think before I spoke. I remember making flippant remarks like – “Oh, that’s so gay!” And that was perhaps one of tamer things I said that was derogatory and mean. Again, when I think back now; all these probably made Ajesh even more uncomfortable to be his true self in front of me or in front of all of us at work. Inspite of all this we did manage to have some really great times together…some very memorable fun times – working late into the night on campaigns, gossiping about our colleagues, etc.
The first time I realized Ajesh was out, was at a mutual friends wedding. We all had a few drinks, our spirits were soaring and there was general bonhomie in the air. That’s when Ajesh introduced me to his partner and wham! it hit me in the face. A mix of happiness and utter shame took over me as thoughts rushed through my head of all the times I had unknowingly hurt him with my remarks. Our friendship had many ups and then a sharp down which has since plateaued. My insensitivity was perhaps a major contributing factor.
Life is a series of lessons. This one was a rude awakening. Being open-minded is good. But being sensitive and accepting are the next steps that truly seal the deal on openness. Ajesh accepted my foolishness, taught me a few things and all this in his own quiet and thoughtful way. I used to be young and foolish back then. Today when I am much older, I am a little less foolish thanks to him.
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