Several years I have been fighting for my rights to be recognised. The language of human and fundamental rights have become an integral characteristic in the way I speak to decision-makers, general public and other stakeholders about legalising the love my heart longs for, desperately. I quote significant individuals who have come out in support of the battle I am struggling with, I refer to the international human rights instruments that protect all humans from oppression and discrimination and I compare the situation to other states which have made remarkable advancements. But this time Helsinki, I no longer wish to convince the rest of the world with abstract notions of love, rights and equality. I want to tell you my story. And I wish you to help me understand what it is about my feelings that still today make most of the world shiver with disgust.
I met a man in India a few weeks back. We started conversing on Grindr, an application for gay men to meet each other, and that alone felt strange as I never have a conversation on it. I use it for my own amusement and maybe three or four times a year I actually respond to someone, but his message and profile sparked my interest instantly that I responded without thinking the possible consequences.
We sent each other long messages, getting to know each other and soon enough I discovered myself having a chat with him every single time I had access to Internet. I would stay up until 3am every night, just talking about our lives, dreams that kept us going on, people that we had loved in the past and TV-shows that entertained us. It was effortless as if you had been discussing with a person who had known you the entire lifetime. Without realising I had let all my guards down with him, I had allowed him to enter my life and to access all parts of it without a hint of caution. My heart had not experienced such a magnitude of attraction and desire in years and she yearned to have more of the infatuation.
He had asked me a few times if I was able to visit Chandigarh, the city where he lived. I had been planning to travel there before we had started to talk, but then I realised it was four hour drive down to the mountains and as I was with my family my freedom was constrained. My lungs were thirsty to see him and the crippling thought of not seeing paralysed my entire body. Just a week before I was leaving the town, he found a compromise that worked for both of us: we would meet in Solan that was two hour ride away for both of us and have a coffee there. It was not much, but it was all we could have and I was willing to take it even though I was certain that the moment that meeting was over, the yearning for him would intensify conspicuously.
So we met in Solan, a small town in the Himalayan mountains that no one really visits unless they have relatives; it is not a place that attracts tourists unlike other towns in the state of Himachal Pradesh despite being the second populous city in the region. In other words it was not a city where two men could have a romantic date no matter how hard their hearts cried.
The moment I saw him, there was nothing else I would had liked to than kiss him at the very spot in the centre of the town but I had been taught better. Instead I greeted him like a friend and we talked, although in all honesty while I took pleasure in listening to his voice and studying his charmingly tender smile it was not enough. All I wished was to experience his touch, his lips and hold his hand in mine. But I could not do that. Hell would have broken out in a town named by a goddess.
We tried to find a café, unsuccessfully. Ultimately we ended up going to a park that was located near the centre and take a stroll there in the pressing heat. I could not stop looking at him and admiring his beautiful facial structure with the strongest jaw line I had ever. He spoke and I listened to carefully every single word he uttered, tasting them in my mouth and thinking what the real thing would feel like. We wondered the park and went circles, attempting to find a discreet location and but nothing was too hidden. I gave up so I kissed him there and then. The urgent need to experience his lips had conquered every cell raving in my body. I never make an initiative, but I could not resist anymore.
It was nothing like I had imagined in my mind.
Do you know the feeling when you kiss someone and the rest of the world disappears, that experience that all love stories at one point or another attempt to convey? The sense of connection with another person that brings you to a universe you cannot visit on your own, that moment when your body trembles with tender pleasure and your mind becomes blank as there is nothing else than the kiss you are experiencing. When it ends, you just know. And you smile for having everything you need in the world.
It would have been perfect if we had been free of fear. We could not let the rest of the world disappear as we kissed.
We left the park and found a café where I ordered a nice refreshing milkshake for myself and he had a cold coffee that looked pretty disgusting. Obviously I told him that. I listened to him telling about his work in Bombay and the terrible commutes he had to struggle with, his experiences in the UK and Paris and all the words he uttered I absorbed and took to my heart. Under the table I could feel our legs pressing against each other and together with his voice I enjoyed it almost as much as I did kissing him. Then we talked about our common future and what it would be like. I was able to imagine it so vividly in mind.
Soon after we roamed around the town, to find a private place and even after walking for thirty minutes all we managed to discover were some stairs that was somewhat isolated. There were a few buildings down, it seemed the land next to the stairs was some kind of a dump where all threw their trash and occasionally people would appear so maybe it was not the most romantic place in the Earth but regardless the next hour or so felt like I was living the love story of the century.
