Nov 29, 2013

Spring 1983: Viju and I Compete Over Pecs

During my first year as a M.A. student at Indiana University (1982-83), I went crazy -- so many options!  Augustana offered only the standard French, Spanish, German, Latin, Greek, Swedish, and Russian, but Indiana offered everything from Afrikaans to Nahuatl to Mongolian!  I ended up taking Mandarin Chinese, Russian Folklore, and South Asian Anthropology, and Mongolian Civilization (where I learned about Bokh, or Mongolian Wrestling).

 I didn't meet Viju the Gay South Asian in South Asian Anthropology. He was a doctoral student in English, interested in John Milton.  We met in my class in Renaissance Literature, when I suggested facetiously that Sir Philip Sidney might have been a crossdresser.

"You'd better be careful, Boomer," Viju exclaimed.  "People might think you mean he had bisexual tendencies or something."

I managed to blurt out "No, I think he was gay!" before the professor put a stop to the discussion and assured us that there were no "homosexuals" in Renaissance England.

Viju turned out to be gay himself, but closeted, even more closeted than most guys in the Midwest in 1982.  He wouldn't go to the gay student organization on campus, or to Bullwinkle's, Bloomington's gay bar (although I convinced him later, when we converted the homophobe).

Instead, he opted for the hour drive into Indianapolis, where no one knew him.  He preferred the Varsity Lounge, a mixed gay/lesbian bar.with lots of older, "straight" acting guys.

We never dated (although there was a bit of incidental fondling), but we became friends.

In the spring 1983 semester, we registered for a seminar in Modernist Literature, or rather, all Great Writers Who Ever Existed (everybody else being hacks): D. H. Lawrence, T.S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, William Faulkner.  Most of their works had no gay content, of course, but we had lots of fun misreading the texts to add some.

 Viju took me to my first gay bar, and we often drove into Indianapolis to cruise together.  We were both into guys who were husky or muscular and A+++ beneath the belt, so we sometimes ended up competing for the same bodybuilder, bear, or pro wrestler.

My strategy was: "Hi, you have nice pecs.

Well, it worked with Jimmy, the Bodybuilder on Crutches.

Viju's strategy was: "Hi, I'm exotic, and I know all sorts of ancient Hindu sex secrets.".

The story of Viju continues when he meets my Cousin Joe, when we try to decide if our professor, Dr. Singer, is gay, and when we visit India and he tries to fix me up with his sister.