As dusk settles on the Arabian Sea, and the monsoon clouds huddle together in consultation, a slew of articles on the same news item flow down my newsfeed: The Supreme Court will deliver the Section 377 verdict at 10:30 a.m. tomorrow. 2009, 2013, 2018. Up, down…up? Euphoria, betrayal…nirvana?
I remember the last time I waited for 10:30 a.m., in a local train 5 years ago, chugging down to Churchgate on the way to Azad Maidan to await the December 11, 2013 decision. I remember the balloons and banners some of us had bought, and the shock, the swimming heartbreak we felt inside the little enclosure of Azad Maidan where protestors could gather, like chickens in a coop as news of the effective recriminalization filtered out. I remember the tears flowing down the cheeks of a mother, Shobha Doshi, who had come to celebrate freedom for her son who was many oceans away. I remember her broken heart, my broken heart, and how that heartbreak soon turned to a steely resolve to fight. By 10:39 am, we were chanting slogans like “No going back” and “The struggle continues”. Even in that lowest-of-low moment, we knew in our heart of hearts that there would be a glimmer of hope at the end of this dark, unknown tunnel we had suddenly been thrown into. That this was a comma, a coma even, but not a full-stop. That a day would come when our rights would be once again restored, and we would become full citizens of this country again.
I remember our delirious joy on July 2, 2009, when the Delhi High Court decision decriminalizing us came out. Taking photographs of the TV screen, scarcely able to believe that this had happened in our lifetime. I remember the crazy uncontainable joy that we felt as we danced at a party on that weekday night, eating jalebis out of newspapers in a large wicker basket, dancing the night away in a party of pure, pure joy, hugging each other and jumping up and down, half afraid that this would be but a dream. I remember both the peak of that joy, and the depths of despair 4 years later. And now, 5 years later, we are at that moment again. I feel nervous. I must teach myself to breathe.
It has begun to rain. Not rain, pour. The twinkling lights of Madh Island across the bay smudge into a blur. The monsoons continue, energetic, eternal, just like those of that fateful July in 2009. On one hand, I feel like a newlywed anticipating my big night, with my entire life beginning ahead of me. On the other, I feel battle-hardened, weary, and afraid of being washed away in another tsunami of emotion, positive or negative. Living in this vortex for 20 years has taken its toll. But most of all, strangely enough, I feel a sense of contentment, permeated by melancholy, a calmness tinged with sadness, a twinge of nostalgia even. For the last twenty years, I, and my family of choice in the LGBT community have lived with the struggle against Section 377 defining so many of our life’s decisions. I could never leave and be another brown queer abroad while we were criminalized. Where I have stayed, what I have done, how I have perceived my role in this world, how I have been touched and moved, what countless little acts of commission and omission that I have committed.
When 377 goes in another 14 hours (there, I let it slip – the cursor is blinking, challenging me to change the ‘when’ to ‘if’, but I am not going to), this whole era would have come to an end. This dark cloud will have been lifted. The endless black tunnel will be gone, and we will have to squint and make our way in the bright sunshine. Am I ready? I think I am. I think we are.
I feel a sense of gratitude even, for having been put by destiny in this place and time, to have partaken of momentousness, to have been smack bang in this vortex of history. Shobha Doshi, the mother who shed tears for us, is no more. She died earlier this year. I remember the many, many, gay friends whom we lost in these years, boxed into a corner, unable to take what this cruel society and law has done to them. Sitting at their memorials, seeing them invisiblized, unable to say anything because they’d passed their living years in the shadows, unseen by their loved ones.
But I also remember acts of unspeakable eloquence and courage, quiet, resolute, by Indian gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transmen, transwomen, straight allies, that have given me a reason to live, a reason to organize, fight, struggle. These next fourteen hours are going to be like slowly moving on a conveyer belt through a tube, with all these memories, emotions, intuitions flickering on screens all around me.
The rain has stopped. The twilight has melded into darkness. The night is upon us, and only the sun will bring the day tomorrow. There is no going back now. Whatever it is, I will go through it with your hand, your hands, tightly held in mine. And a tiny vial deep in my heart is being squeezed, and out comes a drop of hope and of love, with every heartbeat. I don’t dare to breathe. But I do dare to hope.
- “Those Left Behind Things” – an ode to queer refugees - February 1, 2019
- Twilight, The Day Before - September 5, 2018
- “बुज़ुर्ग हैं, क्षीण नहीं” – “सीनेजर्स” वयस्क सम/उभय/अ लैंगिक पुरुषों का प्रेरणादायक संगठन - January 22, 2018