Dear vivek
thank you for sharing this with us... all i can say is that i am deeply moved

Vivek R Anand <[EMAIL PROTECTED]> wrote:
On 14th March 2006, day of ‘Holi’ the Baroda edition of ‘Divya Bhaskar’ carried a sensational cover story. The prince of Rajpipla, a small principality in Gujarat had come out as a homosexual. The news spread like wild fire all over Gujarat. The story was picked up by various national and international newspapers in India and UK about the gay prince. The small sleepy town of Rajpipla and it’s natives woke up to find that their lives had changed for ever for a few moments. Their Prince, their Yuvraj was a homosexual. It couldn’t be true. Somebody was surely spreading ugly rumors about the royal family of Rajpipla. Frantic calls were made to the palace but to no avail as nobody from the family were willing to comment. Finally someone mustered courage and called up the prince and asked him if he was aware of the ugly rumors being spread? The prince told them that it was not a rumor but he had made a conscious decision to speak to the press as he could not go on living a hypocritical life and every word in the story was nothing but the truth. Since that day Rajpipla town has not been the same. The Rajput clan to which the Prince belongs got violent. One of their own had said that he was a homosexual. The Rajput pride could not accept it and effigies of the prince were burnt in the “Holi” fire in Rajpipla. The royal family was called up and a demand was made that the prince be stripped of his title. A person like him could not have blue blood flowing through his veins.

At around same time in Mumbai we were sitting together sharing a cup of tea when I asked him “does it bother you?’ He just laughed and told me that if he was stripped of his royalty he would not be allowed to sit in huge ceremonies wearing big turbans and carry heavy swords. The very thought brought him a huge sense of relief. “I would rather be part of a drag show than be part of the royal tamashas” But I knew deep down my friend Prince Manvendra Singh Gohil;  Maanav to all his friends was sad as he had not heard a word from anyone in his immediate family. He knew it would happen. He had come out to his family about 3 years ago and apart from hostility he had got nothing.

It was in 1997 that I had once very casually asked my friend Ashok as to who was paying for the humsafar helpline ? He told me that the bills were being paid by a prince. A couple of months later I was introduced to this young, slim, extremely shy person wearing a plain kurta pyjama with a printed jaipuri jacket. We made some polite conversation and that’s all I remember of our first meeting. He was into vermiculture, process of culturing earth worms to be fed to the farms for a better crop and that he was a farmer. I found it rather weird. The only farmers I had seen in life were the one’s who sang songs in fields with their tribe in Bollywood films. But it was the first time I had met a farmer educated at the Bombay Scottish School.
A year later I met the same farmer in Baroda along with a young, bubbly kid who wanted to do something for the gay community in Gujarat and standing at Sur Sagar lake at one in the night a dream was born. The dream was later realized as the Lakshya Trust now working with the MSM community in Baroda, Rajkot and Surat. In that meeting I had mentioned that the humsafar helpline was funded by a prince and may be they could look for someone to extend some support to start work in Gujarat. My farmer friend looked at me, smiled and said “you want to say that now I have to pay help line bills for two organizations?’ I was not too sure what he had just said. I asked him again and he told me that he was the prince who paid our help line bills but had requested anonymity so no one knew who was footing the bills. It was disbelief for there was nothing about this farmer friend that would reflect his royal background and he said that the only way to convince me was to invite me to his palace. It was a trip that I never made and am not too sure will ever make.

Many years later in 2003 I visited Baroda city to catch up with Maanav and the little bubbly kid, Sylvester Merchant, now a project officer at the Lakshya Trust to see how their programs worked. In the evening I had an amusing experience. We were having dinner at a lovely restaurant in Alkapuri (Baroda) when I saw some one staring at Maanav and he was trying hard to avoid the person. He told me that the restaurant was owned by a man whose mother worked for the royal palace and the man staring at them was the owner. If he showed any recognition the man would cause embarrassment. Suddenly this man was right in front of us and within a split second he was at Maanav’s feet. I had never seen Maanav more embarrassed in life. We tried our best to pay for the dinner but there was no way the owner would let us pay. That night, all of us had a hearty laugh at the silly man who had fallen flat on the floor to touch the Prince’s feet. Today the same restaurant owner has stood by him. Maanav’s support has come from some of the people of Rajpipla and their children with whom he grew up not as a prince but a commoner…a farmer. 

Next day we traveled to Surat together in a State Transport bus. I asked him if he was comfortable traveling by ST buses ? He told me that the only times he got to enjoy such luxuries of life were when he was out of Rajpipla and he never missed a chance. In our friendship spanning seven years Maanav spoke to me about himself and his life as a prince and the price that he had paid for being born in a royal family. A royalty where homosexuality was common but nobody spoke. He felt stifled in the palaces where children met their parents with prior appointments with their respective secretaries. He had been forced into an early marriage in 1991 which ended in a messy divorce a year later. He had come out to his wife who did not believe him but eventually agreed on a divorce. He had publicly apologized to his ex wife in the courtroom for being unfair to her. He regretted having caused damage to a woman for no fault of hers but the damage had been done for he could not stand up to the pressures of the royalty. That day sitting in the state transport bus I could see a man readying to take charge and revolt against the system in which he had been trapped for years.

Maanav has taken a step forward. As a friend all that I can tell him is I am there and will always be there for him


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