Section 377 – the law that overshadowed my life (part 1)

It has taken me about a decade to understand it and to learn to live with it. The perennial shadow of being a criminal in my own country for something I might not have acted upon. I am talking about homosexuality or my sexual identity here. Indian Penal Code Section 377 invokes in me a thousand varied emotions and my views may not be significant as I am an average citizen by all norms and not a politician, film star or cricketer (the kinds who matter in our country).

What is important yet is the number of people who are affected by it knowingly or unknowingly. Also the manner in which an issue so intrinsic to human rights in our democratic society is being approached.

The matter being subjudice, it is not for me to share opinion on the proceedings being right or wrong. I wont go there. I would just share my personal experience in what follows

Ignorance, not really a blissful state

I heard of criminalisation and 10 years  imprisonment that Section 377 poses as a threat to each LGBTI (lesbians, gays, bisexual,transgendered and intersexed) individual at the age of 22. I was fresh out of college and just a year before that beginning to acknowledge my attraction towards guys. It is not as though 7 years into puberty I hadnt had those thoughts but I had kept them locked in corners of my head as something I cant understand and dont need to address ever as I had a girl friend who was in love with me and career ahead along with friends and family to fill my mindspace.

At 17, when i started working alongside college, I had my share of chat room explorations where m2m was a term used for male 2 male chat.  These were the emerging virtual meetup places where faceless people with fake names would talk about homosexuality. This was right at the advent of mobile phones and media boom, when i spoke to the first self confessed gay man, someone who wanted to meet me but I could never gather courage to meet. It was only after I came across an American boy online that we shared our hopes, dreams, wishes to share  life together that I even allowed my thoughts to venture into what two men can do in bed together.

He was to visit me in mumbai after 10 months of daily chats, exchange of phone numbers – which was a big deal in 1998  that I progressed to making 1000 plans of me settling with a doctor in some remote country where homosexuality was not a crime. It was a happy time of my life as i wasn’t repressing my mind after almost 8 years. I wasn’t pleasing friends or family by being with  a girl friend. I was free in my heart of my past and I could finally think of my present or future.

We had plans to travel across India together and i looked forward to the wierd waking hours when he would come online and we could chat or exchange emails. All of it came to a screeching halt when he expired due to wrong treatment of his non malignant tumour which got ruptured. All the hope that had seeped into my life just vanished into a dark pit.

In next month I moved out of home to live on my own, stopped crying, being angry or even looking for  any other men or considering the option of going back to my girl friend.  I had lost the most precious gift – the person who had accepted me without judging. I gathered courage to look up and contact Gay bombay (GB)  -a local support organisation and finally attend one of their meetings.

When i was expecting seedy men from chat room waiting to find new sexual partners, all i found at Gb were educated men, all with respected professions, a comfortable circle of friends and family. No one and nothing abnormal that I could label. Soon with few interactions, my ignorance about  the community was a thing of past. I came to know here of blackmail rings being operated by Police and hustlers to catch gay men, threaten them to be outted to family & friends thanks to Section 377. Illegal it said were my emotions for don, who was no longer around. Illegal it said was my desire to know myself or to express myself sexually. Illegal Identity said 377 to my new found view of myself. Why should i be ashamed of my life? I couldnt understand.

 Ever since, not a day has passed in this city, whether in love or not, whether employed or not, whether awake or asleep that I have been free of this word, this phrase, this curse. Like a Nazi camp prisoner’s identity, these 3 digits have been etched on me by those who are mighty, in power and see all of my kinds as. Its been 9 years and the shadow still looms threatening to consume my entity. The shadow called  377

(to be continued)

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Love’s many mysteries

Yes, I know I am writing after forever and I confess I have all the intentions to be more regular here but sigh ! facebook is eating into my creative self expression big time. So i reserve this space for something more exclusive and particular like the post that’s about to follow
Have you ever had one of those moments of epiphany when you see much more into something others just cannot? I have had those many times and my analysis is flavoured and hued by my Mumbaikar brain more often than not in such times. Here I was sleepless like almost always meaninglessly online and transferring songs to my 2 gb Mobile phone memory card. I decided to hear one of many songs from my 30000 odd mp3 collection.  My next step ahead was much like  any other internet addicted idiot box less person . I searched for the song on youtube. While i was searching for “Yeh dhuan” from Charas with Namrata shirodkar grooving amidst smoky hills of manali, I landed up on Dia Mirza and Emran hashmi crooning “yeh dhuan dhuan sa rehne do” with brilliant piano rendition by Richard Clayderman( an artist who I have worked with in past and goes without saying that I am in awe of).