Whenever we got the chance, we would kiss and each time it would feel better than the previous one. Our hands would be partnered with each other and it seemed like a perfect fit. My heart was about to burst with excited happiness. Sometimes we would not talk, but just look at each other and smile and that gentle loving silence embraced my entire body as if he was holding me tightly in his grip. I realised I was in love with him.
But I was chained, not allowed to express my love and in a constant alert. What we shared, what I felt towards him not only disgusts the guts of many people but it also causes anger, violence and legally sanctioned punishments. 76 to 80 countries have criminalised the feelings I feel towards him – well more precisely acting on the feelings – and in some places I can be executed if I made love to him. This is the world today.
When we departed, I could not kiss him goodbye because it would had caused outrageous reaction among the public. All I could do was to hug him just like you hug a friend and leave without feeling that physical sensation described in love stories. That night I wrote him a letter, detailing the feelings I experienced and the pain of being apart from me. He said he was in love with me. I resisted uttering the words, but I was afraid to get hurt and be in love with a person who lives thousands of miles away from me. A few days later I told him I loved him, too.
It has been three weeks since we met. I am back with you Helsinki and he is in Calcutta, but that has not stopped us from talking every day. He tells me when we start living together he would wake me up at 4am to go for a job with him. We have talked about having children and if we are willing to send them to a boarding school and their names. Arguments about the wedding, how big it will be and where we will organise it. We have not been spared from having fights either. We are just like any other couple in love, dreaming of life together and even though there are hardships with the unbearable distance, we are ready to make it work.
Nevertheless unlike most heterosexual couples we face unique obstacles that the legislation and societal norms have placed in the world. We cannot just go anywhere in the universe, because most countries will not recognise our relationship and that means that if one of us gets into an accident, the other person has no rights to visit him in a hospital. We had to be cautious in Solan, but that wary vigilant feeling will follow us throughout the world from London to New York City. Many Western countries might have legalised same-sex marriage, but it does not mean that the couples are free from harassment, oppression and violence. Homophobia is not just an issue of India, Uganda and Russia but is a global phenomenon penetrating all societies. I cannot love freely anywhere in the world.
As with many Western families, my Indian parents have struggled to come into terms with what I am and even though they are aware of it, they would not support me in my quest for love. The rest of my family who live India are in the darkness because not only it would cause distress to me, it would also put guilt to my parents; the gossips about their eldest son being gay would make them outcasts.
Years I have attempted to have a constructive dialogue with people, who find my love appalling, but after Solan I have been confused; how come something so beautiful, so strong and so caring can cause so much anger and hate in people? Even though we met just for three hours and had little physical intimacy, we share a puissant connection that makes other love stories green of jealousy. The desire to be together is so powerful that we both are more than willing to make compromises and steer the direction of our lives towards a common future. Last Tuesday he got drunk and it was 2am there, but rather than passing out on the bed he called me and we had a long humorous call where I got the opportunity to make fun of him non-stop. Momentarily the painful distance felt a little less hurtful.
But it is not the separation that wounds me the most, baffles me. It is that most of the world diligently hates what we share and restlessly attempts to prevent from us being together. I am not able to write on his Facebook profile that I love him even though I so much would like the entire universe to know my burning passion for him, because his family does not know. If I got a job in India and we lived together, we would still not be recognised a couple and in fact every single time we would be in bed we would commit a crime. Having a honeymoon in Zanzibar, my favourite island in the world, is a distant dream because how in Earth we would be able to book room with a double bed for two men in a place that just recently criminalised sodomy? Even kissing him in the dark alleys of yours or Amsterdam during the night could place us in danger.
I do not understand why what I feel for him causes so much loathing in the world that I have to defend my love with words such as a human right to private life and equal treatment. Why cannot I just be with a man with whom I want to grow old? Why do I need to fight more for love that anyways is so rare to discover in the world? My love for him is not an attack against anyone and it bears no effect in their lives, but still I find myself in a world that relentlessly discriminates against and dehumanises us.
Love is beautiful and I am lucky to have found him, well he found me but it is all the same now. I will do all in my power to share the rest of my life with him regardless of the obstacles that the world has placed in for us and I genuinely believe we will make it. Nevertheless I cannot help myself from hoping that one day still in my lifetime I no longer need to feel cautious about our love in any corner of the world.
I dream of a day we go back to Solan and kiss on the spot we shared our first kiss, but this time letting the rest of the world disappear as our lips touch.