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Home and family are the prime influences that nurture an individual and turn them into a mature human being in a civilised society. In India, the number of homeless LGBTQ+ people, as well as members of many other minority groups, are increasing by the day on account of broken homes and surging poverty. These people are also being ignored by the system, especially since the advent of the BJP regime in 2014. 

This however is an inspiring story of strangers becoming a family, redefining human bonding and proving that compassion still exists as an oasis in a world of hatred, desolation and war.

21-year-old Reshma, a lesbian, left her parents’ home, as things had not turned out well for her when she came out to them. Not only had her family not acknowledged Reshma’s identity, she was also beaten up by her father. The village in Kerala from where Reshma hails is not remotely aware of LGBTQ+ issues. In fact, even the police whom Reshma had approached for protection against her abusive father had turned down her complaint out of ignorance. 

Reshma was left with but one option, and that was to leave home and find somewhere where she would be safe, which also meant discontinuing her education until she found a way to support herself financially. She also had other plans once she managed to stand on her own feet! 

Meanwhile, close to the college in Trivandrum, the capital city of Kerala, where Reshma had studied, there was an institution called Manaviyam (which means humanity) where many activists, queers, creative and progressive minds hung out. 

At Manaviyam, Srijith Vava, a theatre artist by profession, befriended Reshma and soon the young Reshma revealed her situation to him, expressing her need for a safe place to stay. Srijith got in touch with his friends and, in a city with many queer-friendly folk, Reshma not only found a shelter but also a job to support herself. In a few weeks, Reshma managed to settle down.

Reshma had a lover, Sanjana. The two had been in love since their college days. Actually, the two of them had together planned to come out of their respective homes. But things had not turned out as they had planned, and though Reshma had managed to find a life outside of her family and home, Sanjana was stuck in her homophobic family. But after she began to be financially stable, Reshma, with the support of Srijith, helped Sanjana to escape from her home in pursuit of love! 

Srijith helped Reshma and Sanjana to live together as a couple. Addressing Reshma as his daughter on social media, a post that went viral on 29th November 2021, Srijith was deliberately attempting to redefine the family values and cultural norms of the cis-normative minds. The story was soon picked up by the Indian media, providing much-needed hope to many queer folk and their families. 

The media exposure brought about a change for the better in the outlook of Reshma’s estranged father and wider family. It has been a few months now and Reshma has now reconciled with her parents and hopes to do the same with her partner’s parents and resolve the issues that have been troubling both the families for quite a while. 

Reshma, a student of English, and her partner Sanjana, a student of mathematics, who both had to discontinue their studies, have now taken their exams and are awaiting results. They aspire to complete their education and find good jobs to support their life together. 

The young couple regards Srijith as their godfather and the three consider themselves a family. The couple has found a home and a social circle in their city. Though their struggle to make both ends meet is still very much a reality, their determination to pursue a life together is something to be appreciated. And hats off to Srijith, one of those real heroes who attempts to move the world a little further towards compassion, hope, and freedom!

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Shailaja Padindala

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