So I decided to see the song since I like to music despite the fact that the film it belongs to is sheer disaster in second half due to director troubles. I had  conveniently forgotten the genius of Anurag Basu ( director of the flick who discovered his cancer illness during the filming of Tumsa Nahin Dekha  – flick in question) and vulnerability of man who is still a roguish boy really (Emran Hashmi  – the lead actor).

The song struck to me like a tonne of bricks had fallen on my half drunk head – thanks to two pegs on old monk i had gulped on saturday night as compensation of missing Gay bombay parties I frequent. Let me sum things up for you.  What  has always appealed to me about the basic plot of this flick is that – it sets premise of a poor bar dancer girl and richie rich boy in love coming to terms with their reality. The girl lives in hope of finding someone who would love her and also marry her to redeem her from the stigma and embarassment of her vocation.  The boy spoilt by abundance thrives on need to fulfill his whims and fancies including that of having the woman he desires and loves with him as cherry on the cake he hasn’t quite enjoyed by himself.

The conflict sets in when his grandmother refuses to offcially grant sanction to this love story and threatens to take away his much seeped habitual riches in case he pursues marriage with the bar girl. This leads to something unheard of in Indian cinema atleast. Our man clearly admits his weakness to the girl he loves that he cannot abandon his luxuries for being with her. He wants both and thus offers her to be his mistress for insane sum of 4 crores, which would solve all her issues. She does not need to be a bar dancer anymore or  be looked down upon by others as money silences all wagging tongues. Now it is upto her to either support him in getting engaged to a girl of his stature just as a social farce or to demand what she longs for – marriage and status as a wife. ( i will come to my connection with this point later)

It is at this juncture that the boy says yes to being engaged to the proxy girl but invites the bar girl to come to his engagement as well. She comes there apprehensive and vulnerable as his love is something she can’t do without and here on starts magic of these two people – Anurag Basu and Emran hashmi.
The technical aspects of cinematography and framing compensate for poor production value associated with Vishesh Films ( a  production House i both adore and get irritated with for their matter of fact approach to movies). Lighting is brilliant and our boy  expresses his helplessness and passion first discreetly while playing piano like many other rich brats we see in hollywood . Its the effectiveness of this under rated actor’s expressions and the tenderness of music and lyrics that build up the momentum. As we move ahead, full throttle vocals of roop kumar rathod hit you like a sudden gush of cold breeze awakens a person traveling sleepily. I was pleasantly surprised at poise of diya mirza (definitely directos’s input) which is complimented by technique to show her silent in the party but singing in her fantasy. To each movement, verse and action,  her bar girl character is responding almost in her mind’s eye (vision set in picturesque lonavala valley).  Interesting to say the least how the continuity is blended well and the core of the story and its characters maintained. Surely, a bar dancer would not openly revert to advances of her lover if she is attending his engagement. He continues and she silently partners cos her love is above all.  Her will to be his wife, his actions of hurting her by proposing her to be his mistress – dont exist in the moment where they both ask for the time to just be dewy and hazey just to say what their heart wants to speak to each other. Their expression of love is silent but very visible.

Now i will let  you watch it before explaining my perspective apart from cinematic brilliance of the moment so well built

So now that you have seen the passion and heard the melody, I can share that My ex is married to a girl. Before marrying her, he shared it with me that he needed a family and  was not strong enough to alienate his family by choosing to live with a gay man.  He needed me by his side as he feared rejection from the girl’s family and I stood by him till his proposal was accepted. I had an option to have him dependent on me  for lifetime and stay  as third angle but I chose otherwise. I would have had all that I had dreamed of but without the tag of being his life partner, which I didnt agree to.

my questions ensue…

As a urban resident of this big bad metropolis, do you think she should compromise her love for just a title of mistress instead of wife even though she will have the man she loves by her side, looking after her and her woes of being a girl who thrives on skin show coming to an end?

