The other day I went to my partner’s mom’s home. She had invited me for Diwali, after 22 years of my being with her son. I sat with her over the season’s greetings and made small talk. After all these years, her acceptance should not have mattered much but it did. And today, after thought, I realized why it mattered.

I am a family guy. Always have been. Apart from not having a father in the real sense of the word, I have had a marvellous family. I grew up knowing freedoms. The right to choose, the right to be, the right to love. I was taught this by fierce women, in both my maternal and paternal families.

My grandmothers were Naseeb and Gai. The former a widow at 26, who raised four children on her own in the ‘50’s. The latter a Gemini who showed me what it was to love another man. My grandfather, Firoz, taught me what it was to be liberal, kind and loving. My aunts, Rajinder and Harwant and Zarine, were independent, free-thinking, caring women. The former two took the place of the father I never had.

My mother, Gaver, who single-handedly raised two children and made a home in the city of Mumbai. Something no one in the family has or since done. She educated us and molded Geeta and me into the people we are today. Free-thinking, free-willed people, who I like to think also have the compassion and the empathy shown to us by the earlier generations.

I will not forget Behram Maama, who taught me what it was to be a good father. Amarjeet, my chachu, who taught me resilience; because of his constant battle with schizophrenia and the final one he lost to throat cancer. He was a brilliant painter, despite being colour-blind.

I think back on my family and I am filled with separation anxiety. I had a full family, but in my generation I have a mere handful of siblings. I have gone through more than my share of loss. Since the age of 19, I have faced death and continue to face him – almost like a friend who comes calling after short intervals. For company, he has taken Mervin, Nana, Chacha, Bonzo, Dadan, Rolfe, Diana, Zoe, Maasi, Munni Pua, Goodie Pua…

My family has literally and metaphorically given me lessons about death and life. It has taught me how to be honest in order to live without added complications. It has taught me how to love – fully and completely – and what sin actually means. In truth, it would mean breaking a heart that loves you.

As I looked at my partner’s mother, someone who accepted our relationship after decades, I realized how lucky I have been to be a part of the family that makes me belong. In my family, acceptance was never a problem. Loving meant accepting. There may not have been complete understanding, in the truest sense of the word, but, despite that, there was never rejection. I was assured there was never any chance of it. My family taught me love. I am me because of them.

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