Sex

Commuting and Cruising in the Kolkata Metro

Where do you get off, sir?
Kolkata Metro. Image: Wikimedia Commons.

“In the morning, I get on the last coach, and during evening the first because that’s where all the excitement is,” says Soumodeep Chattopadhyay*, a 48-year-old bank clerk who lives in Belgachia, North Kolkata. “It is important to stand close to the exit door as it is the most crowded spot. Within a minute or two, there is going to be someone touching you. I see this happening or experience it myself. Not that I mind.”

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Nobody in Chattopadhyay’s family knows that he is gay. Every day, he boards the Kolkata Metro from Belgachia to Rabindra Sarobar from where he walks to the bank. Every evening he takes the same route back home. “I have been traveling down that route for the past 15 years,” he says.

Asked if he ever initiates the caress, Chattopadhyay hesitates, but finally says, “I do reciprocate, but only when it is initiated by the other man. But I have never been the first to do it. I see a lot of men my age or older who do it so professionally that often it is hard to tell whether the hand is intentionally close to someone’s penis or not. It requires a lot of nerves and one has to be careful. Even after all these years, my heart beats very fast every time somebody touches me. Every day is an adventure.”

Proximity to the station exits and the fact that they’re the most crowded cars make the first and last coach an open secret among Kolkata’s homosexual community, especially people who haven’t completely moved to apps. They’re not the only cruising spot, but one of the more well-known ones, supplementing the position occupied by local trains.

Postgraduate student Tapan Sarkar* tells us he he “started exploring all the known spots soon after I passed out from school. My first place was the Minto Park, then there was Rabindra Sarobar and Dhakuria Lake, where it gets very dark after sunset but the guys are decent, although often middle age. The toilets were fun too. I often go to the one in Curzon Park in Esplanade or the Sealdah station toilet near Platform 1.”

“I and two of my gay friends had always heard about Howrah Station toilets, and how some of the railway staff goes there too,” he says, narrating the story of when he first went there. “As we entered the toilet, there was a man standing in front of a urinal. His eyes met mine and he flashed his dick. I acted as if I hadn’t seen it because I wasn’t desperate. The important thing is to not hesitate,” he adds. “Just make eye contact or look at their zip for a couple of seconds.” In the Metro, eye contact is less important. “If I were to say which is the best spot,” Sarkar says, “I would undoubtedly say the Metro, particularly during the office hours.”

*Sources used pseudonyms.