“So, what are you up to this winter vacation?” asked his father.
“No plans as such, just hanging out with friends”, replied Anwar.
“Don’t waste your holidays. Do something fruitful. Look for internships”, said his father.
Anwar Saeed, a 21-year-old history graduate from DU, was a flamboyant but reluctant man. He quietly goes about life as if he is carrying a hidden world inside him. He is always surrounded by rumors. In fact, he was controversy’s favorite child. It was always some girl or other. After all, he was the handsome hunk of college.
Very few knew his actual identity. The real Anwar lay buried in his childhood. Nobody knew that today’s heartthrob had a gruesome childhood. His true-self lay hidden in this flamboyant character. He was bullied in school.
“Are you sure, you aren’t Anisha?” asked his friends gleefully.
They called him Anisha Parekh, sister of Asha Parekh. People ridiculed him by drawing a comparison with the famous actress.
It was the 1970s, and Asha Parekh was dominating the hearts of young boys. Anwar was one of them. While every girl wanted to be a sophisticated actress like the famous Asha Parekh, the boys longed to romance such a girl. But Anwar’s longing was different than others. Indeed he carried a different world in him. It wasn’t the regular longing of a teenage boy – the longing of romance or stardom.
Anwar marveled at the beauty of the actress. Her winged eyeliner, classy hairstyle, the shimmering saris that she wore and her flamboyant attitude, eluded him. He secretly imitated her. Every day, after returning from school he put on his mother’s lipstick and draped her chiffon saris. One day, Anwar’s mother Jasmine came home early from work. She managed a catering service. She was taken back when she found Anwar dancing to the tunes of “Parde Mein Rehne Do”.
“What are you doing with my lipstick and sari?” asked a startled Jasmine.
“Nothing. Just practicing a dance number for our school play”, said Anwar.
“But why are you playing the part of the girl? Didn’t they find any girl for that?” inquired his mother.
“It’s a girls v/s boys competition, Ammi. Boys and girls are performing separately”, said Anwar.
“Okay. So, you are the heroine of your play. Good. But don’t waste my lipstick and no stains on the sari”, cautioned Jasmine and left.
“Thank God that she didn’t ask the name of the play”, sighed Anwar.
All seemed to be alright for the time being but Anwar feared his father, Aftab.
Aftab Saeed was an astute traditional Muslim. He wouldn’t take this lightly. Her son performing at a play was blasphemous in his eyes. Anwar remembered the first time he conveyed his feelings for films and theatre to his father. He was a child of eight then. Aftab severely rebuked him.
“My son would not waste his days gaping on films and film stars”, said Aftab. “I should never find you anywhere close to this hullabaloo. Stay away from these Natak Company people” he added. As a child, Anwar was forbidden to watch movies and theatre performances. “Abbu even detested T.V. commercials. It is always News and Sports for us”, he complained to his friends. But Anwar made peace with it as he got ample fodder from his frequent visits to a friend’s home.
So, that day when his father caught him coming out of the theatre hall, he gave him a violent beating. From then onwards, he kept his interests under wraps and secretly pursued them.
“God knows what will happen this time! I hope Ammi didn’t tell Abbu about today’s incident”, thought Anwar. The day went quietly. Jasmine seems to have forgotten ‘the sari incident’. All was well at the dinner table and the family enjoyed their Iftar feast.
“What a relief!” thought Anwar. But that was not to be. A few days later, he found his father fuming in rage and beating him.
“What happened? Why are you beating me up Abbu?” asked, a startled Anwar.
“What happened? You have the audacity to ask this. How many times have I told you to stay away from those Natak Company people” fumed Aftab.
Apparently, Jasmine had ratted out “the sari incident” by mistake and as usual, Aftab was fuming in rage at his blasphemous son.
“But Abu I was just taking part in the school function”, Anwar protested. “It’s our final year.”
“Whatever be it, I don’t want to see you anywhere near that stage. Stay away from that vicious circle”, said his father.
“But….” Anwar protested meekly.
“No Buts. That’s my order. End of discussion.”
And with it ended Anwar’s dream.
Yet he couldn’t refrain from his natural inkling and enrolled in a theatre class. It opened up a new world to him. A world which he carries with him but can’t express. It was a world within a world. A place where he can be himself. No one knew about his secret pursuits except her mother, who continued to nurture it, away from his father’s eyes.
Gradually, that passion helped in recognizing his own identity. His inborn nature which he was unable to express. The reluctance in him was a product of that.
