GRINDING IN KATHMANDU
Bringing gay stories from virtual and hidden spaces out in the open.
This piece is for men who like men. Or men who are slightly curious. But Hey Mister Man, even if you are perfectly happy with your woman, you might still enjoy this writer’s experiences in Kathmandu; more specifically “Grinding in Kathmandu.”
The title comes from a certain application called Grindr which you can download on your smart phone from itunes for free. For many many gay men in all major cities of the world, Grindr is like, well, water. You tap it as soon as you wake up in the morning, during lunch break, and on slow work days, you drink away those hours staring at the yellow screen, scrolling through profiles.
Once you create a profile, you have to decide what you are looking for. There are five options: Friendship, Relationship, Dates, Chat or…Right Now. Let’s just laugh the first two options away, shall we? Bahahaha. Do you think single gay boys lying on their beds, inside their daddies’ houses, are really looking for a friend or a relationship on Grindr? Bahaha.
I’m not that bitchy. Trust me. But once you are in the scene, once you really understand How Men Think and What Men Want, in other words, if you are a Real Man looking for other Real Men, and if you are not super- conditioned by your Hindu upbringing or “Nepali culture,” do you really believe that a monogamous relationship is possible? And that too, on Grindr? I’m not so sure.
But this is a confusing world, isn’t it? And specially if you are a confused young Nepali gay boy who grew up hearing how you will one day grow big and buy a car and have a house and have a wife and children, all this can seem utterly and totally cuckoo to you. Not to worry. I am here, your friend, Charlie Chaulagain.
I should not stray too far from my topic. When I returned from that permissive Western World last year, I downloaded Grindr back on my iphone. (I had deleted it numerous times before – Why? – That’s a whole other story for next time). What else could I do? There are no gay bars or clubs or cafes in our quaint city, is there? Going online is the only way to meet men. (There are other websites of course. But let’s stick to Grindr for now – there’s something almost addictive about its bright yellow spark. And you have to check out its logo. The face looks a little evil, but I don’t think that’s the point. I think the logo, black, is a depiction of our complex and powerful carnal need).
Let’s just say that I chose “Chats” as an option. Still adjusting to a new world, I actually wasn’t sure what I was looking for. I think some of you can empathize with that, right? “Not knowing what you want” is a pretty common phase in life, especially when it comes to sex and romance. But I was being honest, I really was. I was sincerely interested in talking to other gay Nepali men in Kathmandu, interested in their lives, their thoughts, who they were and how they were.
Oh what a tumultuous journey it has been. Grinding in Kathmandu is not easy. It sure wasn’t easy over there either, but for very different reasons. First of all, there are quite a few men scattered all over our little valley. When I was getting ready to leave Kathmandu more than a decade ago, when I was a mere teenager looking to connectback then – the internet had just arrived in Nepal – there was no one, literally no gay men online (Well, maybe three). But now there are a lot of young ones – not quite sure whether they are still boys or fully men – those twenty-somethings! Sad thing is, so many of these blossoming Nepali men don’t have their photos on Grindr. They are afraid. Did you hear me? Afraid to show their face. That’s why Grinding in Kathmandu has been a bit of a bummer. But it isn’t that big a surprise?
Word on the street is – most of these young urban Kathmandu men only talk to foreigners. And you can imagine why. They literally won’t respond to my messages once I tell them that I am also a Nepali Man. And then there are a bunch of migrant boys, buoyed by their wild hormones, reckless and brave in this big city, whose profile pictures change every day, showing off cutting edge hairstyles and jaw dropping fashion senses. But when you try to talk to some of them, they can’t say more than Hi. Uff.
In any case, I decided to meet someone for coffee on a dismal November evening. The distance on Grindr showed that he lived some one thousand feet away (That’s the other thing about Grindr – knowing where the person is). This young man, not even twenty three, seemed a bit different, somewhat brave I would say – he was a dancer, he said, and also had his picture up – so I thought he might be worth my time.
He showed up, and sitting across the table from me, started to talk. Oh, how much sex he had had. Oh, all the boyfriends, the long distance drama, the threesome he almost had. Oh, how he now wants to be good and “Just Focus on His Career”. Oh, how he is done with men for now – “Why was I so quiet”, he asked me once – and no, he is not looking for sex, and made a very clear implication that he doesn’t sleep with anyone older than twenty-five (Definitely still a boy, he was).
Do you think single gay boys lying on their beds, inside their daddies’ houses, are really looking for a friend or a relationship on Grindr?
I had a good time listening to him yap. I sure did. How amusing. But more than that, how secure he was with his desires, even though he may have a slight guilt attached to his earlier rendezvous. I admired his courage. And his ability to talk (Yours truly likes to write, but can sometimes come across as shy).
In any case, the hour passed and we parted ways. I didn’t quite know what to do with him after that. He didn’t seem to fit any of the boxes – Friendship, Relationship, Date nor Right Now. We could have continued to Chat, but he clearly liked to talk more than to listen. I dilly dallied for a few days, merely saying ‘Hi, Busy” when we were both online.
And then one day, I went to his profile and pressed the red X. Blocked. That’s the other thing about Grindr. Anyone who is problematic can be removed from your screen. Swiftly and easily deleted from your life.
I told you, Grinding in Kathmandu is tumultuous. And this world, this world can be a bit confusing at times.