The Day I Became A Criminal

Sec 377, Mumbai

Protesters in Mumbai protesting against Sec 377 (Pic by Punit Reddy)

I am in my office, trying to concentrate on my work, when an online friend pings me to say that it is the “Judgement Day”. I get all excited, stop my office work and Google for the “SEC 377 verdict” with a tiny secret flame in my heart expecting a confirmation of my legality.

I read the verdict. And then I double read it. My first reaction is surprise. No anger, no tears, no nervousness, just astonishment. I thought: ‘Like What?? Is this possible? Did I read that line right? Did they…. What do they mean by criminal offence? Like they can jail me or something?’

Man! that feels really weird! Not frightening, but… just weird. Like the DNA in all the cells of my body just flipped a very tiny part in their tails and suddenly made me a criminal!

I am a post-July-2009 queer. Being gay in India was already legal when I realized my sexuality. Though closeted, I never felt bad about being queer. It felt natural and part of daily life. I have no experience or memory of the fear that Sec 377 invoked in the previous generations. But now, I sure feel a little vulnerable. Now I don’t know where I fit in this post-Dec-2013 world. In the prison? With rapists and murderers? No, that would be drastic! There is an unnecessary nervousness in my fingers as I pick up the phone and call my close-queer-buddies to make sure they know what happened. I whisper into the phone, “Buddy, we are illegal !” and immediately wonder what my colleague sitting beside me is thinking of that sentence?

I don’t know how this will turn out to be. I walk home feeling like a dumb kid who is still trying to understand our strange and complicated world. So apparently, me making love to a guy is offensive to the sentiments of Indian culture. So I stare at these “cultural people” on the road and in the bus. I try not to stare too hard at that “hot cultural dude” sitting over there, because anyone around could be a “cultural cop”, who would get offended and threaten me with the words:“Chal gandu, tujhe police station lekar chalte hain”. No, hold on, that can’t happen unless I am actually caught in sheets with another guy. But still, imagine that the cop is actually pissed off with me for some reason and drags me away to his den. Will these cultural people around me report the incidence to the SC judges so as to convince them that there ARE enough cases of Sec 377 being misused?

C’mon I’m frightening myself for no reason. I reach home – yes, “Home Safe Home” – and my parents are ready for a happy dinner at the new restaurant. It’s a big occasion – 11/12/13. I try to turn on the news on TV, but they want to watch Ram and Priya (another “cultural daily soap”) as they get married for the third time. My parents look so innocent and unaware of this criminal in the room. Unafraid that I can be arrested and put to life sentence to protect the society from my illegal immoral unnatural fornication! I wonder what will I say in defence? “Hey, I was only making love! I didn’t know he is a guy! I totally forgot to check the gender – it just slipped my mind!!”

We go to the restaurant for the dinner. My parents wonder why I am giving such a blank stare to my noodles. We finish up with some nice chocolate ice-cream. It feels ironic that I am actually celebrating 11/12/ 13, a day that Twitter feeds are calling as the “Black Day” of Indian Judiciary. My brethren are in pain and worry and up in meetings in various cities, discussing about a review petition to be filed. My parents say that they would love to have such family outings more often. I nod with a blank face, behind which my tiny secret flame is becoming a well defined fire. My chaotic mind is running furiously over these puzzles of our strange and complicated world.

Why are Indian laws based on culture? Haven’t we seen culture vary with geography, generations, religions, politics and even time of the day? Should laws not be based on verifiable science, sound logic and obvious human rights?

We reach home and everybody goes to sleep. I turn on the TV. I watch people debate and predict and promise stuff. If Congress and AAP leaders are standing up for the queer people, will it not further alienate them from the conservative mango Indian people who are already in love with BJP and Modi? If they lose the upcoming 2014 elections, will we be left at the mercy of BJP, who have sworn to remain against LGBT community?

I read the list of cities participating in the “Day of Rage” events. Besides the regular metro-politan cities there are new comers like – Lucknow, Mangalore, Mysore, Nagpur, Sangli… They are uniting. Have we suddenly grown stronger?

Big names are enrolling in the fight – Amul, Tanishq, Fasttrack, Jawaharlal Nehru University students, Allen Solly, Amir Khan, Karan Johar, Bipasha Basu, Times Of India, Chetan Bhagat, Vikram Seth… Have we suddenly become famous?

Straight people are changing their Facebook DP(display picture) to same-sex kisses. My colleagues are discussing various angles of ancient Indian homosexuality in the cafetaria. Have we suddenly gained a lot of acceptance?
Where is the fear that Sec 377 should have invoked? Why is there this sudden urge to come out to my office colleagues, to my parents and to all the people on road? Why am I feeling so confident? Why does my mind feel stronger than before? Why is that tiny secret fire in my mind burning more fiercely than ever?