Paving the path to an equal society

Vannam, founded by Vijay Rengarajan, has about 20 members with a mailing list and regular meet-ups.

Vannam, founded by Vijay Rengarajan, has about 20 members with a mailing list and regular meet-ups.

When Apple Inc. CEO Tim Cook came out as being gay last week, Vijay Rengarajan sat back in a chair somewhere in IIT-Madras and thought: “People are going to start talking about this now. Some people would end up getting to know the term at least.”

Vijay Rengarajan is a Ph.D student. He likes Shelley's poetry and Jeyamohan's novels. He goes trekking with his friends often. And he's a big fan of plotless commercial films. He also happens to be gay. “Yes, a homosexual,” he says.

This summer, he started Chennai's first-ever campus group dedicated to the LGBT community. It's not officially registered yet, but there are already 20-odd members. “We have a mailing list and we also meet often,” Vijay says.

He named the group Vannam because “all colours are the same. There are just many different hues.”

He ponders for a moment and then adds: “Also, colour is a continuous spectrum, much like gender and sexuality. You cannot divide it.”

The purpose of the student group is to initiate conversation, as this is one of those issues that no one wants to talk about, even with close friends, Vijay says.

“Some colleges in the city even have a dress code. Compared to them, IIT is much better. If we don’t initiate these conversations here, how is it going to happen elsewhere?” he asks.

Though the city finally has an LGBT student group similar to the ones at IIT-Mumbai and IIT-Delhi, there is still a sense of fear about social acceptance. Which is why several of Vannam's members remain anonymous and communicate only via email.

Vijay came out to his father because he was worried about marriage. “Now, I am no longer afraid to speak my mind. I can now say to my friends ‘Hey, that guy is beautiful.’ In an ideal society, announcing one's homosexuality should be as natural as declaring one’s heterosexuality. It should not be a special event or process.”

Despite his role in creating Vannam, he insists he is no activist. “I am just a small stone. Together, maybe we can build a foundation.”

A sentiment that is almost reminiscent of Tim Cook himself, who wrote about arriving in office every day to be greeted by framed pictures of Dr. Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy. Pictures which remind him that the sunlit path toward justice is paved together, brick by brick. And, he said, speaking out was his brick.

Perhaps, some of those bricks may, in future, come out of the sylvan grounds of IIT-Madras.

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Printable version | May 27, 2022 1:51:15 pm |