I bought abandon dear and sold all piety for pleasure.

Unforeseen exchanges with random people, which make me bristle with discomfort and anger seem to be the norm these days.

I am particularly referring to this enlightening discussion I had with my Indian TA about a week ago.

Me: I know I walked in twenty minutes late. Let me just fill in these values and I’ll be out of your way, ok?

TA: Oh it’s no problem. I have no pressing appointments to attend to anyway.

Me: Thanks. I hate holding you up after class like this, so I’ll be done in no time, I promise.

TA: Oh it’s ok. So you’re Indian right? What do you think about the world cup?

Me: Oh it’s a waste of time to pontificate on the World cup. Um, that’s just my opinion anyway.

TA: Yes, yes I completely agree. So do you watch Bollywood movies?

Me: Yes, I do.

TA: What do you think about that KJo faggot and his stupid movies? I hate that ch***ya. He’s so gay. Ugh.

Me: [Shocked into silence]

I moronically stared at him for a full minute. Wishing to hand him the benefit of the doubt and to not jump to any conclusions, I slowly asked my TA if the source of his rage was the movies that Karan Johar made. He answered in the affirmative, but he also hastened to add that his gayness turned him off for the most part. At this point I knew that this conversation was going to take a loathsome turn, and with the weird fascination of watching a gory scene where you can’t look but you just can’t take your eyes away, I harangued on, with vain hopes of ferreting out my TA’s homophobic tendencies. And from there on the discussion basically went nowhere with me valiantly trying to suppress my rage and argue against his increasingly hateful homophobic statements and stolidly ignoring his irksome patronizing; in turns.

The funny part? I already knew where this was going to go. Most desi folk I’ve come across are predictably ambiguous and inexplicit about where they stand on homosexuality, except when directly questioned. With direct inquiry however, most desi’s will vehemently assert that homosexuality is ‘wrong’ or ‘deviant’ or ‘against our culture’ and I remembered overhearing an interesting exchange between two of my dad’s friends a few years ago (I don’t remember exactly as to how the conversation veered towards homosexuality, but I do remember unequivocally that it did) where one of them literally spat when the other questioned him about something related to gay people and their rights (or something along those lines).

Yes, his face twisted into a grimace and he spat.

At that point of time, I found it funny that something like that could bring out such an aberrant reaction from an educated, seemingly liberal adult.

It still irks me and leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth.

I want to know as to how and when such startling levels of homophobia took root in Indian society. Really.

Is it solely because of the anal retentive British colonial project, circa the 19th century? Or is it because by popular moral policing standards anything, and I mean anything related to sex and sexuality and human body parts is somehow deeply unmentionable and therefore by default, against ‘our culture’? Or does it have deeper and far older antecedents? Or is it because of our tendency to glorify and eulogize forced heterosexuality oh whoops, I meant the arranged marriage system?

Isn’t it curious to note that homoerotic behavior abounds in the Indian subcontinent? I see men holding hands, walking arm in arm, having their arms around each others shoulders, laying their heads on their friend’s lap/shoulder/etc and in some vague cases I’ve seen some random pecking on the cheek action too. I find it wholly implausible that homo-social interaction is accepted nay encouraged, and seen as non-deviant or ordinary and yet when such behavior branches out into sexuality or sexual activities, it suddenly becomes horrifically aberrant and sacrilegious as represented by the archaic section 377* of the Indian Penal Code which states that,

Whoever voluntarily has carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animals, shall be punished with imprisonment for life, or with imprisonment for a term which may extend to 10 years, and shall also be liable to fine. Penetration is sufficient to constitute the carnal intercourse necessary to the offence described in this section.

I am torn between exasperation and stupefaction at the reactions of Indians with respect to homosexuality. What triggers me the most however, is the extremely fallacious notion that gay preferences were somehow imported into our society (which was supposedly the poster-child of rigid sexual conformity) from the West. Nothing can be further from the truth.

In our extensive and convoluted history, there have been several instances of recorded same sex relationships, utterly close friendships between members of the same sex with heavy homoerotic undertones and many instances where friendships are considered the benchmarks of righteousness, both in history and in Hindu mythology.

One of the most prominent examples of male bonding and mutual affection in Hindu mythology can be attributed to the renowned pair of Krishna and Arjuna. Considered the incarnations of the divine sages Narayana and Nara, their love and fondness for each other literally resonates throughout the whole Mahabharata. Although both of them marry and beget children, their glorious friendship is of paramount importance above and beyond the significance given to their wives and children as overtly stated by the conversation between Krishna and Ashwattama when the latter asks Him for His discus in the Sauptika Parva (12) from the epic.

Another discernible example of their feelings for one another is exemplified in this passage with profound homoerotic themes, which describes how Krishna and Arjuna celebrate after the war is won, as narrated by Vaisampayana to Janamejaya.

O lord of the earth, Vasudeva and Dhananjaya were highly pleased when the Pandavas had succeeded in regaining and pacifying their dominions, and they deported themselves with great satisfaction, like unto Indra and his consort in the celestial regions, and amidst picturesque woodland sceneries, and tablelands of mountains, and sacred places of pilgrimage, and lakes and rivers, they traveled with great pleasure like the two Aswins in the Nandana garden of Indra.

