I am a 21-year-old happy-go-lucky girl with amazing friends and parents who've always loved me unconditionally. I was given all the independence I wanted. I completed my degree in chemical engineering from a reputed college and received a job letter from a big company offering a hefty package.
I have everything that every girl dreams of. My life seems perfect, doesn't it? But there is one problem. I am a lesbian.
Yes, I prefer girls. And trust me, this is not even the real problem when it comes to my life.
My father is a high-ranking Army officer currently posted in Kupwara.
When I was born, I was an angel for my parents, but my grandparents abandoned us because I was a girl.
My mother was completely disheartened but she let it go for my sake. But I suppose she could never really get over it. When I was just 2 years old, she had a cardiac arrest and left us.
At that time, my father was posted in Kargil. After this incident, he decided to move to my grandparents’ place. I stayed there while my father joined us during his holidays.
One night, when I was 8, my uncle who lived there tried to sexually abuse me. I was asleep when I suddenly felt someone's hand down there. He kept moving it vigorously.
After he was done, I couldn't sleep because of the pain. I cried the entire night.
From that day, I was too scared to sleep alone and started sleeping in my grandmother's room. He tried to do it again but luckily, he could never succeed.
Days and years went by. The days when my father came home were the best days of my life. Even though he came from difficult terrains, he never forgot to bring something for me.
He has always been my hero and my first love.
I love him from the bottom of my heart. Being an army child, I know how it feels when the person you love the most has to leave for his duty towards the nation.
When I was in class 7, my grandparents got a call from the Army headquarters informing that my father had been critically wounded in a gunfight with some militants. I felt my world come crashing down.
I wanted to cry but my grandparents were already in tears so I stayed strong and went to the army hospital in Delhi where he’d been shifted. But my father is a warrior. He survived and came back to us.
He was awarded for his bravery and no one could have been prouder than me.
By the time I went to class 10, I made a lot of friends and was also popular among the guys, as they thought I was beautiful. I never liked any guy and never dated anyone.
Yet, I didn't realize that I had no interest in boys till I met this girl.
She was new to the school and was in the same class as me. She was the prettiest girl in the entire school and easily made her way into our group. She was intelligent, charming, sweet, and adorable with a caring nature.
There was something in her, which drove me towards her.
The way she smelt, the way she spoke, her magical eyes and perfect lips, which made me want to kiss her. Though our school uniformed sucked, she still looked pretty amazing in it.
She grew quite popular like me. Our time spent in school was great and we even hung out outside of school. We quickly became best friends.
I loved everything about her; the way she spoke, her cute whining about things, her stunning hair and the way she handled it and so much more. When we were together, I was in my own magical world.
I never realized when I fell for her. It was a feeling I’d never felt for anyone. It was then I realized that I was a lesbian.
It took me a little time to absorb this reality because I knew that being lesbian or gay in India is looked down upon. People despise them. In fact, they are also seen as criminals.
But my father taught me never to be afraid to show your true self because you are unique in your own way. He always said that we shouldn’t allow others' judgmental nature to influence us.
He encouraged me to always be my own self.
With this in mind, I accepted the truth. I grew up in a big city where everyone was well educated and open-minded as compared to other places. So, I decided to approach her and tell her how I felt.
I made up my mind to ask her out. Little did I know that I was making a huge mistake!
I went to school and saw her sitting where she always sat. She looked amazing as always and I fell for her all over again. When she saw me, she gave me a smile and I simply melted. I kept my bag and went towards her. She was sitting alone and I thought it was the perfect moment to tell her about my feelings.
I gathered courage and just said, "I love you and I want to date you!" There was an awkward silence between us. Her face went totally blank. She had no idea about what had happened.
I didn't realize that a group of guys and girls sitting on the bench ahead were listening to me. They turned around in shock and gave me a horrible look; it was a look of sheer disgust. They started laughing and within seconds this news spread through the entire class.
Everyone started calling us names and saying things like "lesbian saali", "Oh, she likes p***y?” "Will you act in porn now?"
She was disgusted. She started crying and ran out of the class. I got my answer. It was a big no.
By this time everyone in the class knew that I was a lesbian and my group was in shock. I was totally humiliated and shamed in front of the whole class. At one point, even the teachers discovered my truth and looked at me in disgust.
It was the darkest phase of my life. I stopped eating, avoided going to school and was always depressed. I fainted several times and had a nervous breakdown.
Despite all the humiliation, I managed to move ahead because of the support of a few people from my group.
I don’t know what I would’ve done without them. I never shared any of this with my father. I thought he wouldn’t like it nor would he be able to accept it. I was forced to bear this burden all alone.
The girl I loved was in my class the whole time. Even she was suffering the same humiliation though she was not at fault. I felt extreme guilt. She didn’t speak to me the entire year.
Somehow, I completed my boards and scored 89%. I opted for science, as I was genuinely interested in the field. For the next two years, I kept to myself and worked hard to get into my dream institution in Chandigarh for chemical engineering.
