Tag Archives: #sexuality

Maulik Pancholy’s Book ‘Best At It’ Confronts Being a Gay Indian American In the Midwest

This delightful debut novel by award-winning actor Maulik Pancholy is the story of Rahul Kapoor, an awkward 12-year-old Indian American gay middle-grade boy coming into his own in a small town in Indiana. One of Time Out‘s “LGBTQ+ books for kids to read during Pride Month,” The Best at It has also garnered a coveted Stonewall Honor from the American Library Association.

Pancholy, based in Brooklyn, New York, has a career spanning hit television shows (30 Rock, Whitney), animated favorites (Phineas and Ferb, Sanjay and Craig), the Broadway stage, and films. He also served on President Barack Obama’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and is the co-founder of the anti-bullying campaign Act to Change.  

As an LGBTQ kid, Pancholy never saw himself in the books he read. And so, while it’s a work of fiction, this is also a deeply personal book that reflects his own struggles, coming to terms with his LGBTQ identity, and the joy of discovering how to be the best at being oneself. Moreover, it’s a love letter to his grandparents. 

Home denotes everything that’s safe and comforting for Rahul. His world consists mostly of his 72-year-old wheelchair-bound grandfather, Bhai, who is full of life, and almost like an older brother to him, as well as his best friend, Chelsea. Like many young second-generation (‘ABCD’) children his age, Rahul is embarrassed by his ethnic identity and wants to belong with the cool (read ‘white’) kids in school. 

Telltale signs of his being somewhat different from the others begin to show up early on—when he’s terrified of dancing with a girl and can’t help staring at a boy. His bullying classmate, Brent Mason, constantly picks on him for being different – making jokes about his culture and asking him if he’s gay. And then there is also Justin Emery, another classmate who Rahul is secretly attracted to, and wants to emulate.

Amidst all this confusion, Rahul’s grandfather tells him that if he dedicates himself to something that he is good at and becomes the best at it, then nobody can stop him and stand in his way. After many trials and errors—football team tryouts (which he fails miserably at) and professional acting auditions (where he faces racial discrimination)—he finally discovers his true talent and joins his school’s Mathletes’ team. Ultimately, Rahul finds that being the best is about finding something you love and doing it until you get better at it. 

Pancholy lightheartedly touches upon several serious themes, such as ethnicity, inclusivity, bullying, and sexuality. There is also a reference to the 2015 film The Man Who Knew Infinity, based on the life of the famous Indian mathematician, Srinivasa Ramanujan, who faced racism, bullying, and prejudice in the early 1900s—which he managed to overcome, and came out as a winner.

The book is also filled with lots of stereotypes that good-humoredly poke fun at the Indian community, such as nerdy Indian kids who get perfect scores on their math homework, Indian ‘aunties’ and ‘uncles’ hooked to Bollywood song-and-dance numbers, and all Indian grandfathers having a “Mr. Rogers-worthy supply of cardigans”. 

Towards the end of the book, rainbow colors mark the celebration of Holi at an international carnival of dance, music, art, and food with participation from people of various countries. The festival of colors commemorates the triumph of good over evil—“the chance to forgive people and repair relationships.” And so, an important takeaway from the book is: “Being different is what makes us fun.” 

Overall, reading this fun and the breezy book is a pleasurable experience, largely due to Pancholy’s playful and infectious writing that is filled with childlike energy and enthusiasm.

Neha Kirpal is a freelance writer based in Delhi. She is the author of Wanderlust for the Soul, an e-book collection of short stories based on travel in different parts of the world. 

Am I Allowed to Have Sex On My Mind?

Desi Talk – A column that works on embracing our brown background and unique identity using Coach Yashu’s helpful tips. Find her talking to IC Editor, Srishti Prabha on Instagram LIVE Tuesdays at 6pm PST/ 9pm EST!

After conducting a free Sex Education workshop, the need for open discourse on healthy sex in Desi communities became apparent… 

Being Desi, you’ve probably never had “the talk” with your parents. Most of the knowledge on the subject, and yes it is something to be learned, came from our peers, pornography, and, well, life experience. 

