Sameer Mane lives thousands of miles away from his homeland, but has found out that he can stay true to himself in a different place – a place he now considers home.
Sameer, an Indian native, moved to Australia a year back to pursue his studies and realise his dreams. At the time, he did not know that this would pave a different path for him.
Back home, Sameer grew up in a very traditional environment, having been raised by conservative parents. He felt he did not belong.
For years, he struggled hiding behind the guise of a man who would study, earn a decent living, then marry and start a family.
“By 18/19, you finish your education. By 22, you get a job – work for 3 – 4 years and get married by 27/28, have kids and invest in property by 30,” he said.
This is just what his parents wanted and this is how they envisioned their son’s life would be – expected, traditional. For Sameer, it was very different.
He knew that his sexuality would conflict with the values of his culture, so he packed up and flew to Australia.
Early in his stay, he thought of going back home to India to his parents, but at that point, he already had a partner in his life.
Sameer struggled within because he could not imagine how his family would react if he brought a man home with him.
How could Sameer Mane admit to his family that he is gay?
Emma Drynan, Sameer’s best friend and migration agent, said from her experience Sameer is not alone. “There are many people I have represented from countries all around the world who have felt abandoned by their culture or felt that they are more accepted in Australia because of their sexuality, their religion or even their political beliefs,” she said.
“Australia is a multicultural society with people of diverse backgrounds, beliefs feeling safe and accepted in this country; the freedom to love regardless of gender is something we as Australian's should be proud of.”
Sameer battled with whether he should tell his family. Finally, he mustered up enough courage to tell his father and his brother - but not his mother. He could not bear to cause his mother stress or shame.
“In India, it would have been a big struggle to even to associate with my group of friends who have different preferences as supposed to normal guys who talk about sport, girls, and family life.”
He admits feeling a constant struggle between not living congruent to his culture's beliefs and feeling a certain solace in being able to live in a country where he can be himself.
This has been his bittersweet journey.
Eight years have passed and he says circumstances are far better here in Australia than in India – “I feel lucky to be in Australia and migrated here,” he said.
To some extent, he says he was abandoned by culture back where he grew up, but he does not blame society. It is only that he would have had to live a lie. He would have had to leave his parents’ home and cease contact with them if he came out over there. He would not be able to live with himself.
Yet to this day, Sameer Mane still credits his father and mother for giving him the liberty to make his own decisions and stand by them.
He has made peace with his choices. In fact, he has already applied for permanent residency in Australia and is certain where he belongs.
What began as an escape plan has changed his life forever.
“All I thought about was studying, but then I realised it was a whole new world where I can live my life freely. I am going stay.”
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