Jan 27, 2016

Summer 1984: I Meet a Zoroastrian in a Public Cruising Area

During the summer of 1984, just after we got our M.A. degrees in English, my friend Viju invited me to visit his family in India for two weeks.

Except for trips to Agra and Varanasi, we spent most of our time in Delhi, hanging out with his parents, sister Aruna, and old university friends, We went to a bodybuilding competition, a lot of shopping malls, and since I was interested in religion, a lot of temples and mosques.

There were no gay bars, bathhouses, community centers, or gay organizations  in India, but there was a lot of public sex in Jahanpanah City Forest.  You saw a guy you liked, nodded, and followed him into the bushes.

Viju said that it was perfectly safe: although "sodomy" was technically illegal,  the police didn't believe that it existed in India, so they didn't patrol.

I was a little hesitant, but when a tall, slim, very dark skinned guy in his 30s smiled at me, Viju whispered "Go for it!"  I followed him into a little copse, where

[Sorry, too explicit]

"You are an American, right?"



Right.  I'm here visiting my friend."

"I guessed that.  I love American boys -- you have an energy, an excitement. Would you have dinner with me tonight?"

"I'll have to ask if Viju has plans for us..."

"Invite him along, too.  The Host at 8:00?  But first, if you're not too tired..."

[Too explicit]

The Host turned out to be a very bright, airy, and expensive restaurant on Connaught Circus, about a half hour by car from Viju's house.

Arshad arrived with a date for Viju: Noel, slim, redheaded, with a British accent.  They were coworkers at an engineering firm.

"But originally I am from Ahmedabad, in Gujarat," Arshad told us.  "A Parsi.  Have you heard of us?" .

Parsis -- Zoroastrians!  The ancient monotheistic religion that competed with Christianity in the first and second centuries.  Ahura Mazda and Ahriman, light and darkness, order and chaos.   The Avestas.  Zarathustra.  Fire temples!

"You are very intelligent as well as handsome," Arshad said, cutting me off.

"Boomer is very interested  in religion," Viju said.  "Me, not much.  I look toward the future, not the past."

"Then you must let me take you on a tour of the spiritual sites of Delhi.  I will take tomorrow off from work.  There are temples for Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Baha'is..."

"Christian churches, mosques..."  Noel added.

"A Zoroastrian fire temple?" I asked eagerly.

"Of course, of course," Arshad said, looking down at the menu.  "We will tour that as well."

 We finished the evening at Arshad's apartment.  Noel and Viju took the guest room, and Arshad brought me into the master bedroom, where

[Sorry]

After breakfast,  Noel and Viju left, and Arshad drove me out to Ahinsa Sthal, about a half-hour drive south of his apartment.  Sacred to Jainism, with a 13-foot statue of Mahavira.

That was impressive.

Then another half-hour drive east to the Lotus Temple, sacred to the Baha'i religion.

Ok, but what about the Fire Temple?

Back into town, 30 minutes north to the Jama Masjid, a huge mosque.

I already saw it, but ok, I didn't mind seeing it again.

Back to Arshan's apartment for lunch.

Another 30 minutes around Connaught Circus to the Lakshi Narayan Mandir, a Hindu temple that I had already visited.

It was late afternoon.  We had been reverent all day.  I was getting "church fatigue."

"Next the Sacred Heart Cathedral" Arshad said. "It's only a few blocks from here."

Interesting, but I had seen Catholic churches before.

"Could we go to the Fire Temple now?  It's getting late."

He looked away.  "Sure, sure, I suppose.  It's only a few blocks away."

We got into his car and drove east on Nehru Boulevard.  Just past a gigantic hospital complex, we turned right on Bahadur Shah Road.

"The Parsi Anjuman is there on the left," Arshad said as we zipped by.

It was a small, square building with a pillared portico and some vaguely Babylonian fretwork.

"Hey, aren't we going to stop?"

"Oh, there's nothing much to see inside.  And I'm getting hungry.  Shall we have dinner?"

"Hey, what gives?  We spend all day touring the sacred sites of Jains, Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Bahai's, and Christians, but when it comes to your own religion, you zoom past at 80 miles an hour."

"Sorry.  But...it's just that..."  He stroked my knee.  "One who is unclean may not enter the temple."

"Non-believers?  That's ok, I don't mind not going in."

"Not you -- me.  I'm unclean. My religion teaches that those who do such things are like dogs, filthy beasts."

I looked at Arshad.  Did he actually believe that nonsense, think of himself as a filthy beast?  It was hard to tell.  "Well...my childhood religion, the Nazarenes, have some crazy beliefs, too.  I suppose I wouldn't want to give you a tour of the their church either."

But still, the "filthy beast" statement made me feel uncomfortable.  After dinner, I refused another bedroom session, and asked Arshad drop me off at Viju's house.  We exchanged addresses, but didn't write..

The uncensored post, with nude photos and explicit descriptions of sexual situations, is on Tales of West Hollywood.