In Desi communities, sex (before marriage) is looked down upon, forbidden even, in what seems to be a scare tactic to prevent pregnancy/disease. Sex after marriage, more than for pleasure, is encouraged for procreation. Religions practiced by the South Asian communities talk about the chastity of the woman (of being a virgin). Brown women often hear that they should not be going out late/coming home late and they most certainly should not be seen with the opposite sex. It all stems from the concept of keeping women safe and pure – ready for marriage.

At the end of the day, sex is a choice, and some of you may choose to honor keeping yourself away from it until marriage and some of you may want to explore your sexuality, before and after marriage. For those of you who are exploring your sexuality, both men and women, it’s important that you are enjoying your experiences; the only way you can do that is to practice safe sex and educate yourself on choices that work for you, your body, and your partner’s body! 

As we enter into the month of love, let’s discuss some helpful tips and tricks about sex that dive deep into the conversation around sexuality, sensuality, and intimacy. The purpose of providing these tips is to not only educate but to also normalize conversations around sex – to highlight the importance of actually talking about such a taboo topic. 

I highly recommend that you share my list of tips with your partners, your friends, your relatives, and whomever you think may need some support in regards to sex. 

  • It’s ok to have sex for recreation throughout your life! Culturally, you may hear a narrative that sex is only meant for procreation but do not limit yourself. Be sure to have a healthy dialogue with your partner, especially if you or your partner have high sex drives. 
  • Communication is KEY. I cannot emphasize this enough! In fact, communication is critical in every aspect of sex, romance, and relationships. Be ready to receive your partner’s requests and also be open to expressing yourself. 
  • Keep it clean. One simple equation: Clean Body + Clean Practices = Clean of Disease. Use clean hands, clean mouths, and clean toys during sex play, and make sure to clean all of those after!
  • Remember the golden rule: no glove, no love! ALWAYS USE CONDOMS. Condoms are highly recommended, especially to protect against infection and disease, and as a means of birth control. Even If you are with a stable partner, still use condoms, they are 99% effective against STIs and unplanned pregnancy. And no, the pull out method does not work.
  • Get the right-sized condom! The problem for many Desi men is not knowing the need for a better fitting condom. Studies found that the internationally standardized size for condoms may be oversized for the average South Asian penis. The risk of not wearing the right condom is disease, pregnancy, and even the possibility of losing a condom inside your partner.
  • Lube is your best friend. Having a small bottle of lube goes a long way, and can actually make sex even more enjoyable. Be sure to use water-based lubricants. Try it in different flavors too.
  • STIs & STDs: This is a very important conversation! Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) occur when bacteria or viruses enter your body and begin to multiply. Some may mature into diseases, called Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs). Practice safe, protected, clean sex and get tested at least once every 6 months (if you are engaging in sex with multiple partners, then more regularly). If you are in a stable, committed relationship, you STILL need to go get tested. 
  • Masturbation is healthy. And yes, even if you have a partner, you can still enjoy your alone time or share the experience together as a form of intimacy. As for toys, it’s all about choice! So explore your options and find what gives you the best pleasure.
  • Consent is extremely important! ASK first, and remember, no means no! Cinema has deviated far from reality. Many times, stalking, persistent pursuit, and verbal/sexual harassment is considered romantic. Let me be clear – it is just harassment unless the other party has consented. Read the situation, understand your partner, understand your sexual relationship, and always ask if you are unsure! Also keep in mind that your partner may not want to have sex, so do not force it. Take time to find out why and what you can do to help. It’s all about keeping up conversations. 
  • Whether you are trying to be more intimate with your partner or you are trying to just have sex or create a sensual experience, communication is at the core of it all! Don’t be afraid to ask what each of you likes, how it feels, or spice it up by engaging in dirty talking. Also take time to build intimacy by asking questions not related to sex at all, like “What are your goals?” or “Where would you want to go for vacation?” or even “How was your day?” All of these are great ways of letting your partner know you care. 

Often, we are not having healthy conversations like these in our households, let alone in our Desi communities. Spread the word and educate others around you.

