I met him two decades ago.I was in my 20s at the time and surrounded by a bunch of colleagues about the same age, with whom I had just joined a start-up. We took our time at chai breaks – when we weren’t meandering along our way, writing for publications.Then, one day, Vivek Tejuja walked in. Tall and lanky, Vivek/Viv/Vivekian went by many names but the one thing I was going to remember best about him was the sack of books that he would get from authors around the world.One summer evening, after we’d managed to make our deadlines and made a beeline for a joint in Secunderabad, Vivek told me he was gay. Nothing changed. Life went on. To me, he was just Vivek.Then, we lost touch. A few weeks ago – and many summers since the first summer of our friendship – I met Vivek at the Pune Lit Fest and asked him to sign his book for me. From writing frenzied articles as wide-eyed twenty-somethings to adults at a literature festival, we’d come a long way. It was little wonder, therefore, that I gave Vivek Tejuja's So Now You Know a thorough read in one sitting (because I had to). Written as a breezy memoir of his life, particularly of growing up as a gay teen, the book – describing a time before I knew him – gave me a whole new perspective on his life. Lines such as these spoke to me – “As far as I can remember, I always wanted to be someone else. To be anyone, but myself. There was something about me that made me uncomfortable in my own skin; right up until I learnt to embrace myself.”My review of Vivek Tejuja’s latest book is interspersed with snippets from a conversation with him:What do you do when you realise you are “different”at 8?What do you do when your uncle thunders at you while you’re twirling around in a dance?How would Bollywood’s stereotyping of the queer community make you feel?What do you do when your uncle passes a snide remark when eunuchs cross your path – telling you they’ve found their kind?How hard was it to embrace yourself the way you are?“It wasn’t easy to embrace myself. Self-love is never easy. More so when you are being constantly told you are different. We don’t learn how to celebrate differences. We follow the herd mentality of being homogenous. In all of this, it was tough as nails to be who I was. To not be scared. To be the way I wanted to,” says Vivek.“Growing up in the 90’s was an alienating experience. You’d either be categorised as pansy or be constantly bullied. Acceptance was a word that didn’t exist for the queer in those years.”The memoir starts around when he was 8, bonding with movies, music, books and art, his love for his best friend and not playing sankli just because he was scared he’d have to hold the hand of the boy he had a crush on.What was that one thing you did when you realised you were different? There must have been a lot of pressure from your family. What did you do to accept yourself the way you are?“Well, I learned how not to be ashamed. I understood early on that I am the person who will stand by myself the most. No one else will. I learned the art of self-dependence. I embraced goodness and happiness every chance I got.”Obsessed with Sridevi in his teens, Vivek writes of dressing up like her – when his sister walks in on him. Instead of teasing him, like he’d thought she would, she dances to the song with him – a secret they kept till he decides to reveal it in the book. These are among the moments that make you smile as you read.When he decided to disclose his sexual orientation to his family, he was – as is tragically the case with many queer individuals in the country – taken to a therapist. Despite him trying to make his mother meet other parents of gay men to understand that there were were more people like him, she refused. That part probably saddened him the most, he tells me.“Mothers and sons share a special relationship. There was a time when my mom knew everything about me – and when I decided to tell her the most important thing of my life, we drifted apart. All communication was lost, yet there was no love lost. I am certain we missed each other a lot, and still do. Distances cannot be traversed in a single day, not of this nature at least.”If there was one thing that you would want parents of children with different sexual orientations to know, what would it be?“I think the one thing I would want parents of children with alternate sexual orientations to know, is to be there for your children. Empathise with them. Understand them. We now have technology at our fingertips, so this shouldn’t be difficult at all. Your child should trust you to be able to come out to you, after which you need to be all-accepting and not cringe at every detail of alternate sexual orientation you learn of.”Vivek Tejuja’s memoir speaks with utmost honesty about the crests and troughs of his teen years, growing up and growing to accept himself. His memoir is almost like reading his personal diary – heartwarming, honest, heart-breaking. It speaks of having loved and lost and about finding oneself in the melee of people who want you to blend with the crowd – while all you feel is lonely.“Loneliness makes you want things you never thought you’d want from life. Love being one of them.”‘So Now You Know’ is published by Harper Collins India and was released on 6 September 2019.(Pratibha Pal spent her childhood in idyllic places only fauji kids would have heard of. When she's not rooting for eco-living or whipping up some DIY recipes to share with her readers, Pratibha is creating magic with social media. You can view her blog at www.pratsmusings.com or reach to her on Twitter at @myepica.) We'll get through this! Meanwhile, here's all you need to know about the Coronavirus outbreak to keep yourself safe, informed, and updated. The Quint is now available on Telegram & WhatsApp too, Click here to join.