Do you think the man who does not attempt running away with her and then failing,  becomes any less a human?

Do you think it dilutes that spark in eyes when you see that one face in crowd that you long for , if your life is as complex as of these characters?

Do you think in a city like Mumbai, there wont be straight or gay versions of these lovers anywhere?

Do you think any of us have any right to judge any two individual’s life and chemistry because of their choices?

Do you think if the character or I had chosen to be with the man who needs his marriage along with love on the side, would we be any less human?

Do you think amongst love’s many mysteries – one of them is that denying yourself the proximity of your lover is most difficult no matter how wrong is the choice?

Please think and respond 🙂

Shikwaa – The regret

के अश्क भर ही आते तो आँखों को क्या गिला था?
एक नमी की परत के इलावा सपनों के नाम पे यहाँ बचा ही क्या है?
के इश्क चढ़ ही जाता तो रातों को क्या गिला था?
एक कमी की शर्त के इलावा अपनों के नाम पे यहाँ बचा ही क्या है?

क़दम मेरे भी वक़्त के साथ जुड़े हैं, बेडी है या बंधन? कटती ही नहीं

सुइयां चलती, दौड़ती हैं और खिचते गिरते मेरे दिन भी चले जाते हैं

गिरफ्त है कोई अनदेखी जो अपने दायरे में मुझे बार हां खड़ा कर देती है
झाइयां लिए मेरी ज़िन्दगी के चेहरे पे लकीरें लिखते पढ़ते, पल छिन भी चले जाते हैं

सरगोशी जो होती तो सन्नाटा टूट जाता
जज्बातों पे जो जाले पड़े हैं, शायद उन्ही में उलझ बैठे हैं कायनात के सुर

 काश खलिश देके मैं हलचल ले पाता
कशमकश लौटा के बस एक रात सो जाता

के अश्क भर ही आते तो आँखों को क्या गिला था?
एक नमी की परत के इलावा सपनों के नाम पे यहाँ बचा ही क्या है?

क्या खबर इस देह के ढ़हते ढलते शहर के आगे कोई मुकाम शायद क़ैद से आज़ाद करे
कौन जाने यह हद्दें मुझे चुभ रही हैं के इन्हें तोड़ दूं, एक शुरुआत करून

के मर्ज़ बढ़ जाता तो घातों को मिटाने का हौसला ढूंढ ही लेता
एक थमी सी नज़्म के इलावा हर शाम मैंने सुना ही क्या है?
उम्मीद काफुर मैं काफिर ही ही सही
दुआ को हाथ उठ जाते तो क्या सिला था?

IT’S GOOD by Phillip Long


I have listened to a rushing stream until I could no longer hear its roar
I have watched as an eagle soared until it disappeared into the sky
I have walked in the rain until I did not feel wet and cold
I have endured solitude until I knew I was not alone
I have watched in the darkness until I could see
I have forgiven until I learned how to love
I have given until I had all that I need
I have hoped until I was satisfied
I have loved until I vanished
I have discovered my life
I know that I have
And it’s good
It’s good

What is Happiness?

