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"I am not mentally retarded," said Tiasha, "I am just lesbian". Tears fell down her cheeks to the table. I am at loss for words. I don't know what to say to her. Well, she had put a daunting task ahead of me, to convince her parents to allow her to go on a date with the girl she had met through an online dating site. She has been dating this girl for the last 6 months. This is the first time I am facing a serious crisis. A crisis related to non-binary relationships and gender fluidity. Tiasha has brought turbulence in my mind too regarding sexual orientation.

It was a rainy evening in mid-July 2015. I was attending to a patient of mine. I had just finished counseling with Ayan. He is suffering from depression. Ayan walked out of my chamber. I took my glasses from the table and went towards the window to witness the rain outside. A smooth and slender voice came through the door. "May I come in?" asked the girl opening half of the door. "Please come in", I said. She entered with her parents accompanying her.

“Hi! My name is Avirup Sanyal”, said the male individual extending his hand for a formal handshake. He then introduced his wife and daughter, “my wife Sneha Sanyal and this is my pretty daughter Tiasha”. Tiasha was probably in her own world, looking at the bird outside the window.

"Tiasha, will you wait outside till I have a word with your parents", I said. She slowly went out of the room rubbing her left hand on the string of her cross body bag.

“So what is really troubling your daughter”, I said. “Please tell me everything in detail. Don’t hesitate at all.”

Mrs. and Mr. Avirup looked at each other and then Mr. Avirup said with a smile "Of course sir. We are here to discuss everything.”

“Ok then. Let’s begin.” I said

“To begin with for the last 6 months my daughter isn't being able to concentrate on her studies. Previously she was good in her academics but for the past six months, she has lost interest in her studies. Her grades are falling."

“Mr. Avirup,” I said interrupting him, “first let me know what is yours and your wife’s profession, if I may ask?”

"Well, I am an investment banker. Sneha is an interior designer. To speak the truth we both remain extremely busy and recently we haven’t been able to devote time to Tiasha.”

“That’s not all a good sign Mr. Avirup,” I said. “Now where and in which institution is Tiasha studying?”

“She is studying at La Martinere in Class 10th," Avirup said. "Believe me, sir," said Sneha suddenly, "she was extremely good in her academics. She always came 2nd in her class." "But recently her concentration in studies have gone down," Sneha said with a sigh.

I said “Have you noticed any behavioral and habitual changes recently”

“Yes,” Said Sneha. "In recent past, I have noticed that she gets irritated very easily. Then She had cut off from her friends' circle. She is always on to her laptop. Also one day she had accidentally kept her laptop open and as I entered the room I saw………." Sneha was hesitating to tell. She looked at her husband rubbing her right hand over her forehead

"Actually my wife saw some porn sites open on her laptop," Said Avirup. "And when she questioned her about that she got irritated and in the rage of it threw the laptop on the floor."

“Ok then. Let me have a word with Tiasha” I said. “Will you both wait outside for some time? You can have tea or coffee from the vending machine outside.”

They both went outside and Tiasha came in. “May I come in?” She again asked for my permission to come in.

At that time it was just a simple case of counseling for me. It was the usual bread and butter stuff for me. I thought there were some behavioral issues resulting from parental negligence and academic underperformance and so on which are generally sorted out with the patient listening and ultimately leading to a truce with the opposing parties. But that was not to be. The two and a half years I dealt with Tiasha were my toughest for me.

“Please come in,” I said. “Have a seat”

She slowly pulled the chair and sat down. I observed her for a moment. She wasn’t the shy type but she was also not very outspoken. She must have reserved herself in her own world.

“So Tiasha what are your hobbies basically”

“Sir, Can I have a glass of water?” She replied

“Yeah. Sure”

I handed her the glass of water kept on my table. "Thank you, sir"

"Well, you can call me Avinash. I think it can be the first step towards our friendship"

“I don’t have many friends sir”

“I heard that from your parents. But you can consider me your friend and tell me whatever you want to tell me”

"I think my parents are right. I am not doing justice to their faith that they have in me. Maybe I am not good at all at anything"

“Let's not discuss things that your parents want from you. I have a rooftop garden just at the back of my chamber. It is surrounded by flowers. I hope you like flowers. We can sit there and have our conversation from tomorrow. Will that be ok with you?"

For the first time, she had a smile on her face. "I like coffee and flowers too," She said

Here my journey with Tiasha started. But the journey wasn’t going to be smooth enough as I had thought. Her persistent aberrant behavior coupled with a high expectation of her parents and her teachers kept her and them at loggerheads. They expected Tiasha to achieve a lot more in life and alter her lifestyle. She termed her parents and teachers as "Intruders" in her life. I took the task as a challenge. I first had to befriend her. I needed to win her trust. I did so and at last, my counseling had bear fruits. After one and a half years of counseling, Tiasha realized that she has come out to be a lesbian.

It was January 2017 that she came to me and confessed that she was a lesbian. “I don’t feel attracted to boys Avinash.” Yes! She had accepted me as her friend and started to call me by my name.

"Well, it's no big deal," I said with a little-startled face but then I recovered quickly.

“Am I a lesbian Avinash?” She asked with such an expression which led me to believe that she herself was very much confused about her own sexual preference.  No doubt she is confused considering a 16-year-old going through this turbulent period. It's not easy to accept the fact that she is not attracted to boys.

