Toast to Embarrassments


If I am, 

I will celebrate my imperfections, 

Raise toast, to 

My embarrassments, 

For tonight, 

My body has many stories to tell

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The Physics of Writing

Sometimes we write just to fill the empty spaces. It is the paranoia that we respond to, not the urge. When we see empty spaces, emptied perhaps, by farewell of what once existed, we write in remembrance. Or maybe, in remorse. The space now emptied isn’t the same as before. It is a telling of a story that has transpired here, leaving behind some sense of its existence. The things that occupy these spaces distills the silence. They come up, probably, only to unsettle the peace of nothingness. And hence we write. Or maybe, thereto.
We write because we know we can’t have a complete erasure of these existential relics. We write either to sediment the past to a point where it begins to metamorphose into something else or to make that past lose its meaning. As much as it fails almost every time to undo what has been done, I confide my writing to the latter. I know everything has to be seen from a long run perspective but wouldn’t it be easier if I just make my short runs a lot more livable and continue to do so to the point where my long run just cease to exist. A life led in short runs and all what is left for long run is death. Or maybe, afterlife.

So, we write to fill in the spaces demanded by our very own short runs. We know we’re running, literally leaping over momentary realisations just to keep that happiness intact, we know we can’t be scared so we write. We write to fill the burrows of questions left unanswered by the lightness that we ignorantly choose to afford. The lightness that costs burdens of oblivion.

Talking about empty spaces I think the ‘area’ or ‘property’ that excites me the most is the one that remains unexplored somewhere within our bodies. Artists who turn to acting to write about their fulfilling activities, I’ve noticed that playing a nude scene creates that ‘opportunity’ for writers (actors) to fill the emptiness that there bodies felt while not fully committing itself to the job they were destined to pursue. In that particular moment, the writer (actor) provides a narrative to the body that enables her to eliminate the voids that physical inhibitions like body shaming might have created that potentially clogged the writer from discovering the aesthetics of its own body (now body of work). 

Extending the same line of thought, another reason why we write is to cover spaces that part us from our unrealised ‘darkness’. I’m referring to a particular state as ‘darkness’ partially due to the common parlance in the pop culture but significantly due to the lack of recognition or ‘light’ that is casted upon it. So much so that most of the elements of our own being are unconsciously kept aloof from our so called ‘informed choice’. As a writer, it is often exciting to travel distances on a psychedelic trip. And personally, the trip that often unconsciously drives us to take that long psychological road is the journey that spaced out in our own elements. The miles that remain untravelled between the known or the “brighter” side and the unexplored ‘darker’ side. 

Now that we know why we write, it won’t hurt much to say that we’re mostly wrong. If we were correct, or the matter that we respond to was devoid of any flaw, what would have motioned us to take an effort to write? If laws of motion in Newtonian physics are anything to go by, we are not simply ‘writing’. We are responding. We are addressing the miles and directions of emptiness that provide us with a force to move. No matter if it is forward or backward. 

The “In Betweens” of Life

So, how do we start sentences when there’s no one left for us to hurt, no one, left for us to please? Maybe, talking about mornings is a good start. After spending good couple of weeks in sinking deep into quilts and reading vintage spy novels ( more of non fictional accounts of a condemned PoW), I was yet again pushed by life to stand somewhere in the middle of the queueing up crowd of Delhi metro. 

It’s so unveiling of capitalism to put such diverse stories that move all over the metro premises into contexts that suit its definitive convenience. So much so, that a broken heart would rather roll with the corporate rush rather than rolling in the deep. 

Standing on escalators as they transport me on and off the concourse, I wonder how would I just end up staring at one place for so long.  How could I zone out to the most insignificant of spaces knowing that I’m still dwelling in a world where I’m in the process of fulfilling a practice. But I do. And I do it to the railway track across the concourse I’m standing on, or sometimes, to the long black handle of the escalators. 
Off the station and on the roads. It’s sad that even though you change your spaces you can’t seem to escape the contextualised rush. Well, not always. I tend to get hit by random shreds of unexpected happiness quite often. While on my way to work, riding on a rickshaw, I met an orange butterfly circling me for good. A few seconds of  beauty that has become so rare in the city life was enough to touch me deep within and force a smile somewhere from the inside that I knew would not be tapped upon anytime soon. 