And I succeeded. I cleared the entrance exams and finally got what I wanted.
After the incident in school, I decided never to tell anyone about my sexual orientation.
But my university days weren't any better. I was in my third year and was living in the hostel. There was a cute girl whom I liked. She was very shy but she managed to sway me away with her sweet behaviour.
However this time, I was a bit afraid to confess my feelings because of my past experience.
But Rebecca was so amazing that I couldn’t control myself. Even she would drop me subtle hints at times. Physically, we were always very close.
And yet, I repeated the same mistake. And this time, I wasn't just humiliated but was severely abused.
I started hating myself and would stay locked in my room as much as possible.
One night, I was returning to the hostel. The area around the hostel was quiet and secluded in the night. 3 guys came out of nowhere and covered my face with a cloth. I screamed but it was of no use, as the cloth obstructed my voice from reaching out.
They kidnapped me and took me to an isolated place. I was raped there. My face was covered with the cloth the entire time. I tried to free myself but I couldn’t.
While raping me, one of the guys shouted, "You lesbian, you scum of the world, today we will make you straight. You like girls near your p***y right? Today, we will show you how it feels to have hard d***s in your p***y and you will love it, trust me!" and he kept raping me.
After they were done, they fled the spot and I was left in the open with torn clothes. I could barely stand. I struggled to stand up and went to the hostel. Thankfully, no one saw me in that condition. When I reached my room, I told my roommates everything that happened while crying profusely.
My roommates were amazing. They didn’t have a problem with my sexual orientation. They tried their best to calm me down. But I was shaken to the core.
Was being a lesbian such a big crime?
It is my choice that I don’t want to have d***s inside my vagina; it is my choice to be lesbian. Who has given you the right to force me to be straight? Am I really scum?
Did I deserve to be gang-raped because of my sexual orientation?
I was sure that those guys were from our university but I didn't file a police complaint. Instead, I kept blaming myself for what happened to me. I thought I deserved to be raped.
I went to my grandparents' house to recover but did not share anything with them. I decided to tell to my father who was scheduled to come home after a week. When he returned, he had become the Lieutenant Colonel and was already stressed because of his duties. I chose not to tell him anything, as he already had a lot of tension about the safety of the country.
I was always aware that my dad belonged to the country first and then to me.
He did figure that something was wrong with me but I didn’t tell him anything.
During that time, I met my friends from school and told them everything that had happened. Once again, they helped me believe in myself and gave me hope, which I was losing. They gave me much-needed motivation to believe that it was not my fault.
The perpetrators were wrong. No one deserves to be raped.
I went back to the college but kept myself away from all the taunts and humiliation. All these incidents had made me a stronger person. I completed my engineering and landed an amazing job through campus placements.
However, there was something else on my mind. I didn't want to do this job. I wanted to do something good; achieve something great.
I’d always been looked down upon but now I wanted to give a different purpose to my life.
I decided to join the Indian Army just like my father. I knew the sense of pride and honour one experiences when they fight for their own country. After I landed the job, I went to meet my father who was home for his holidays.
We went out for dinner that night. Dad then drove us to a cliff from where one could see the entire city with its bright lights. I confessed everything to him.
I told him I was a lesbian, how I discovered it, how I was humiliated both in school and college and how I was raped on that horrifying night.
I opened up to him about everything. By the time I’d finished, my dad was crying heavily. The person who reduced terrorists to tears was himself crying in front of me. He held my hand and hugged me tightly as the tears refused to stop.
His hug was all I needed to make all my pain go away.
I felt safe in his arms and began crying too. He asked, "Aliyah, why didn't you tell me all this earlier? You went through so much pain and agony all alone."
Wiping away my tears, I replied, "Dad, I am the daughter of an army officer." He was touched. "You never fail to amaze me. I’m lucky to have such a wonderful daughter. "
We sat for a while and I told him that I was joining the Indian Army because I wanted to be just like him. He kissed my forehead and replied, "You won’t be just like me, you’d be way better because you are way stronger than me. I am proud of you sweetheart. "
After a few months, he was promoted to Colonel. I cleared my written exam and am about to give my interview. Homosexuality is not allowed in the Indian Army, so I am never going to try and find someone for myself. I better remain single.
Even though this country hasn’t done much for the LGBT community, I still want to do something for this country because I love my country.
I’m hopeful that one day, people will stop looking down upon homosexuals. I’m probably an example for the country. Even after being looked down upon, I love my country as much as others. One day, I hope this country accepts us.
A day when we won’t be treated differently and no one will have to face humiliation like me. One day we won’t be a taboo or God's mistake. One day there will be no Aliyah's.
But not everyone is bad. I have had some amazing people in my life. My father who is my greatest hero, my friends who supported me and fought for me despite knowing what I am and my father’s family whom I haven’t described properly. The world is not as bad a place as it seems.
Some LGBT people may think that it is a curse to be born in this country. I don’t blame them here because it is not their mistake.
For me, despite all the opposition, I am grateful to be born here.