Why everyone loves a good homosexual
I can’t figure out why so many self-appointed guardians of Indian culture are getting so hot under the collar (where else can they get hot?) over the Delhi High Court judgment decriminalizing homosexuality.
The government has now belatedly taken the stand that it supports the Delhi HC judgment. It was the British rulers that declared homosexuality to be against the order of nature, India’s top legal officer GE Vahanvati told the Supreme Court, which is hearing the appeal against the Delhi HC verdict.
That is true.
And this British legacy transcends our attitudes towards same-sex love. Strange though it may sound, our entire attitude towards inter-personal and sexual relationships are coloured by repressive and hypocritical Victorian attitudes towards these.
Indian literature and scriptures – at least those dating back to the first millennium AD and before – are full of stories on pre-marital sex, children born out of wedlock, illicit romance, abduction of women and the like.
But that hasn’t stopped the conservatives from railing against the verdict with their “Indian culture in danger” cry.
That brings us to two questions:
# What is Indian culture?
# Is Indian culture static (ie, is it doctrinaire and dogmatic or does it change with the times?)
The courts have, in recent times, also liberally interpreted the statutes to give legal sanctity to live-in relations and offspring born out of marriage.
These verdicts have also been met with howls of protests from regressive elements for whom “Indian culture” is a repressive mixture of Puritanism, morality, anachronistic values and obsequiousness.
They rail against modernity and see in the judgments a “western” plot to subvert Indian culture. As proof, they point to the alleged permissiveness in Indian society, the rise in extra-marital and pre-marital (sexual) relationships, the free mixing between the two sexes, the increasing numbers of rapes, etc.
“See what the westernisation of society is leading to,” they point out.
But look at the facts.
The greatest love story coming out of India is that of Radha and Krishna. Millions of Indians keep the familiar idols of a flute-playing Lord Krishna and Radha in their shrines and in their hearts and pray for their blessings first thing in the morning and on auspicious occasions.
Yet, this is the story of illicit love. In some narrations, Radha is portrayed as Krishna’s maami (wife of his mother’s brother). In others, Krishna goes away from the “gokul” to seek his destiny, never to return.
Krishna’s romance with Radha remains just that – a romance that becomes an end in itself.
And it is because of his sexual prowess that Lord Krishna, the eighth avatar of Vishnu, is known in the scriptures as the“complete man” – he who is solah kala sampurn (adept at the 16 essential arts of life).
Lord Krishna’s only rival for that title, Lord Ram, the seventh avatar of Vishnu, is called the Maryada Purushottam– the greatest man – but not the “complete man”.
Read the Mahabharata. Almost every other dramatis personae in this great epic, the longest poem in the world, was born out of wedlock. Dhritarashtra, Pandu, Vidur, Karan, the Pandavas – none of them were born from the men married to their mothers.
Surely, Baba Ramdev and others like him won’t now claim that the Mahabharata is a US plant to subvert Indian culture.
Read Kalidasa’s Shakuntala. Her love affair with King Dushyant produced the king who gives this land its name – Bharat. So, the fact remains that King Bharat was born to an unwed mother who married his biological father much after his birth.
Simple logic and an elementary knowledge of biology suggests that Dushyant and Shakuntala must have “cohabited” to produce an offspring.
So, how was the Supreme Court judgment legalising “cohabitation”– living in – out of sync with Indian culture. And why is its judgment giving children born out of wedlock (and here, I deliberately avoid using the highly derogatory word illegitimate) the same rights as those born within a legally recognised marriage being criticized as being influenced by a foreign culture?
Even so-called “love marriages” – where a man and a woman – decide to marry against the wishes of their relatives and communities have always been a part and parcel of Indian culture. Such marriages are called “gandharva vivah”. There are innumerable instances of such marriages in ourholy as well as secular texts, all dating back to antiquity – ie, thousands of years before the West became a player in world affairs.
And what were swayamvars? They were platforms that allowed women to choose their own husbands. Often, the women had prior relations, including sexual ones, with the men they finally selected publicly.
This was endorsed by Indian society – three millennia and more before the British conquered India and enslaved our minds forever.
If Indian society was so liberal in the past, why has it become so repressive and regressive now?
There are many reasons for that. But traditional ideals of modern Indian culture is actually only partially Indian.
It is actually “dark age” (1000-1900 AD) Indian practices as reformed by the Bengali Renaissance (which, in turn, was influenced by Victorian era practices, including the rampant hypocrisy that went with it) of the 18th and 19th centuries. In north India, this was influenced by the Arya Samaj movement of Swami DayanandSaraswati.
In other places across India, local and regional influences nuanced the broad streams of thought that emerged from these two movements.
Society itself has come a long way from there.
Over the last 20 years, economic liberalization and individual financial empowerment have meant that power equations have changed dramatically within families and the societies they reside in.
The “Indian culture in danger” is nothing but a cry of the entrenched old guard, determined to hold on to their time-honoured privileges.
This clash was inevitable. The old order is changing, yielding place to the new.
Homosexuals have just become a convenient tool in this battle between status quo and change.
No wonder both sides need them as an essential weapon of war.
Sappho, god bless her Lesbian (resident of Lesbos) soul, must be smiling at the irony.