So, I guess the trick to start a sentence without involving others in it is to make yourself the other you always want to have these moments with. There won’t be any quantifiable analysis of the magnitude of happiness you gain from seeing a butterfly but I’m sure that it’ll be your very own. Since it doesn’t subject itself on someone else, nobody would ever take that away from you. 

Politically Incorrect

These are the days we
Thought we would never
Live.
We thought,
We would build, brick by brick,
Our courage, and not
Our walls
These are the days where
We feel deserted and
Cheated and
Every firefly of hope we held
Close to us in our jars,
Flickering away its light in weariness, it’s
Surely going to vanish in
Thin air,
We,
Are making noises in the chaos
We find ourselves in.
And all our voices, are
Getting lost in the
Unmannered cacophony of revenge, we
Were not raised for vengeance,
We,
Were raised for love, raised
In love.
The streets that we crowd was
Once our walk to freedom, is
Now just a lost opportunity
For a girl who missed
Out on days of education, these
Are the days we are living
We are living in denial, we
Are spewing hate to smear hate,
How educated does that sound?
If these are the days
Days that have been dawned upon us
We, for the least,
Won’t give in to the lure of mourning,
Won’t find answers in the
Repented display of our trauma,
We,
Will rise up
But not to bring this nation down
To halt its people
From jobs, food and education,
We,
Will rise up
For love, forgiveness and hope,
Because we know if greatness is
For us to achieve,
Wisdom is going to pave the way.

Just a Minute

Minutes gone by, and
There I stand so defeated and
Disgusted, before
No one but
Myself
It was only minutes ago, that
I had seen a life being played like
A reel in front of my eyes, it
Was like a beginning
To this thing that knew no meaning, but
Felt all strings of rhythm, beating
And breathing heavily upon
My heart.
All that had ruined, and
All that wrecked
Lies within these few minutes
These minutes, they conspire
A fall so hard that I
Wouldn’t want to recognise self, a disgust
So profound, that
All that this body knows is
How rejection has shaped all its curves
And trajectories, it
Makes it, this body
A hate of itself, with a
Chain of nights spent
In curled up sobs, with tears making
Channels for the new ones to feel
The depth of this hurt.
These minutes,
They are not mine
And they didn’t hold back a little
To make me know that
For what all have I lost thinking
What this minute of attraction
Meant, to this
Long drawn patch of desperation
Left unrealised,
It meant nothing.
So, these are my minutes,
Spent in utter solace of understanding, how love in my life comes
Like yellow flicker lights, to
Attract the moth of my heart so close
That all that is left
To be seen, is
The smallness of my soul.

A Queer Reading of the Surrogacy Bill

When I intended to write about the Assisted Reproductive Technology Bill, I didn’t want to reduce my reading to an objective classification of its triumphs and travails. As a student of multidisciplinary studies and as a firm believer in the philosophy of understanding law as a functional unit of diverse humanistic disciplines, I focused my attention upon the analysis of the provisions of the Bill[1]from a perspective that unconsciously plagues its relevance – Gender.

The aforementioned pending legislation prohibits homosexuals from availing the benefit of surrogacy. In addition to this, unmarried heterosexual individuals, individuals in live-in relationships, foreigners and married couple with an already living biological child are exempted from having a child through the process of surrogacy.

