Thursday, February 26, 2015

Chacha’s aunt: When will you get married to Faheem?

Below is our first ever #ChachaFanFic :D - honoured to have received an ‘interview with Chacha’ from journalist Ahmed Yusuf (@ASYusuf), who works with Pakistan’s leading English daily, Dawn.


Check out full Urdu translation here

Ahmed and his Chacha share many secrets.

Like the time when Ahmed ate all the chocolate that Uncle Faheem had gotten from Dubai. Ammi was livid, but Chacha came to the rescue. Then there was the time when Ahmed cut his elbow playing cricket and Chacha quickly put a plaster and let him play some more. Then there was the extra tub of chocolate ice-cream that Chacha smuggled into Ahmed's room after he had a tooth removed. There is a chamber of secrets between Ahmed and Chacha, but there is one thing there is no lying about: Chacha is gay.

“It is a strange world we live in; people ask questions about who you love and why you love them. Love is love yaar, that's what I want to teach Ahmed,” says Chacha.

Taken from Pakistani Children's book 'My Chacha is Gay' - see original post here

Like all young paternal uncles, Chacha is part Ahmed's best friend and part his guardian. I met him at their Karachi residence over tea one evening. Chacha, Ahmed and Uncle Faheem are global celebrities now. They are the stars of the children's book, My Chacha is Gay, and their story is being 
told in many languages by people all over the world. Except in Pakistan, where publishers are reluctant to place the book on the pretext of the country “not being ready” for such a book. Not that Chacha or Ahmed care about such things; they believe that the real bravado is in living an honest life. 

“Who are Ahmed's role models? His father, mother, and then family around him. Why should we lie to him or make excuses about who we are? Doing that will teach him to lie to those he loves and makes friends with,” says Chacha.

Ahmed's parents complain that Chacha spoils him too much. “You only get to be a kid once,” Chacha says in his defence. “I want to ensure that Ahmed and my niece Saima, who is too young to even speak yet, have an incredible childhood.”

Taken from Pakistani Children's book 'My Chacha is Gay' - see original post here

Chacha's desire to help his nephew and niece cherish their childhood stems from his own experiences while growing up. Much of Chacha’s childhood was spent in turmoil, trying to fit various moulds, and trying to hide who he was. He wants Ahmed and Saima to know that they will be loved no matter what, and that they should be proud of who they are and to stand up for themselves.

“I was bullied a lot in school. Over time, I learnt the most valuable lesson of my life: being any kind of different is okay.”

Today, life for Chacha is the same as it is for everyone else. He wakes up in the morning, occasionally drops Ahmed to school, goes to work, and returns home every evening. He enjoyed the serial Mera Sultan, but also loved the Masterchef Pakistan's debut season. Ahmed wants Chacha to compete in Masterchef Pakistan one day; Chacha’s Chicken Makhni (Butter Chicken) is divine, apparently. 

Photo from

And it was on one of the Chicken Makhni feasts that Chacha’s maternal aunt first popped the question, “Faheem is such a nice boy, when are you two getting married?”

Taken from Pakistani Children's book 'My Chacha is Gay' - see original post here

Chacha was immediately taken aback, he recalls, while Faheem started laughing. “I tried explaining it to Khala that we can’t get married in Pakistan, that it's just not allowed, sadly. She still insists on a private ceremony.”

I ask Chacha what's stopped them from getting married abroad, where local imams perform nikah ceremonies for gay and queer Muslims?

“What's the point of getting married anywhere other than Pakistan? This is our home, this is where our friends and family are.” retorts an exasperated Chacha. “Can you have a Karachi Mehndi in London? No. Can you invite friends? No, not as many as we would like. Yes, we might be signing nikah papers in a mosque, with an imam saheb, but why do it without loved ones, who mostly live in Pakistan?”

For a gay man in Pakistan, Chacha is unusually confident - homosexuality is legally punishable in Pakistan, although social evidence point to other realities. He attributes this confidence to his belief in always speaking the truth.

“Look, if there was a creator and he had to hate me, he wouldn't have created me,” he asserts. 