When Anwar finished school, his father enrolled him in a prestigious college in the Delhi University. It was his father’s dream, a dream that Aftab couldn’t fulfill for himself. He wanted his son to live that dream. He wanted Anwar to become a teacher – a professor. Thus, Anwar went on to study history in DU rather than going for that acting course in Pune.
His passions seemed to follow him wherever he went. In college, they found refuge in the Drama Club. Owing to his acting skills, Anwar became popular in no time. Whatever, be the occasion, Anwar was indispensable in every college performance. Everyone marveled at his acting skills. “How easily he enacted the ways of women”, said the audience. Seldom did they know that he wasn’t acting. It was his truest form. He was living his true self – a self he was himself unaware of.
As time passed by he became aware of his inner self. His childhood inkling and feminine ways which were so vehemently ridiculed is making perfect sense now. It was actually a boon in disguise of a bane – a way of living, only understood by a few. He was special.
He had the gift of both the worlds. His homosexuality was an asset. A blessing that made him understand both the sexes – men and women alike.
Although he was aware of his own sexuality yet he was quite afraid to disclose this to the whole world. More than the world, he was afraid of his family, especially his father Aftab. So he concealed the fact and went on his usual ways.
But fate would not have it.
One day, he was on his usual pursuits of trying out his mother’s cosmetics and feeling himself when the calamity occurred.
His mother walked into the room just as he was about to apply her new lipstick. She was startled. He was startled. “What are you doing with my lipstick? It’s new….. I haven’t used it so far. Couldn’t you have waited?” He smiled and handed it back to her. “I forgot to tell you…I am playing Drapaudi in our college production…rehearsals start this evening”, saying this he quickly went back to his room.
He couldn’t believe his ears. Did he hear it right? It was indeed his mother speaking.
“Does this mean that she knows about my sexuality?” wondered Anwar.
“Ah! Mothers! One can never keep a secret from them”, chuckled Anwar.
Suddenly, it struck him that this means she is okay with it and his father still doesn’t know a thing about it.
“My mother is a fine actress herself. She knew everything all this while and yet didn’t let anyone get a whiff of it.”
As soon as the thought came to him, he ran to hug her.
“You are a darling! My guardian angel. My savior”, said Anwar hugging his mother.
“Enough of buttering. This doesn’t mean I approve of your ways but I understand it’s your normal self. It makes you, YOU”, said Jasmine. “Now, don’t tell your Abbu. I’ll find a way to deal with this mess. Till then be careful and vigilant.”
That night he went to bed feeling happy. His fears have given away to courage. Suddenly, he was feeling an urge to conquer the world. An indomitable spirit had gripped him making him courageous.
“Acceptance gives us the courage necessary to fight with this world. It sets us free.” Anwar wrote in his diary. Her mother’s acceptance has set him free. It has erased the heaviness of his heart.
That night Anwar wrote the screenplay of his new novel. It was a story of a reluctant young lad caught in the time warp. A story of failures, fears and redeeming one’s self from his own self. But above all, it was a story of courage. A story of chance.
The following day, he showed his new story to his friends at the Drama Club. He was quite sure of its success and wanted to make a film out of it. But alas! His friends found it absurd and deemed it unsuitable for performance.
“This is a terrible story. It would destroy our goodwill. The audience won’t accept it. Moreover, it will ruin the fabric of our society”, they said.
Few days later, Anwar’s mother came running to him shouting “What have you done! What have you done!”
“What is it, Ammi?”
“Who told you to write that story?”
“What story?” asked, a startled Anwar.
“I read ‘The Third Act’. I told you not to tell your father and here you are telling it to the whole world!”
“Don’t worry, Ammi. Nobody believes it. And besides, The Drama Club have already dismissed it.”
“Are you mad? You even went ahead with its production!”
“Promise me you won’t make it public until we are dead,” said Jasmine
This hit him hard. His mother has accepted him with a rider. It wasn’t understanding or unconditional love. It was a trap to hide his identity. As if it was a ghost. He understood the meaning of this and left home without a word.
12 years went by, Anwar was an aged man now who was still struggling with “The Third Act”. No one has accepted it. “Acceptance is hard to achieve, just like Freedom. Perhaps even harder than Freedom”, thought Anwar.
A couple of years later “The Third Act” hit the silver screen. It became a cult classic in no time.
Anwar Saeed finally lived his true self.
It was his last act – his FINAL ENACTMENT