It is understandable that the legislative intent is to regulate the surrogacy process in India, a country which is quite infamous as a surrogacy haven. The significant focus has been put on the ban on commercial surrogacy and setting up a system that provides maximum protection to the surrogate and legal recognition to the baby. The problem, however, begins to creep in when certain classes of people get explicitly prohibited to avail the option of surrogacy without any reasonable justification for the same. The psych that goes behind such exclusionary provision is based on flawed understanding of dynamics associated with modern kinship systems and parental psychology. The same is evidently reflective in the purposeful exclusion of unmarried individuals, married couples with biological kids, and most disturbingly – homosexuals.

 

  • Legal Affirmation of Homophobic Stigmatization

The only plausible reason that becomes evident from the exclusion of homosexual couples from the Bill is the belief of the state in various prejudices associated with the community. Such a belief is dangerous for it goes on to use state machinery and legislative process to legitimize the authenticity of such prejudices. Conformists often use law as the last word on the virtues or vices of a being or an activity. They defend almost all of their arguments by seeking validation from the intent of the state’s action, an institution that has long been perceived as one enshrined with higher intellect, and shush all their oppositions by proclaiming the term ‘law of the land’. This term further snowballs the problem as the plain reading of it would imply the application of this law on every person who belongs to this land. So those who disagree with this law are either forced to follow it or are not considered as part of the ‘land’. This is a borderline issue that pulls or pushes democracy from becoming a majoritarian oligarchy. Unfortunately, in the case of rights of homosexual community, there hasn’t been any uniform and pan-India survey in recent times to affirm the majoritarian claim of anti-homosexual lobby.

There exist many prejudices and stereotypes against homosexual couples especially with reference to their association with children. One of these prejudices that play a major role in this draft legislation is the one that says homosexual parenting is dangerous. To understand this prejudice in a detailed manner we need to look at certain examples from US, for in India, the plight of homosexuals and the idea of criminality associated with it doesn’t leave much room for homosexual people to embrace their sexuality let alone ask for equal rights. US Supreme Court in the case of Boys Scouts of America v. Dale[2] upheld the decision of the Boy Scouts of America to disallow a gay man to be a scoutmaster. While the court reasoned its judgment by saying that the organization must be allowed to privately and publicly advocate its viewpoint, it is not difficult to infer that it also passed a judgment on the issue of whether gay men should have contact with children.

Another dimension of this prejudice is a belief that says that upbringing of a child by homosexual parent would lead to his/her social condemnation. The same was declared by the Supreme Court of Virginia in Bottoms v. Bottoms[3] where the court neglected the doctrine of parental autonomy and gave the custody of a boy to his grandmother instead of his living and earning mother just because the latter was an out lesbian. The court held in its judgment that –

“Living daily under conditions stemming from active lesbianism practiced in the home may impose a burden upon a child by reason of the social condemnation attached to such an arrangement, which will inevitably affect the child’s relationship with its peers and with community at large”.

This judgment is not only condemnable but also unconstitutional for it tends to restrict a person’s fundamental right on the basis of a social prejudice that has no legal, factual or scientific validation. However, the most serious apprehension associated with this judgment is the fact that homophobic tendencies in judiciary can manifest itself so strongly that judges may tend to forget their professional ethics and expected fairness in order to use their authority to legitimize their belief and convert socially scattered homophobic sentiments into institutional and stratified homophobia under the name of ‘justice’.

This idea goes further to demonize homosexuals and see them as an identity isolated from their own identity. A sexual preference is forced to engulf all other statuses, preferences, and roles and juxtaposes every relationship as a consequence or a construction of underlying homosexual needs. So a gay man or lesbian woman was seen as ‘just a man’ and ‘just a woman’ until they came forward and opened up about their sexual preferences. Suddenly, a child’s favourite uncle becomes his most dangerous predator. This leads us to the next prejudice that sees homosexuals as sexually compulsive humans. All their notions of humanity, faith, emotions and choice are camouflaged by this overriding identity because of this perceived notion that homosexuality restricts ones choice of getting sex with the desired person and that makes them desperate for anyone who is from the same sex. This notion not only grossly trivializes the concept of romance in queer life but also wrongly interprets identity. If a heterosexual man’s life is not primarily guided by his sexual identity and it doesn’t stop or restrict him for adorning multiple identities, why wouldn’t the same principle apply to a homosexual man?