The mood threatens to turn sombre, before Chacha blurts: “Yes I am gay, I am Pakistani, and I am a Muslim. Nobody can take that away from me. And yes, I love my nephew and niece, and I'd give my life for them in a flash.”

Point noted. I steer the conversation to how he met Faheem.

“We used to play cricket every weekend near the Mister Burger outlet on Tariq Road. One time, Faheem was there too. Long story short: we bonded on Pakola (ice cream soda), and the rest is history.”

What makes their relationship tick?

“Honesty, I think... Faheem, as you know, is a pilot and really isn't in Pakistan most of the year. Whenever he is, I tell him he has arrived on a 'trip' to Pakistan,” cheers Chacha.

“We decided to treat our relationship as a long-distance one. I think that has allowed us to manage our expectations with each other. But when Faheem is back, we go to a bunch of places together. Lots of restaurants and cafes around Karachi to experiment with. Faheem loves karahi from Super Highway; he won't go to Do Darya but to the original outlets to eat that. We end up at movies together. Basically everything that a regular, healthy couple does.”

Since Chacha lives as part of Ahmed's family, I ask whether it was ever awkward to talk about homosexuality with his nephew.

Taken from Pakistani Children's book 'My Chacha is Gay' - see original post here

“Oho yaar, it’s all about honesty and respect,” Chacha says. “Treat the child as a young adult and talk to them. I could lie to Ahmed about Faheem, but I have to teach him about my reality. I want to be honest with him.”

But how do you expect a child to accept something when most of society seems to be against you, simply because of your sexual orientation? Isn't that too great a burden?

“Pyaar is pyaar, yaar - that's what you teach a child. Else they can become beasts,” asserts Chacha.“We are a cruel people, sometimes. At work, one of my senior colleagues is gay but he hides it. People make fun of him, they bully him. He retreats into a shell. Then I think of some of my uncles and aunts. They had boyfriends and girlfriends, but never wanted to get married. I feel for them, maybe if they lived in better times, they could have been with or married those who they loved. But they couldn't. They suffered in silence. I want Ahmed to learn to be humane to all people, not be an insensitive and uninformed brat.”

Is he ever scared of being openly and unapologetically gay in Pakistan?

“Sometimes. I’m afraid of the persecution you know,” Chacha says, with a knowing nod directed at me. I nod back.

And what does his mother say? Does she approve of Faheem?

“My mom loves Faheem. She didn't always, but now that she has warmed up to the idea, she is thrilled that he brings such happiness to me. Before Faheem, she would complain that I was becoming a little distant from her. But finding love has brought me out of my shell. Her acceptance, whenever it came, meant a lot too,” he says pensively.

Chacha's mother now admires Faheem to the extent that she laments their dining out whenever Faheem is in town. “She says to us, ghar ka khana (home cooking) is also good for health. But sometimes, couples need their space. I would always want to go crabbing with Faheem and eat the aloo crab cutlets they make on the boat.”

The one thing that Chacha loves most about Karachi is that he can walk around holding hands with Faheem in public and no one bats an eyelid. As he puts it, two men holding hands is not an uncommon sight, but two men asking for the right to be in love is what upsets people.

“Even today, many of my colleagues who have known me for long are okay with homosexuality, but many are not comfortable talking about it. Things always get a bit awkward when I mention Faheem in a large group setting. I really wish that could change... I want to be able to speak about the people in my life just as anyone would,” Chacha says matter-of-factly.

“Till then, I am just happy that Faheem and I can take a walk down Seaview or even to our local street food vendor and hold hands without drawing attention to ourselves. It’s pyaar (love), yaar.”

Taken from Chacha & Faheem's Valentine's Day Post

***This is a piece of creative writing. All characters have been developed in consultation with the writer of the book, My Chacha is Gay***

Feel free to submit your own #ChachaFanFic, photo or fan art to me at nicemangosDOTblogATgmailDOTcom - just remember that Chacha is a children's book character so it can't be sexual, political, religious. Meet those requirements, make it kick ass, and I'll share it on the blog! :D 

If you wish to support the project, you can do so by ordering your own copy of My Chacha is Gay at

-E xx 

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