Q: What makes you love yourself?
Rudradaman: What’s not to love, y’know? I’ve worked hard to be a better version of myself, and source my desire for change, as an artist, from a schema of acceptance and gratitude. Growing up in a world that’s constantly telling you how to be, there’s a lot of rejection we turn inwards and often spend our time trying to change who we are without even knowing who we are! I know who I am, I’ve spent my time working towards being a good person, and I love myself for it.
Anurag: The very fact that I wish and choose to exist, and constantly aspire to find people, things and issues to surround myself with—adds to my growth, this is the love I have for myself.
Q: What does love mean to you?
Rudradaman: love, at its finest, is a caring force. Love is the willingness to dedicate time and effort to nurturing something. A little simple, I know. I believe in all the different kinds of love I feel, be it with my family or my boyfriend or my dog or my art, are expressions of the same one feeling, just put together in different combinations with other feelings. I find this outlook liberating, since finding one source of love helps understand another and allows the grandness of the feeling to propel you unto other grand feelings.
Anurag: Love is an energy/force that I feel when I accept myself with all my vulnerabilities, flaws & insecurities. And I feel the depth of emotions that help me navigate in a direction that truly feels authentic.
Q: How was your experience shooting for GG?
Rudradaman: Shooting for Gaurav with his amazing team and all the other wonderful people there to make the dream come true was an experience worth remembering. I was greeted with warm smiles and treated to the finest courtesy. Everybody there contributed to making the vision a reality, and it felt magnificent to be a part of it.
Anurag: I had an impeccable experience working with the entire Gaurav Gupta team. It was deeply humbling to be able to produce such work with an artist who is known for their expertise in the field of fashion and to be a face for many others who identify with me today.
Q: How did you feel wearing these outfits?
Rudradaman: Gaurav sure knows how to make a person feel majestic. Dressed in those garments, I felt handsome, powerful and sharp. I felt like I could walk on water, if I so chose. I felt strong and rooted and loved how his clothes accented my self-perception. It’s a big part of why the experience was as memorable as it was.
Anurag: I felt the outfits were beautifully constructed. The moment I put them on, it made me feel… rich?! Or for the lack of a better word. Famous?! It made me feel beautiful on the outside just like I feel on the inside, on most days (laughs)
Q: When did you decide to come out? Was the experience challenging?
Rudradaman: I’ve always, almost rigidly, believed that there is no need to come out. The idea has evolved from one born of fear to one that claims that my authenticity needs no explanation. I can say and do what I want, knowing that my sexuality isn’t an explanation but just one of my many facets that inform the choices I make. With this in mind, I think people only understand others’ worlds through the ones they live in, and so it helps to be willing to have a conversation with someone about something they wouldn’t normally get to experience. I first came out to my younger sister to explain to her why I broke up with a beloved ex-girlfriend. My sister idolised our relationship, and I wanted her to know what went into my ex and I being able to stay good friends. She’s the one who told my parents, in a bout of fury and tears, when she realised the way they spoke about me didn’t allow me to be me. My parents didn’t understand but put in the work to let go of their antiquated notions, and as I noticed their expectations of my shift to ones that prioritised my happiness, I started talking to them about things like having a boyfriend, being discriminated against, thriving in queer community. They’ve been very supportive since, more than I could have hoped for. Their acceptance meant the world to me, and it’s liberated me more than most things to be true to myself.
Anurag: I came out to my sibling, my cousins and my friends when I was 18. I came out to my parents when I was 25. And I’m still coming out to a lot of people who don’t know what my identity is. So, it’s an ongoing process, not just because it’s important for me but also because I feel it creates a ripple effect every time I do it. It was definitely challenging to be able to face the people that you love and to tell them who you truly are and what you stand for, with the fear behind your head that there’s a chance that you won’t be accepted. That was an experience that made me fear that I won’t find belonging or love, but, right now, I love myself and I’ve promised to take care of this love as sensitively as I can.
Q: Have you seen a positive change in our society? Or do you feel that we still have a long way to go?