What is the purpose of life? It is to become happy.
Whatever country or society people live in, they all have the same deep desire: to become happy.Yet, there are few ideals as difficult to grasp as that of happiness. In our daily life we constantly experience happiness and unhappiness, but we are still quite ignorant as to what happiness really is.
A young friend of mine once spent a long time trying to work out what happiness was, particularly happiness for women. When she first thought about happiness she saw it as a matter of becoming financially secure or getting married. (The view in Japanese society then was that happiness for a woman was only to be found in marriage.) But looking at friends who were married, she realized that marriage didn’t necessarily guarantee happiness.
She saw couples who had been passionately in love suffering from discord soon after their wedding. She saw women who had married men with money or status but who fought constantly with their husbands.Gradually, she realized that the secret of happiness lay in building a strong inner self that no trial or hardship could ruin. She saw that happiness for anyone — man or woman — does not come simply from having a formal education, from wealth or from marriage. It begins with having the strength to confront and conquer one’s own weaknesses. Only then does it become possible to lead a truly happy life and enjoy a successful marriage. She finally told me, “Now I can say with confidence that happiness doesn’t exist in the past or in the future. It only exists within our state of life right now, here in the present, as we face the challenges of daily life.”
I agree entirely. You yourself know best whether you are feeling joy or struggling with suffering. These things are not known to other people. Even a man who has great wealth, social recognition and many awards may still be shadowed by indescribable suffering deep in his heart. On the other hand, an elderly woman who is not fortunate financially, leading a simple life alone, may feel the sun of joy and happiness rising in her heart each day.
Happiness is not a life without problems, but rather the strength to overcome the problems that come our way. There is no such thing as a problem-free life; difficulties are unavoidable. But how we experience and react to our problems depends on us. Buddhism teaches that we are each responsible for our own happiness or unhappiness. Our vitality — the amount of energy or “life-force” we have — is in fact the single most important factor in determining whether or not we are happy.
True happiness is to be found within, in the state of our hearts. It does not exist on the far side of some distant mountains. It is within you, yourself. However much you try, you can never run away from yourself. And if you are weak, suffering will follow you wherever you go. You will never find happiness if you don’t challenge your weaknesses and change yourself from within. 
Happiness is to be found in the dynamism and energy of your own life as you struggle to overcome one obstacle after another. This is why I believe that a person who is active and free from fear is truly happy. The challenges we face in life can be compared to a tall mountain, rising before a mountain climber. For someone who has not trained properly, whose muscles and reflexes are weak and slow, every inch of the climb will be filled with terror and pain. The exact same climb, however, will be a thrilling journey for someone who is prepared, whose legs and arms have been strengthened by constant training. With each step forward and up, beautiful new views will come into sight.
My teacher used to talk about two kinds of happiness — “relative” and “absolute” happiness. Relative happiness is happiness that depends on things outside ourselves: friends and family, surroundings, the size of our home or family income. 
This is what we feel when a desire is fulfilled, or something we have longed for is obtained. While the happiness such things bring us is certainly real, the fact is that none of this lasts forever. Things change. People change. This kind of happiness shatters easily when external conditions alter.Relative happiness is also based on comparison with others. We may feel this kind of happiness at having a newer or bigger home than the neighbors. But that feeling turns to misery the moment they start making new additions to theirs!
Absolute happiness, on the other hand, is something we must find within. It means establishing a state of life in which we are never defeated by trials and where just being alive is a source of great joy. This persists no matter what we might be lacking, or what might happen around us.
A deep sense of joy is something which can only exist in the innermost reaches of our life, and which cannot be destroyed by any external forces. It is eternal and inexhaustible.This kind of satisfaction is to be found in consistent and repeated effort, so that we can say, “Today, again, I did my very best. Today, again, I have no regrets. Today, again, I won.” The accumulated result of such efforts is a life of great victory.
What we should compare is not ourselves against others. We should compare who we are today against who we were yesterday, who we are today against who we will be tomorrow. While this may seem simple and obvious, true happiness is found in a life of constant advancement. And the same worries that could have made us miserable can actually be a source of growth when we approach them with courage and wisdom.
One friend whose dramatic life proved this was Natalia SatzAfter she recovered from the initial shock, she started looking at her situation, not with despair, but for opportunity. She realized that many of her fellow prisoners had special skills and talents. She began organizing a “university,” encouraging the prisoners to share their knowledge. “You. You are a scientist. Teach us about science. You are an artist. Talk to us about art.” In this way, the boredom and terror of the prison camp were transformed into the joy of learning and teaching. 
Eventually, Mrs. Satz even made use of her own unique talents to organize a theater group. She survived the five-year prison sentence, and dedicated the rest of her long life to creating children’s theater. When we met for the first time in Moscow in 1981, she was already in her 80s. She was as radiant and buoyant as a young girl. Her smile was the smile of someone who has triumphed over the hardships of life. Hers is the kind of spirit I had in mind when I wrote the following poem on “Happiness”: 
A person with a vast heart is happy. 
Such a person lives each day with a broad and embracing spirit
.A person with a strong will is happy. 
Such a person can confidently enjoy life, never defeated by suffering.
A person with a profound spirit is happy.
Such a person can savor life’s depths 
while creating meaning and value that will last for eternity.
A person with a pure mind is happy.
Such a person is always surrounded by refreshing breezes of joy.