In addition to this, the societal fear of a homosexual’s child becoming a homosexual is also quite unfounded. Firstly, the problem comes with the ‘fear’ itself. If, as a homosexual, I’m fighting for my rights, I would be completely okay with my child developing the same sexual preference as mine. Secondly, there has been plethora of instances where homosexual identities are adorned by people who are born in heterosexual families and vice versa. Therefore, proto-queer theorists such as Foucault might argue the significance of socialization in the development of sexual preferences, but even they won’t be able to ignore the importance of self actualization and biological reasons behind one’s sexual preference.

The discrimination displayed in this particular form has far reaching consequences to the future of homosexual identity assertion in India. We already have a section in the penal code[4] that criminalises anal penetration or sodomy; however that applies to both heterosexual and homosexual couples. Now, a specific exclusion of homosexual couples from a civil provision that primarily deals with ones relationship with the institution of family and kinship, has further isolated the homosexual community from mainstream society. This form of exclusion is dangerous for it is institutionally established and can lead to systematic discrimination. The homophobic army would now validate their prejudices on the premise of higher intellect of the state and would vindicate their claims on homosexuality by quoting such discriminatory laws as example.

 

  • Conclusion

It’s evident that exclusion of homosexuals from the Act that regulates surrogacy is a way by which the state has sought to further isolate the homosexual community from normalization process with the mainstream society. While doing so, the state has sought to institutionally validate the social prejudices that exist against homosexual couples in the society. In addition to this, the state has also failed to acknowledge the sub-culture that proliferates within queer communities and the spectrum of identities, statuses and roles that they carry in their social milieu.

On these accounts, I believe that this particular exclusion is unconstitutional as it violates Article 14 of the Constitution. This provision fails to meet the dual test of fairness as the state has differentiated the homosexual couples from heterosexual couples on grounds that are not reasonable or natural but are based on the prejudices and stigma that is attached to the homosexual community by certain section of people in the society. Also, there doesn’t seem to be an objective nexus between the remedy that the Bill seeks to secure, which is a shift from commercial surrogacy to altruistic one, and the exclusion of homosexuals from the Bill. Therefore, government should reconsider the provision in an inclusive manner and in light of contemporary developments on societal dynamics instead of disempowering a community on the basis of baseless prejudices. After all, we belong to a welfare state.

 

 

[1] Assisted Reproductive Technology Bill, 2014

[2] 120 S.Ct. 2449 (2000)

[3] 457 S.E. 2d at 108

[4] Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code

Quite Unquiet

I will not be understood in your language
Will not be traced, or seen
In the meanings of your culture
I will not be spoken
Of or about
In the identities of your society
In the names of your family
Will definitely not be called, upon,
As a birth of your land,
The sprout of your soil
I will not be heard
In your stories, your songs
Definitely not your poems
Will never be mourned
In your tears,
Never celebrated, in your religion
There is no space for my being
In the constructions of your love, life and longing
So when I see you
Or put words across, or gestures
When I put myself in front of you
I will be brave in my eyes.
I will run my palm against your face
Will look into your eyes,
And say…
I’m unafraid of myself.

Love Land Language 

We dared to love, he said

In the land of known belongings but

Unknown beholders.

In the homes of togetherness but

Understandings unfelt.

We dared to love, he said.

He replied, we loved

In the bodies that were unknown to us

We thrived, we spoke

The language bereft of meaning, the words

Unheard; we loved

In the land where it is not love.

Let’s fly, he said

To the land that is unknown

Unknown till the stretch of the known.

He replied, he giggled

He smiled, with eyes wide open, his hair

Flicked aside by his finger

He murmured,

If there’s a place for us, where would it be?

To the land that is known but unknown to our feelings

Or the land unknown

That has no word for our language.