For anyone who is looking for more support or looking to dive in deeper regarding romance, dating, marriage, and/or sex, schedule a free 40-minute consultation with me. Also, keep an eye out for my next Sex Education workshop, where I will be going in-depth about all the tips I mentioned here and more!

Yashu Rao is the first South Indian-American plus-size model and doubles as a Confidence Coach. She is the Founder of #HappyYashu, a Confidence and Lifestyle Coaching Service specializing in desi family structures. She’s here breaking down stereotypes and beauty standards as well as inspiring and empowering people to lead a life with self-love, confidence, and genuine happiness. Find her on Instagram giving tips and modeling.

Indian Matchmaking’s Pradhyuman Confronts Toxic Masculinity

If you have watched a reality show lately, chances are it was Indian Matchmaking.

This particular contestant wowed many of us. He wowed us with his miso paneer recipe, his with nitrogen fox nuts, but he really wowed us by keeping his cool under pressure. Dishing out his rich boy charm with a big dollop of humility, Pradhyuman Maloo‘s name managed to stay on in our conversations even after the Indian Matchmaking season one reunion wrapped up. 

Pradhyuman, the young jeweler, is someone you might think most people would view as a great catch for a girl looking for a boy.

Not only will any future ‘match’ have bling galore, but she would also have a partner who whips up all sorts of irresistible yummies the latest being sushi inspired cocktails.

What’s not to love about a boy who knows his jewelry and loves to cook?

Well, apparently the fact that knows he his jewelry and loves to cook.

Yes. Pradhyuman was trolled for not being manly enough. The Insta-fam he never chose proclaimed that he must be gay. He can’t be straight if he likes cooking and jewelry so much…

So how did he cope with this insensitive line of questioning? Well, he used his words – with an Instagram post. A post that made us see him as more than just a celebrity aspirant but as someone who expands the conversation beyond himself. It said, “People will judge you for not being ‘manly’ enough, but I want other men to know that it’s okay to be who you are & do what you love. Stereotypical masculinity is not the rent we need to pay to exist in this world.”

What made you take on the bullies head-on,” I ask in my early morning interview from California, and for him, the end of a long day of work in Mumbai.

“It is something we really have to take on as a society that whatever we speak, whatever we do, has a consequence. Luckily due to my business and upbringing, I have been hard skinned. I can imagine someone not handling that pressure…I have some friends who are gay and can imagine how difficult it is to deal with this kind of criticism. After the show I got DMs from straight men and gay men asking, are you okay. I was wondering why are they asking me if I am okay? And it struck me, what if that person was really gay and had a difficult time opening up to society. This thought really worried me,” Maloo answered.

Pradhyuman Maloo

By taking the reins of the dialogue around sexuality, Pradhyuman has deftly has taken online negativity and channeled it into some really productive chatter online.

“It is time we re-think what we consider ‘manly enough’. I think what people consider manly enough is what people consider very strong. Physically, mentally. It is what people consider “Haan yeh to mard hai” or yes, he is ‘a man’. It determines that men cannot show emotions, men cannot be weak. They don’t realize that being really strong does not mean that men cannot show emotions. If you overcome those weak times then you are strong and you are man enough.”

Showing emotions is what Pradhyuman is getting a lot of people to do, and it seems to be working from everyone chiming in to answer his questions about everyday feelings to what makes someone ‘beautiful’.

“The ability to stand up and speak your mind is beautiful. Empathizing instead of judging is beautiful. Not making excuses is beautiful. Self-care is beautiful.”

Did Pradhyuman wonder how the world outside India would react to grown men and women being guided so closely by their parents in their search for a partner? The stereotype of Indians and arranged marriages?

“When I was abroad people asked why I stayed with my parents. When you stay together as a family, you operate as a family. Today I might take a life partner and I wouldn’t want to do it without my parents’ point of view…I trust their judgment and value their opinion…I would take it in a positive way and not like a push.

Pradhyuman is evolved and insightful. He doesn’t worry so much about what other people think and is guided by his moral compass. I can’t wait to see more of him!

Amrita Gandhi is a Lifestyle TV host who interviews inspiring personalities on her show ‘So, What’s It Really Like‘ on her Instagram