“Don’t take it personally,” my sister, also queer, says with a tired sigh. “You know how they are.” You see, distant relative I don’t even know the name of, They were talking about you this night. Dear Uncle, I know you have a little brother who's probably the pride of the family— he has a job, and a wife, and a respectable well-settled life; You wore eyeliner to a shaadi and danced to Baby Doll. Dear Uncle, I'd known long before this night the hatred in the hearts of this family for all the people who are 'others' This family that could be so caring and kind, and I had somehow loved them through it all; Now, I cannot talk to my maama without hearing his mocking laugh, saying "I'll tell you why he isn't married yet" Cannot look at my maami without reading the subtext of "Because he likes men." Cannot even smile at my own mother without replaying her dramatic gasp at this odd alien creature. Dear Uncle, you don't know I exist I don't know who you are Yet I still feel that hot red spot in the middle of my forehead that opened like a furious third eye this night But did not wreck loose any fireballs that set about the end of the world like your mere existence did. Dear Uncle, I do not know whether your kohl-lined smolder was your personal gay yell from the rooftop Or your 'earth-shattering' dance was your tandava, your middle finger to the family which never treated you like one— I may never know, either, you will never read this poem and if you do, I hope it's not over our shared pained smiles of the aching bones our khandaan gives us someday. Dear Uncle, forgive me, For I will never be as brave as you are, I can make my boiling blood simmer until it spills and screams in the private ink of these pages, but I could not fight the words that were said with the immense heat that built up inside my head —I was exhausted, and scared, and alone But those are no excuses: to be a silent observer is to be a part of the crime. I'm a criminal, dear uncle, as I sit writing this angry gay poem behind bars around my throat my throat which learnt to choke on its own soon after it managed to open up last year, if only to itself; And you are this criminal's muse, dear uncle, You have fused this black ace ring permanently to my finger now this magical metallic bolt that lets the closet stay open and closed at the same time. I wish I could let you know that I took it personally, dear uncle— I did not know you existed until today and though my cowardly hands did nothing to stop that machine gun, It made this unprecedented Picasso mosaic of my bones Perhaps, close to, what it would've made of you. Dear Uncle, I know none of my words will ever be enough and I'm a cynic who doesn't buy that telepathic connection shit But for today, just for today, I want to believe that I'm there with you in spirit wherever you are, that you may feel some unexplained warmth in this cold, cold, cold of the dual atmospheres That your brain might throw up a kind word amidst all the slurs it keeps replaying. Dear Uncle, this is a really long shot But I hope one day we gatecrash a wedding and march on to the stage to proclaim: "Yes, I'm a queer, I'm a freak, I'm a fag, I've got mud on my face and I'm a big disgrace and I will wave my banner and shout until the stars above you tremble," And we will be in drag, dear uncle, a mass slaughter of this civilised family's collective brain; and we will laugh at gay jokes together when we get kicked out of the family, Estranged from those who were strangers in the first place Maybe I could be brave enough with you. Dear Uncle, it should not be a big deal I've heard worse, way worse, but it is and your eyeliner and dance moves should not be brave— it's been too long, they should be ordinary But whatever it meant, it made you extraordinary, extra-everything in the minds of the people who cannot handle anything extra beyond their narrow tunnel vision of their little frog-pond world, Who do not give two shits about you except when it comes to tittering Tittering that will turn into jittering flames of the torches they'll bring to burn our houses down, But we will make our houses fireproof, dear uncle, We will build them so they spit it right back Spit rainbow-hued fire tornadoes That will char the sky and this mob's faces in the colours of the love they fear so much; And we will Take it personally.