I was born in Dubai. It’s an extremely diverse place and living there for 15 years really helped me to understand the importance of learning about other cultures and nationalities and gave me quite an international mindset at an early age.
But, in 2015, I decided to try something new, which prompted a move to Bangalore, our home country of India, with my sister. It was just us, no parents. Suddenly we were alone in this cosmopolitan city – there was so much freedom.
It was that sense of freedom that allowed me to revisit questions I had about myself and my sexuality. The UAE is so conservative – and yes, India is also socially conservative, but people have a different mentality there. They’re far less institutionalised and less likely to try and impose their views on anybody else.
I’d always wondered who I was and where I really fit in and by 2019 I was really ready to explore my identity and get some answers. I was living in a central part of the city, where the LGBTQ+ community was very accepted. Still, it took me a long time to properly come out. It wasn’t until 2020 that I felt ready to start telling people in my life I was gay. I decided to tell just one friend and gauge their reaction. They were accepting and it was a very cathartic moment for me.
How LBS helped
Another thing that actually really helped me come out was, believe it or not, my LBS application. I hadn’t mentioned my sexuality in my essay but, as I was getting ready to submit my application, I kept looking back at it and feeling something was missing. It didn’t really feel like me, so I decided to be honest. I wrote about my experiences of moving to India from Dubai and embracing the fact I was gay. Honesty is so powerful – I believe we all respond well to others being genuine.
I’m immensely proud to have been awarded an Out in Business scholarship. It’s actually kind of a funny story. I don’t know how, but I actually missed the email informing me I’d been awarded the scholarship. I couldn’t believe it when I did find the email in 2021 – I just assumed someone else had gotten it. It was an amazing moment when I finally realised, but I was definitely freaking out a bit. In all seriousness, the fact that the scholarship exists in the first place did signify to me that LBS really does value diversity and that the School is willing to invest in all kinds of diverse candidates.
I have to say, in terms of support for the LGBTQ+ community, LBS has exceeded my expectations. I actually met some LBS students, along with students from other business schools, in one of the EUROUT conference network events just before I started my MFA. It was a relief to meet and speak with people who were completely out but still enjoying exciting careers and doing interesting things in business. Until then, I was still under the impression that it was an either/or situation. I felt people in industries such as financial services, where I’m hoping to work, couldn’t be publicly LGBTQ+. Hearing these students talk about how honest they could be with their colleagues, even their bosses, was a turning point for me.
Progress means different things for different people
In a way, realising how free I could be in my career has inspired me to give back. I want to centre my work around people who, like me, come from non-Western backgrounds. As a gay man from South Asia, it can sometimes feel like I’m in a different group to other LGBTQ+ people. Progress for me looks slightly different than it might for others, because there are different factors and variables to consider. The way we talk about sexual identity in the UK or the US is so different to how we think of things in South Asia or East Asia – being at LBS and getting to interact with people from all over the world has taught me the importance of going into conversations with an open mind. I know from my own coming-out journey how much harder it can be to embrace your identity when you come from a more conservative culture.