CHENNAI: When 20-year-old Avinshu Patel moved from Mumbai to Chennai for work three months ago, he probably did not know what was in store for him.
On July 2, Avi, as he is known among friends, was found dead on Neelangarai beach. A post published on his Facebook account indicates he ended his life as the ‘society did not accept him for being gay’.
“Everyone knows I am a boy. But the way I walk, think and talk is like a girl. People in India do not like that,” read the Facebook post. “Please do not blame my family. Help them. We are poor. I love my mom, dad and sister. I thank them for supporting me. It is not my fault that I was born gay.”
Avi, who worked at a salon in the city, was found dead on the beach, close to where he lived, by local people. They informed the police who shifted his body to the government hospital and informed his parents.
A case of unnatural death has been registered. Police say Avi called his friend in Mumbai on July 2 night and had said that he wanted to end his life.
That friend, Ishaan Mastry told Express that Avi sounded happy when he spoke that morning.
“He sent me a text around 2.30 afternoon saying he was at a mall with a friend. They had gone out for lunch. Just two hours later he called me and told me he wanted to end his life. He was crying,” says Mastry.
“He told me he had taken poison but did not explain the reason for the drastic decision. He just hung up. I tried calling him back, several times, but there was no answer. At around 9 in the night, he put up that Facebook post, after which his phone was switched off.”
Mastry says Avi never said anything before about being bullied or harassed. “I suspect something could have happened in the mall.”
“Avi was a strong boy,” says his friend Ishaan Mastry, who has known him for the last three years.
“He has never told me anything about being bullied.”
Avi’s father has landed in Chennai to take his son’s body back to Mumbai.
“He did not want to register any complaint,” says a senior police officer.
“We investigated, but there are no signs of abuse. We are, however, probing the death.”
A senior official at the salon where Avi was working, says he was a good worker.
“He came to Chennai in April and trained in our academy. As he performed well at work, we were giving him advanced training in nail art.”
“July 2 was his day off, but we received a call from his friend in Mumbai saying Avi was in distress. We tried calling him but he did not answer. Next day, when one of our salon managers called, a cop answered and said he was dead,” the salon official said.
LGBT activists in the city point out that despite the Supreme Court decriminalising homosexuality in 2018, members of the community still face discrimination.
“Every queer person faces harassment. Section 377 may have been struck down, but it remains a judgment. It has not changed people’s mentality or out everyday lives,” says C Moulee, founder of Queer Chennai Chronicles. “Not many organisations have anti-discrimination policies to provide LGBT+ individuals with safe spaces.”
Help at hand
Assistance for those having suicidal thoughts is available at TN health helpline 104 and Sneha’s suicide prevention no. 044-24640050