- Paperback: 232 pages
- Publisher: Rupa Publications India (25 January 2019)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 9353333660
- ISBN-13: 978-9353333669
- Product Dimensions: 14 x 1.3 x 21.6 cm
- Average Customer Review: 51 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #74,034 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Straight to Normal Paperback – 25 Jan 2019
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'This book has the power to save someone’s life one day by letting them know that they are not alone' - Gaylaxy Magazine
‘Written in simple prose, a matter-of-fact tone and with dollops of good humour, it’s the essential, empathy-generating queer autobiography we need today.’- GQ Magazine
‘Straight to Normal: My Life as a Gay Man, is about finding freedom from a life of anguish.’- The Wire
‘This Indian memoir of coming out of the closet in the face of intolerance is poignant in its detail’-Scroll.in
‘Rangnekar’s story, this book, is worth your time.’-Gaysi
‘It is a story of self-discovery and courage in face of societal stigma, and even unimaginable violence ‘’-News18.com
This book is the first of its kind’.- India Today
‘Sharif’s autobiography is a path-breaker in India when it comes to LGBTQI literature' - The Economic Times
'A book about pride and prejudice' - New Indian Express
About the Author
A communications consultant and former journalist, Sharif D. Rangnekar uses every possible platform—talks, writing and music—to advocate change and garner support for the LGBTQ community. He is the frontman of Friends of Linger, a band that is credited with India’s first dedication to the gay community—‘Head Held High’. He curates the platform ‘Embrace: Music Justice Arts’, which blends art with social justice. He held senior positions at The Economic Times and The Pioneer, before leading Integral PR as its CEO and later as its chairman. He was named PR Professional of The Year 2013 by IPRCCA. Sharif provides counsel in the area of diversity and inclusion in workplace, specific to the LGBTQ community. He is also associated with Open For Business, a global forum that promotes such policies.
From the Publisher
Conversation with Sharif D. Rangnekar
IT WAS 7 October, the first day of my short four-day break from work. That same evening, I was supposed to be at Venu and Chitra’s home for dinner. On reaching their home, my nervousness came to the fore delaying any conversation about my sexuality, even though I had already told them there was something urgent and important I wanted to share. From pre-dinner to dinner to after the meal, clearing up the table, I kept saying ‘later’. It was easy to take Venu off track as he was almost obsessed by news and the analysis of stories that flashed on TV and appeared in print. It was a busy year because of the Kargil war, the politics that followed and debates that continued till much after summer on how the media had reported from the region.
If I remember correctly, there were discussions about pro independence groups in Kashmir as well as the expectation of an order from the Supreme Court on four conspirators involved in the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi.
We talked about these developments that were terribly irrelevant to my predicament but important enough to give me some time
before I finally came out to them. Actually, it was Chitra who brought things to focus, as we placed the dishes in the kitchen. I was asked to sit on the single-seater sofa bang opposite her as Venu relaxed on a divan. ‘Everything else can wait, first, you tell us what is bugging you,’ she said.
I had no option now and this is what I said, ‘Every Saturday I go to a meeting. It is a group called Humrahi.
The meeting is hosted by Naz Foundation and—’ Chitra cut me short and immediately took over, ‘Anjali Gopalan’s Naz Foundation? Have
you met Saleem?’ I said yes to both the questions
Saleem was one of the senior gay men who came for these meetings occasionally. A noted historian, professor and author, Saleem Kidwai, was a friend of Venu and Chitra and the co-author of Same-Sex Love in India, a book that was released the following year. Chitra’s connection with him was not about his sexuality but was to do with art and history and that he belonged to a family
of Sufi saints.
I had not used the word gay or homosexual so far or even later in the conversation. I didn’t have to. Their response to the little I had said so far was so non-discriminatory, taking me as just another guy who had a different sexual orientation. Adding to the calm, Venu revealed he had some inkling about my sexuality, ‘Didn’t I tell you that Sharif may say this!’ He looked at Chitra.
They were both interested in what the meetings were like, if I had been to any parties yet and what was it like in the group of people I had met so far. Everything was so easy; I seemed to be the same person I was for them since the time we had first met.
‘So what’s the problem? Asked Chitra. I told them that I foresaw issues with Ma and was not sure how she’d respond to knowing about my sexuality. I wanted to come out to her so that I could stop lying and realized that telling her the truth was the only way. The two of them knew that Ma and I had an equation that not too many parents shared with their children—she enjoyed some of the music I listened to, we watched television over dinner almost every evening, we shopped together, and if Ma was invited to a family get-together, the invitation would be extended to me even if cousins of my generation were not there.
Similarly, when I had colleagues over, Ma would almost be at the centre of the party, sometimes dancing with them, at other times having long conversations. Some of my colleagues had also become her patients. With the kind of proximity we shared, and Ma not being social as such, my network had kind of become hers too. Chitra and Venu, of course, saw this context as a positive. ‘This is why we don’t think you have a reason to fear,’ said Chitra They were certain Ma was a strong person by nature and could weather any storm. Just like I was feeling a growing distance as my lies to her mounted over the past two months or so, Ma also would not wish for anything that would take us apart, the two of them explained, making sense of the confusion I found myself in. The conversation lightened up as Venu was still basking in his
successful bulls eye reading of my sexuality. It seems my interest in Saran’s Summer in My Veins—something I spoke about in the bureau
once—had not gone unnoticed as I hardly ever spoke of films at work. Also, the way I described women was never the way men in
general did, there was no show of machoism or the overpowering sense of lust. My observations, as per him, were more to do with
their jewellery, their eyes and smile, and what they wore instead of their physical attributes like breasts, lips, waist and hips.
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He was vaguely aware that there was something different about him as far as his interest in women was concerned but due to the lack of available information during that period, he could not easily figure out that he was not inclined to be attracted towards women but rather towards his own gender.
The process through which the author comes to terms with his sexuality and the support received by him from his family and close friends is wonderfully depicted by him.
I found it extremely endearing that the author has placed so much emphasis on his objective of finding true love. He has been extremely candid in talking about regarding his failed relationships, crushes and various disappointments in life, as indeed a true autobiography should be.
The book is extremely interesting and thought provoking. I am sure that it took a lot of courage and determination on the author’s part to make sure that it was published. I hope that this book serves the purpose of dispelling the prejudices still held by many towards the gay community. I believe that everyone will definitely benefit from reading this book.
Straight to Normal is a beautiful account of the author’s life, from the early days of his childhood, to present day as a fifty year old gay man. In his autobiography, Sharif takes you through the various phases of his life while growing up in different cities in India, a path to self-discovery as a teenager, a constant fight between his heart and mind as a young adult, his ‘coming out’ to his family and to the world where he and many like him are still trying to belong.
Queer or not, you should definitely give this one a read! It’s surely going to take you through a host of emotions and leave you with a smile. More than anything, it teaches you to always be hopeful in life, no matter what the situation is.
At times it makes you feel guilty for having been a silent spectator in our society, that has been so unfair to such beautifully normal people!
To say it is just Sharif's story would do the book injustice. It represents the challenges and struggles that so many have to go thru, for no fault of theirs.
The great thing about his writing is that it is very inspiring!
His style of writing is so honest and beautiful, that I will surely be reading it again and again!