London, UK – I’m not quite sure where to begin. I am disillusioned and feel betrayed as a citizen of the largest democracy in the world. Reading the judgment issued by the Supreme Court and hearing the debates across news channels highlights the deep-rooted ignorance of educated people in positions of power, leaving me with anger, but more significantly, fear – a fear of regressing to a medieval era. For those who experience it firsthand, it’s a journey to be able to reach platforms where they have the strength to voice themselves; a journey that someone in the “normal” world can never understand. There are few who echo our cause, but the majority seem to feel it’s in vogue to use words like dignity, diversity, morality, equality, sexuality, family, respect, etc. without even coming close to understanding what being LGBT is. It means to have lived a life desperately seeking validation for their real selves.
I’m an average middle class Indian from a family of professionals. I did well through school, got scholarships to come abroad and am pursuing higher degrees in goals to be an academic. I am excited and thankful for the opportunity to be in in London, a city that has allowed me to see firsthand, tradition, culture and beliefs across a cultural canvas. But with all this, I am still struggling to make my parents understand who I am – still struggling to understand that it’s ok to be me.
Not only is my travel document an Indian passport, but every thread in my being has been nurtured by an India that’s home. I love my family and make every effort to be there for them. I celebrate Diwali, Christmas and Id. I love eating idli-wada and wearing kurta pajamas. My foundations in my motherland prepared me for excellence, and the aspirations of it. In spite of all the odds of living as a gay man in India, I still have never thought of not going back to India. In true fondness and patriotism, I want to give back to India in whatever way I can. In every social situation abroad I defend any ridicule directed at my ethnicity, explaining that India is beyond Slumdog Millionaire and The Marigold Hotel. India is rich, alive and a wealth of knowledge.
But today, the Indian in me is shaken, betrayed and very alone. Shall I go back to a country where I have to justify my need to love? My family is aware of my struggle and yet choses to stay absolutely quiet in the wake of the arguments on TV and the press. They are scared and fearful; scared of shame. But in that fear, they suffocate my being. The SC judgment strengthens their denial, making it harder for an already uphill journey. If the law considers me a criminal, I really can’t expect a family to understand. Their silence and the ignorance of right wing fundamentalists is deafening. It needs to be broken but the SC judgment only strengthens this, forcing Indians to live lives of duality and façades, forcing me to be someone I am not. I’ve had the choice to get a foreign passport but resisted. Today I wonder why. My motherland likes me only for who she wants me to be; not for who I am. I’m an Indian who is not allowed to love, not allowed to be; an Indian targeted with the need to explain, to justify; an Indian who is today scared of returning home.
I’m not going to run away from my roots – I will stick around and be part of the change. In a week that mourned the death of Nelson Mandela and celebrated the legalization of gay marriage in England and Wales, India chose to stain its history with a judgment that’s against human rights. The Indian in me is on life support, but not dead yet. It will take a wave of sanity and progressive thinking to cause this change. It will happen. But today, I have lost faith in the power of democracy and of education and if politicians chose to fight a vote bank over my freedom to be alive, I will have to let the Indian in me pass. My struggle will not end, but I refuse to remain suppressed and treated as “another.” That degradation of my right, I will not tolerate.
Eighty-four percent of MPs support the SC verdict. If these were illiterate men and women, I would be less worried. The understanding of the neurology and psychology of love has come a long way since 1860. But our respected MPs and members of the judiciary remain stagnated amidst morals and values they define for their convenience. The UN has had to indicate that this ruling is against human rights. Does India need the rest of the world to tell her how fundamentally barbaric this ruling is? For a gay man, the act of “intercourse in accordance with nature” is nothing short of rape. Who will save me or fight for me when I am raped?
As I walked to work today, my colleagues asked me why India is being so archaic. All I could say was this is not the India I know. Every dinner table conversation today is about what’s wrong with India. And yet again, I hide in shame – this time not for being gay, but for being a citizen in a country that refuses to comprehend what it means to be human.