Rudradaman: It’s hard to talk about society changing when so many of the power structures and institutions that define it, were never meant for us when they never will be. What we need isn’t permission to function in the same spaces everybody else has always been allowed in, but understanding and empathy in allowing us to define how we want to live. I could go on for days, about how accepting gay marriage is still trying to pigeonhole queer union into the eventual structure of a father and mother, and other such examples. While I think we’re still a long way from a society that doesn’t even stop to consider someone’s sexuality, I think it’s marvellous how the Internet allowed access to information such that people are now better informed about their own prejudices and expectations. I think this has helped a lot of queer folks let go of the societal restrictions that kept them from being their queer, authentic selves. We still have a long way to go, but I value immensely how thanks to information and acceptance, we’re moving from our assigned space at the fringes of society to our deserved positions in the midst of it.
Q: What are the kind of challenges you faced initially?
Rudradaman: Well, between the early self-hatred that came with not thinking like other people did and wanted me to too, and the shame that came from doing the things that I desired, I really ripped myself apart trying to be a palatable version of myself. I lost friends because kids would see a girl and boy hanging out together and contort it under the lens of romance. I took all the insults and thrashings that were directed my way and grew mean, to myself and to the world, as a form of protection. I lied to myself and cried to myself, lamenting how if I’d just been born ‘normal’ like the rest I wouldn’t have to feel these things. It was painful, especially considering I was just a child, and delayed my understanding of love, desire, potential, and so many other things.
Anurag: Some of the most challenging situations for me when I was coming out to my friends initially when I was in college, and my parents after when I was out of college was people’s understanding of sexuality and gender binaries in the Indian subcontinent because we have been gifted with a completely different set of terminologies and ideas of where sexuality and gender binaries have evolved from. So, you know, there were a lot of hardships while explaining to people what being gay exactly means and how we function and what being a gender queer person means and what their existence is like. Because there’s no one true definition of what being gay or being queer is, it can be very personal and expansive depending on the individual you’re talking to.
Q: How did you guys meet?
Rudradaman: Anurag and I met for the first time a couple of years ago when a mutual friend gathered us for an idea she had for a photoshoot. I remember feeling out of my depth and being overwhelmed by how gorgeous Anurag was. I also remember cheekily catching a peek of his butt. We didn’t start dating until two years later, but he’d call me sometimes when I was making art, and I remember that very fondly too.
Anurag: We met through a common friend. Initially, it was not very obvious that we were going to pursue each other. However, when I did stalk Rudradaman on Instagram, I found him eternally gorgeous, I could not stop thinking about him. And then, we worked for a project that I was working on at that point of time for my blog, for which I had cast Rudradaman as a model. And from thereon, our conversations only increased, and here we are now.
Q: Do you have a message you want to send other couples who might be hesitant to come out?
Rudradaman: My advice to queer individuals in a relationship that are struggling to come out is the same as my advice for any other. Be a friend to yourself. Treat yourself with the same love and care that you would a dear friend. Put in the time to learn who you are, and through that gain the power to become who you want. I don’t believe anyone needs to come out to anybody else, but one must allow themselves the space to be their best and truest. Don’t accept anyone fitting you in a box that’s smaller than you, don’t make space for people who define themselves through how much better than they are than others, and don’t let past mistakes define a person.
Anurag: The only message I have for a couple who want to come out and put themselves out there and find community and a sense of belonging would be: trust your instincts, take your time, there is no rush. You work on your path like you’ve imagined yourself doing it. And don’t let anyone pressure you into doing anything you’re not completely prepared for. Stand up for each other. Stand with each other. Accept yourself and accept your partner for the parts that are still in the becoming, that will come up in the future, that is yet to be discovered. Only when you can stick to them right now with your true intentions and all the love you have to offer can you do it in the future. There’s no future if there’s no present. So, find the courage within yourself somehow or with someone’s help if you need any, to nurture that love inside of you.
Q: Who has been your biggest inspiration?
Rudradaman: My biggest inspiration is my mom. She gave me the power to live authentically and equipped me with the skills to survive this world. One of my earliest memories is watching her paint a blanket with the most delicate flowers. Another is the time she and I were on a farm patiently watching birds as she taught me to identify them by their call and plumage. My mother is the most loving, genuine soul and she filled me with a thirst for beauty, fun, and life. If not for all those times I trailed behind her in awe, I might not have known how to make magic.
Anurag: My biggest inspiration has been my mother too. Everything that I know and I do has been able to form its structure and find its voice because of the courage and resilience I’ve seen in my mother. I also find inspiration in my boyfriend when I see how he accepts me, and how he pushes me to do better for myself.