Published on 19th October, 2014, in the Mid-Day.
So the Pope, head of the Roman Catholic Church, has opened the conversation on being more accepting and inclusive of gay people and gay marriages. Will the Indian Right Wing groups follow? Or will they stubbornly cling to their ways (which everyone knows has roots in Victorian homophobia) claiming it is against Indian culture (no matter what evidence they are shown), aspiring to be like Iran where gays are hanged, or Saudi Arabia where gays are stoned? But of course, why blame the Right Wing for its anti-gay stand.
For a long time, the Left Wing believed the issue of sexuality was not as important as issues related to gender, poverty and caste. Even our venerable Supreme Court declared the miniscule queer minority is undeserving of human rights, perplexing all those who always admired it as the last refuge of sanity in India. Maybe this new revolutionary Pope will be able to show them, and the belligerent nay-sayers of his own Church, and the angry Right wing, and the contemptuous Left wing, the route to wisdom and happiness. People often forget that religions are not static; they change with time and space; they respond to social realities.
India is a country that has been conditioned by our forefathers to admire Bhishma-pitamaha of the Mahabharata.
Never mind the fact that Bhishma ruined the lives of many women for the sake of family reputation: Amba, Ambika, Ambalika, Gandhari, and stayed silent when Draupadi was being publicly abused. No, he is old and he is male and more importantly, celibate. So he must be good, we are given to believe. We are told he was principled and so respectable.
India is also a country that has been conditioned by our forefathers to mock Shikhandi. Incompetent politicians are often called Shikhandi, an insult that makes no logical sense, for Shikhandi acted decisively and always delivered.
She boldly transformed from being female to male in order to satisfy her/his wife and to ride into battle on Krishna’s chariot so that Arjuna could kill Bhishma and the Kauravas could finally defeated. Until her arrival, the war at Kurukshetra was a stalemate. Somehow the female-to-male transsexual discomforts us, even though he/she has a positive impact on society. We are told he/she is inferior to Bhishma as he/she is less concerned about principles, more about his/her emotions and his/her body.
A friend pointed out that how many lesbians despite being in loving relationships for decades, are called ‘single’, and their partners are called ‘sisters’, how our society ridicules gay men who are honest to their family but admires gay men who get married, who lie to their wives, and even cheat on them. Mothers tell their sons: your wife will adjust, as I did. Fathers tell their sons: in life you can’t have everything you want. Thus the inheritance of adjustment and frustration is passed on from generation to generation. Guidance often comes from gurus, parish priests, and elders, usually celibate men, much like Bhishma, who seem to have a surprisingly deep knowledge of sex, sexuality and gender. Perhaps only Krishna can see the transmission of resentment in the name of social order, reputation and love. That is why, perhaps, he smiles.