“Is perfectly ok if you are feeling in such a way. It’s your life and you have the right to live life your way.”I said to Tiasha.

That night when I went home, I continuously thought that do I really believe in my own words. Would I have accepted the same thing if it had happened with my child? At that point in time, I really didn't have an answer.

From the next day, my task became even more difficult. I had to spend a significant amount of time holding the family together. These were turbulent times.  It was not an easy task to make Tiasha's parents accept the fact about their daughter's sexual preference. They took a significant time to come to terms with it.

After about six months or so Tiasha told me about a dating site called Moovz and how she had met a girl at that site.

“You know Avinash I met a girl. She’s quite nice and hot too,” She said

“Where did you meet her?”

“There’s a dating site, Moovz. We met on that site. Last Sunday I was just browsing that site when all of a sudden I met her. I send her a request and she gladly accepted it. We have been chatting since then. Every night." She said with a naughty kind of a smile on her face.

“What’s her name?”

“Mrinal. She is in Lady Brabourne College. She is lovely.”

“Do your parents know about it?”

"Of course not," she said. "But I know you will help me to tell them."

Was I counseling Tiasha or Was I learning from her? This question kept hitting my head all the time. At this critical juncture, most parents would have thought that this whole situation was a bad phase and it just goes away and pray to god that their children land on their feet soon enough. I think I was too in a learning process, learning how to deal with such situations.

That day at night I was sitting on my balcony with a drink in my hand. It was 12 o'clock. Generally, I go to bed at 11 pm. My wife came to me and said "What's the matter? You seem disturbed." I told her about my conversation with Tiasha that day. She sat just beside me and gave a kiss on my lips. She embraced me in her arms and said, “Don’t worry. I know you will be able to handle this situation.”

“Am I a good father?” I suddenly asked her

“Of course. You are a great father. You know one should always keep the doors and windows of the heart open and I believe you have done that and will always do that. Now get up and let's go to bed. It's quite late now."

“Yeah, it’s late. Let’s go.” I got up to go to my bed but before that, I went to my daughter's room. I opened the room and saw my 8-year-old daughter sleeping in the comfort of her bed. It just crossed my mind that this "comfort" came from the confidence that whenever a problem or a difficult situation will arise both her parents would be there to support her.

For the next few months, I realized that Tiasha was happy. She would tell me about the nitty-gritty of her video chats with her girlfriend. Well, not every detail though! At least I felt satisfied that I had done my job. Tiasha had started communicating her thoughts not only to me but her parents also. Her parents were slowly getting accustomed to the situation. I thought I was able to bring Tiasha and her parents closer. But came the day I began the story with. The task that she was going to assign me that day was to convince her parents to allow her to go on a date with her girlfriend.

She entered my room with a gloomy face. She had put on her sunglasses. “Hey young lady how r u doing?” I turned to her and was little startled. “I don’t think you need to put on your sunglasses inside this room," I told her keeping the book; I was going through, on my table. “Come on, tell me what happened.” She slowly removed the sunglasses and I could see her eyes swollen due to crying. “Hey, why have you been crying dear? Have a glass of water first.” I handed her the glass filled with water from my table. She took the glass and drank some water from it and kept it on the table. “Now come on, tell what exactly has happened? Had a fight with your girlfriend or parents?” She delivered the statement I had begun the story with. “I am not mentally retarded. I am a lesbian.”

 I was completely numb. I didn’t know what to say. Somehow I regained my senses and asked her, “Did your parents say something?”

“I and Mrinal had decided to finally meet at Café Coffee Day. We have been chatting for months and now that we got to know each other we decided to meet.” She said wiping her tears with the handkerchief I handed to her. “I engendered the courage to tell my parents about this meeting. I went to their room and I told both my parents about it. But my mom started scolding me saying that she would not allow me to go out and meet with Mrinal.” She continued telling what her parents have told her and that she had a fight with her parents. But the thing is as I was listening to Tiasha, I was scanning my own biases and thoughts. Many a question crossed my mind. What would have been my reaction had she dated a boy? Is it appropriate for two minors to chat online in an adult site? Do I need to discuss the legality sexual relationship between two minors? These questions kept popping up in my mind but answers were none.

“Ok don’t worry I will talk to your parents and convince them to let you go out with Mrinal. Happy?”

"Yeah! I am so happy," She came and hugged me. "I know you are my best friend. So, you are on my team, right?"

"I am always on your team dear."

"Ok, I have to go now. I will purchase a new dress. The other day I have been to pantaloons and liked a dress. Ok Bye." She hurried off to the door taking her sunglasses.

I went home that night, had a shower and sat on my balcony with a cup of coffee. Many thoughts came to my mind. Was it Tiasha whom I was counseling or was I learning from her? I realized that while consulting Tiasha, I was also getting rid of my own prejudices. My wife came and sat beside me.

“Is there something you would like to share?” She said

I told her what happened that day and what task Tiasha has assigned me. “I really don’t know how I will convince her parents.”

“I know you will be able to convince them. I have full faith in you.”

“Papa, will help me with my project?” My daughter came to me and asked.

"Yes, of course, beta." I kept my coffee mug on the floor, stood up and went with her. "So how your studies going on? Let's plan a get together sometime?.............."

Maybe I had learned my lesson.





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