Opinion Op Ed 08 Oct 2016 Cabbages & Kings ...
In his words: "I am just a professional writer, which means I don't do blogs and try and get money for whatever I write."

Cabbages & Kings: Gay marriages - Dilli door ast

Published Oct 8, 2016, 12:58 am IST
Updated Oct 8, 2016, 7:19 am IST
Several Hindu priests turned down the request to marry a gay couple.
Representational image
 Representational image

“To write to you I need to find a form
So that my memories cannot entice
Me into idle thoughts — and yet they swarm
Like bees disturbed. No free verse will suffice
To lure them back into their hives of time
And places that will live on in my mind
Though no device of poetry or rhyme
Can ultimately keep these thoughts confined.
So clumsy as I am I’ll try and use
(I beg you not to think it quite absurd)
The sentiment of Shakespeare’s own muse
And that for you ‘love’ was the only word
Though like his sonnets mine does rhyme and scan
It isn’t dedicated to a man!”
From Ai Shuddup Yaar
by Bachchoo

When Prime Ministers resign in haste and go into the interstellar political spaces, the commentators, scavengers all, search for the nourishing parts of their remains. So let it be with David Cameron. Now that he is gone there are commentaries on his legacy and most of these find the negatives first: he favoured the rich, while squeezing the welfare budgets for the unemployed and disabled, that he appointed the wrong people to be health secretaries, etc. The one thing that liberal opinion credits him with is the legalising of gay partnerships. The laws against homosexuality were rescinded in the late ’60s but Mr Cameron’s initiative recognised gay and lesbian partnerships as marriages in law. Several countries have followed his example and legalised gay partnerships to one extent or the other. Religious opinion has not, in most cases, paralleled this progress. The Roman Catholic Church still counts gay partnerships or physical homosexual contact as a sin, even though in typical Jesuitical sophistry Pope Francis, when asked, said, “Who am I to judge?”

 

In Russia the Orthodox Church has set its precepts against legalising homosexuality and the Russian state has followed in persecuting gay people and militantly holding what Vladimir Putin avowedly considers the decadence of the capitalist West. The capitalist East and the corruption of his oligarchs and government are fine. In China, the atheistic regime, legalised homosexuality in 1997. In 2001, it was removed from an official list of mental illnesses. Legalising gay marriage is still a few bridges too far. India with its traditionally thriving gay culture has, through the contradictory judgments of different courts gone through a few years of debating whether it is constitutional, legal, an offence, social deviance or a normal state of relationships and an entirely personal matter. Prosecution, despite very staunch orthodox attitudes towards it, is not something the state pursues.

 

Indian society seems to accept that there are traditional homosexual practices that have been and should remain socially tolerated — as long as they don’t intrude on the family. The population is fully aware that very many males confess to having used professional hijras for sexual activity, though a vast majority of families would be seriously outraged if their son or daughter came “out”. So it was with more than curiosity that I read about Rishi Agarwal, whose parents migrated to Canada in the 1970s. Rishi was brought up in a traditional Hindu household and professes to be a religious and observant Hindu. As such he always wanted to follow the rituals of the faith and consequently wanted a traditional Hindu wedding. In 2004, Rishi told his parents that he was gay. His parents at first were shocked, but love for their son persuaded them after deep soul-searching that they ought to regard his sexuality with respect, and his father, 68, and mother, 61, began attending the meetings of Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays in Toronto. (No surprises that such an institution exists in that oh-so-politically-correct city!)

 

Seven years later Rishi decided he wanted to marry his partner Daniel and wanted to do it within the religion. Several Hindu priests turned down the request to marry a gay couple. Rishi’s father Vijay finally found one who was willing to perform the rituals. The family arranged for a Hindu wedding with all the usual Bollywoodish fanfare and the couple were married with the support of friends and guests. Daniel and Rishi have now made their experience public and are actively encouraging the Hindu communities of Canada and, they hope elsewhere, to accept and celebrate gay marriage. It will probably be a long time before an Indian government makes gay marriage legal, which may give rise to an ironic anomaly. Following the Canadian example it is more than likely that some progressive Hindu priests will find in the scriptures full sanction for performing a traditional religious ceremony to marry gay couples. In India, religious sanction will then precede that of the democratic state.

 

If the practice catches on and Indian families follow the precedent set by Rishi Agarwal’s family in Canada, it could have far-reaching consequences. It is traditionally accepted in the subcontinent that a boy child is preferred to a girl. The reason, probably true, is because the boy will grow to look after his parents whereas the girl will, by hidebound tradition, have to be provided with a dowry and with wedding expenses and will then leave the birth family to look after that of her husband. With gay marriages and weddings to celebrate them, the birth of a boy will, if he turns out to be gay, incur the same sort of expense as a girl.

 

Might the realisation lead to a reduction in the bigoted prejudice against girl children? And could that lead to a fall in female infanticide? And what happens to dowries, which are in theory at least already illegal? When both partners are male or female, which family pays which? One hopes that the question confounds the idea of dowries altogether and leads to its universal suspension — and so compliance with the current law. And then why wouldn’t a government of the near future see all these social benefits and advances and make gay marriage compulsory? Dream on! And what would Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi be called?

 

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