Published in The Nepali Man on 28 February 2015
Grinding In Kathmandu
This article is for men who like men. It is also for men who are slightly curious. But Hey Mister Man, even if you are perfectly happy with your woman, you might still enjoy this writer’s experiences in Kathmandu; more specifically, Grinding in Kathmandu.
You can download Grindr, a social networking application, on your smartphone for free. For many gay men in all major cities of the world, Grindr is like, well, water. You tap it as soon as you wake up in the morning, during lunch break, and on slow work days, you drink away those hours staring at the yellow screen, scrolling through profiles.
Creating a profile is not so difficult but deciding what you are Looking For can be challenging. Grindr asks you to choose one or all of these options: Friends, Relationship, Dates, Chat or Right Now (Even if you skip this step and leave it blank, you will be instantly confronted by a Grindr man with this famous question: What are you looking for?) Let’s just laugh the first two options away, shall we? Bahahaha. Do you think single gay boys lying on their beds, inside their daddies’ houses, are really looking for a friend or a relationship on Grindr? Ha.
I’m not that pessimistic. Trust me. But once you are in the scene, once you really understand How Men Think and What Men Want, in other words, if you are a Gay Man looking for other Gay Men, and if you are not super-conditioned by your Hindu upbringing or “Nepali culture,” do you really believe in finding a monogamous relationship? And that too, on Grindr? I’m not so sure.
But this is a confusing world, isn’t it? And specially if you are a confused young Nepali gay boy who grew up hearing how you will one day grow up and get a job and have a house and settle down with a wife and children, all this can seem utterly and totally cuckoo to you. Not to worry. I am here, your friend, Charlie Chaulagain. I will help you think through all of this.
I should not stray too far from my topic. When I returned from that permissive Western World last year, I downloaded Grindr back on my iphone (I had deleted it numerous times before - Why? - That’s another story for another time). What else could I do? There are no gay bars or clubs or cafes in our quaint city, are there? Going online is the only way to meet men (There are other websites of course. But let’s stick to Grindr for now - there’s something almost addictive about its orange yellow spark and its toothy dark logo. The face looks a bit evil, but I don’t think that’s the point. I think the logo - black, uncanny - is a representation of our complex and powerful carnal needs).
I chose Chat as an option. Still adjusting to a new lifestyle, I actually wasn’t sure what I was looking for. I think some of you can sympathize with that, right? “Not knowing what you want” is a pretty common phase in life, specially when it comes to sex and romance. But I was being honest, I really was. I was sincerely interested in talking to other gay Nepali men in Kathmandu, interested in their lives, their thoughts, who they were and how they were.
Oh what a tumultuous journey it has been. Grinding in Kathmandu is not easy. It sure wasn’t easy over there either, but for very different reasons. First of all, there quite a few gay men scattered all over our little valley, logging in and out at all kinds of hours. When I was getting ready to leave Kathmandu more than a decade ago, when I was a mere teenager looking to connect back then - the internet had just arrived in Nepal - there was no one, literally no gay men online (Well, maybe three). But now there are a lot of young ones - not quite sure whether they are still boys or fully men - those twentysomethings! Sad thing is, so many of these blossoming Nepali men don’t have their photos on Grindr. They are afraid. You hear me? Afraid to show their faces. That’s why Grinding in Kathmandu has been a bit of a bummer. But we aren’t surprised, are we?
Word on the street is - most of these urban young Kathmandu men only talk to foreigners. You can imagine why, right? They literally won’t respond to my messages once I tell them that I am also a Nepali Man. On the other hand, there are those migrant boys, buoyed by their wild hormones, reckless and brave in this big city, whose profile pictures change every day, showing off cutting edge hairstyles, jaw dropping fashion sense. But when you try to talk to them, they can’t say more than “Hi. Looking For?” Uff.
In any case, I decided to meet someone for coffee on a dismal November evening. The distance on Grindr showed that he lived about one thousand feet away (That’s the other thing about Grindr - its geolocation feature tells you approximately how far away the person you are talking to is). This young man, not even twenty-three, seemed a bit different than the rest, somewhat brave I would say - he was a dancer, he said, and also had his picture up - so I thought he might be worth my time.
He showed up and sitting across the table from me, started to talk. Oh how much sex he had had. Oh all the boyfriends, the long distance drama, the threesome he almost tried. Oh how he now wants to be good and Just Focus on His Career. Oh how he is Done with Men for now - Why was I so quiet, he asked once - and No, he is not Looking for Sex, and made a very clear implication that he doesn’t sleep with anyone older than twenty-five (Definitely still a boy, he was).
I had a good time listening to him yap; I sure did. He amused me. But more than that, his security with his orientation impressed me; the confidence with which he had pursued his desires reminded me of my younger self, even though he seemed to be working through some kind of guilt attached to his rendezvous. I had also gone through a similar phase not too long ago. His courage was admirable. And to a certain extent, his ability to talk (Yours truly likes to write, but can sometimes come across as shy).
In any case, the hour passed and we parted ways. I didn’t quite know what to do with him after that. He didn’t seem to fit any of the boxes - Friends, Relationship, Date, Right Now. We could have continued to Chat, but he clearly enjoyed talking more than listening. He was as terrible at asking questions online as he was offline. I dilly dallied for a few days, merely typing ‘Hi, Busy” inside our window’s interface.
And then one day, I went to his profile and pressed the red X. Blocked. That’s the other thing about Grindr. Anyone who is problematic can be removed from your screen. Swiftly and easily deleted from your life.
I told you, Grinding in Kathmandu is tumultuous. And this world, this world can be a bit confusing at times.