Kudix Mug Holders of the MonthThey found love in a hopeful place—say hello to Lise and Chethana.
At Toit, our customers have always been our primary focus. They’re the ones who bring life to the place, create memories and end up giving the place its familiar, friendly vibe.
And there are so many different kinds of people who come through our doors daily, that we wanted to get to know their stories.
The Kudix Mug Holder of the Month is our little way of celebrating our customers, and their unique stories.
Meet the women to decided to have their first date at a brewpub and professed their love for each other by partaking in some liquid courage. A year and a half later, they’re still going strong. Yup, that’s lovestruck Chethana and Lise for you, our Mug Holders of the month.
What do you guys do?
Chethana: I was doing digital marketing for an international retail store earlier. I just quit and I’m going to chill for sometime. Then I’m going abroad. I am originally from Bangalore, born and brought up here.
Lise: I am a scholar, so I’m writing a PhD on Indian Literature, and in Bangalore I was teaching French. I have been here for three years. I came here because I wanted to live in India.
I am a scholar, so I’m writing a PhD on Indian Literature…
Let me get this out of the way early on. How does one pronounce Lise?
Lise: Leez. *laughs*
So how did you guys meet?
Lise: *continues laughing* So, basically I was teaching in Alliance Francaise and Chethana started learning French for her work.
Chethana: I think I was flirting with her a lot. I don’t know, the first day she entered class itself I fell flat.
Were you apprehensive at first because she was your student?
Chethana: She was drawing a line every single time. I was like, you know what? Screw this. And then I broke the lines.
Any guesses at why you’re the chosen Mug Holders of the month?
Chethana: I think we have a good time every time we come here. Also, I think it’s because we end up meeting a lot of people. We’re here almost thrice a week.
Lise: I think it’s because of all the socialising. We meet people in Toit and then we call them again to Toit and then meet their friends in Toit—it goes on that way.
And do you guys drink a lot?
Lise: Not really. We drink beer, but we love the food too.
Chethana: The Nachos and the Steak are too good!
Since you’re the first gay couple to earn the Kudix Mug Holders title, I’m going to quickly ask you to confirm/debunk some notions.
Chethana: Ok, sure.
First of all, is using lesbians ever derogatory? People tend to wonder whether it is and whether saying gay women is more politically correct.
Chethana: No, it’s not. It’s fine.
What is the best and worst thing about being a gay couple in India?
Lise: Best- I think being in India, strangely, in parts of the city, you can hold hands and everything and it’s not considered as a demonstration of affection.
Even if you say “she is my girlfriend”, they never think of it that way. They think you mean good friends.
Chethana: Even if you say “she is my girlfriend”, they never think of it that way. They think you mean good friends.
Worst thing is especially when men say, “Oh! You’re lesbians! That’s so nice!” in a really creepy way, and their imagination starts working overtime in their head.
That’s the worst thing. Even when you say you’re not into guys, they say things like, “that’s even better.”
The moment you start being visible, this happens.
Is it very different from the attitude in France, where you’re from?
Lise: Ya. I think it is more accepted because in the West human rights is something you have to respect, because if you do not it’s like you are so backward or something. But in a sense I find India way more open, because people don’t label things as much.
That’s surprising. You’re saying you find India more open?
Lise: Not more open. The thing in India is that PDA is absolutely absent, but it’s the same for both heterosexual and homosexual couples. So, in a way, yeah it is depriving you of some of your freedom. For that I think being in the West is nicer, but again, it’s something that is cultural.
But other than this the people here are really open. You can speak with different types of people and when you tell them you’re a lesbian, they’re like “ok, whatever.”
Chethana: There are also the type of people to whom if you say you’re gay, it’s better off for them not to accept it so they just act like they didn’t hear a word about what you said. That’s not really positive acceptance.
How long have you two been together?
Chethana: Almost a year and eight months.
What’s the funniest misconception you’ve heard as a couple?
Chethana: For me, it was my mother who asked me how I experience pleasure. And then she went into asking me details. I was like “ I do not want to have this talk with you!”
Lise: Me, it wasn’t really funny because it was a work situation. Some parents of teenagers who were not my students wrote a mail to the Director saying that if you have a lesbian teacher, that will impact our children’s lifestyle. They said it would support tourism and child abuse. So that link was really weird. According to them, being gay is either being a tourist or a child abuser.
According to them, being gay is either being a tourist or a child abuser.
With the landmark judgement being passed in the United States, gay rights has once again become a hotly discussed topic. Does the judgement make you hopeful for the scenario here?
Chethana: For me, I think India is still in the Stone Age as far as accepting things and changes are concerned. I think it will take a hell of a lot of time for them to accept that being homosexual is ok and not a taboo anymore. Yes, it does give us hope, but I think it will take us a lot of time.
Lise: We’re moving to France soon, and gay weddings are allowed in France now, since last year.
Since you’ve been here your whole life, do you think there has been an attitude shift towards homosexuality over time?
Chethana: Even when you want to speak about it, your parents kind of shut you up. When I was about 12, I think that’s when I first felt it. Now, a lot more people are ok and accept it by saying “It’s your life, you do whatever you want.”
But before it was like “Oh no!”.
Lise: I think as well that because we live in Bangalore, which is a city, people are mostly more open.
I think the repealing of Section 377 changed a lot. I’m studying Lesbianism in Indian Literature, and when I started my PhD three years ago, there was nothing—something like four books on lesbianism in contemporary Indian literature. And after the repealing, thousands of books came up in just two years. So people were not scared anymore to be visible because it wasn’t an offence anymore.
Now that it’s been criminalised again, people have a more aggressive attitude now, like if you’re going to give me my freedom and then take it away, it doesn’t mean I’m going to go back to hiding.
I think the repealing of Section 377 changed a lot. I’m studying Lesbianism in Indian Literature
Now back to less serious stuff—do you guys have favourite beers and food here?
Chethana: Mine is the Red Ale. I used to have Tintin. Favourite foods are the Steak, Nachos and the Broccoli Arrabbiata. I love it!
Lise: Tintin with lime. I used to hate beer, I found it was too bitter. I figured out that when I add lime it is less bitter.
How long have you guys been coming here?
Lise: Since forever. Our first date was here, actually. Nothing happened when I was a teacher, but after I finished I was going to visit my parents for 15 days. So, even though nothing was said, both of us were sad, so I said let’s meet each other for lunch. She took an off and we met here. I didn’t know she took an off.
Chethana: I told my manager I was leaving and she was all like “Ah! You’re meeting your boyfriend!”. I just left.
Lise: We ordered the Nachos and neither of us ate because we were too shy! It was so nice. I think we spent six hours here and then came back again for another date. The second time, we ate!
So one final myth buster—is the ‘gaydar’ a real thing?
Chethana: Yeah, I think gay people can tell when other people are gay. I didn’t know I was gay for the longest time, like I was in denial for so long, it took me time. But yeah, you can tell.
Lise: It’s just a behaviour thing. It’s true.
What’s the most memorable thing you’ve experienced in all the years you’ve been coming here? (apart from the first date!)
Lise: I think the best Jazz concert I’ve ever been to was here at Toit. It was fabulous. They were from the North East.
Toit is like a second home. We feel very welcomed, and all the waiters here know us, so that’s really nice too. They’re really friendly. We have a bond with this place.