(Ashwamedha Parva, 15)

And this passage, also from the Ashwamedha Parva (52),

Krishna of great energy proceeded to the apartments of Dhananjaya. Worshipped duly and furnished with every object of comfort and enjoyment, Krishna of great intelligence passed the night in happy sleep with Dhananjaya as his companion. When the night passed away and morning came, the two heroes, finishing their morning rites and dealing their persons properly, proceeded to the mansion of king Yudhishthira the just.

Another noteworthy example which I would like to shine a spotlight on is the slightly ambiguous union between Shiva and Vishnu and their offspring Ayyappa. The sexual interaction between Shiva and Vishnu (as Mohini) is mentioned distinctly in three instances at least in the Bhagavata Purana. What is intriguing here is the undeniable mutability between the sexes that Vishnu appropriates, and His equivocal male-female form. Vishnu is said to have been impregnated by Shiva and Ayyappa or Harihara (a union of Hari-Vishnu and Hara-Shiva) is supposed to have been this child. Ayyappa is also reffered to as a child born from Ayoni intercourse, where Ayoni literally means vagina-less or absence of a yoni or vagina.

For a classical example of women possessing feelings of sexual or romantic attractions for one another, the attractions felt by Padmavati for Vasavadatta is described with surprising amounts of veracious sensuality in the Kathasaritsagara written by Somadeva in the 11th century C.E.

And need I mention the oft-quoted Vatsysyana’s Kamasutra, which has several passages and a whole chapter dedicated to sexual activity between members of the same-sex, specifically the Auparashtika section?

Even the slightly nauseating Manusmrithi with all its biases does not harshly condone homosexual activity. Only a mild reprimand is meted out to such behavior. I quote the passages from the Mahabharata etc. to illustrate the overwhelmingly conspicuous fact that being gay is not deviant or abominable, it was never anomalous or immoral to begin with. It is as normal as anything else which naturally occurs in nature. And homosexuality is not just frowned upon according to the proponents of 'Indian culture', it is aggressively damned.

I am flabbergasted at the sheer depths of preposterous ignorance extolled by our rabid Hindutva political parties (and other religious extremists) who erroneously brand same sex relationships as a tragic malady imported from the west. In short the ‘culture’ which they vehemently shove down our throats is but a mirror image of the incompliant Victorian moralities of the British rule and this includes vile, untainted homophobia. In a bizarre paradox, the very same western cultures for the most part, have revised their despotic attitudes towards sex and sexuality as a whole (although I must say that even though it’s not faultless, it is still miles better than the feudal attitudes that most Indians exhibit towards sex and sexuality).

Regrettably the strong patriarchal values (which as I suspect are either directly or indirectly derived from the values represented by the British Raj) perpetuated by our middle class with respect to the institution of arranged marriage have miserably resulted in gay people being made to forcibly marry against their will, propagating an almost total forbiddance of sorts.

It is maddening that this preposterous section 377 still exists. It is even more infuriating to be in the vicinity of people like my TA. Homophobes do not comprehend that a person’s sexuality is wholly private. What happens between two consenting adults is their business and no one else’s. And don’t even get me started on harebrained nutcases comparing homosexuality with pedophilia or bestiality. Such people cannot, or purposely refuse, to grasp the lucid concept of consent. Blind moronism at its pathetic best, I call it.

With respect to homophobia in India, all I can say is that we are accosted by the mutters of our long departed forebears, from beyond the grave. Responding to them however, is our main dilemma.

* A decrepit, outdated, hateful section of the IPC. It is over 140 years old.


Maxim said...

hmm... didn't know about the ayappa bit ...serves me right for being proud prick about my amar chitra katha prowess!

Drunken Master said...

*Cheap joke Warning* Maybe it has something to do with the fact that the past of our constitution is called the the "Indian *Penal* Code".

Seriously, the reaction to homosexuality is not surprising given how people balk at PDA. Most people haven't read the Hindu scriptures yet talk as if they're the foremost scholars in the subject, flatly denying anything disputing their definition of purity in the texts.

It's just ignorance and social ineptitude at play.

BTW, that's a great way to get sucked into a one way conversation.

That Armchair Philosopher said...

I'm just flummoxed by the "Animals" bit in that article. Our constitutional ancestors had vivid imaginations, no doubt.

Do you per chance read ancient texts regularly, solely in order to chance upon some particularly lascivious sections? :D Next paper - lesbianism and homoerotica in ancient India. Really.

As for the TA - meh, do I need to say any more here? :)

AND, you've been tagged.

anonymouse said...

It's probably the stupid education system. We have had too many people brought up with Victorian morals, and their upbringing is resistant to change.

Also, they have this intense desire to express power by controlling the lives of others, possibly in an attempt to avoid facing the reality of lack of power and control in their own lives.

Sexuality, or the control thereof has always been a power grab. The justification for it may be social, religous, cultural, or anything else, but it is a power grab.

Really, who cares about the private acts of consenting adults (private as in limited to the adults themselves, not as to the location involved.)?

Rohini said...

That was some awesome stuff about homesexuality in Indian mythology. I didn't know that!

In my office, there has been a raging debate about what people would do if their sons turned out to be gay - and the responses of these highly educated and supposedly forward-thinking people are quite shocking - varying from counselling to disowning the errant offspring...

Vijayeta said...

Very thought provoking and anger inducing post, as always :)
But I loved the excerpts and links to the sacred texts. I had only a vague idea about homo-eroticism in our rich cultural heritage, as we love calling it, but reading those was majorly enlightening!

And yes, homophobic men are really annoying and should be lynched! Seriously!

M (tread softly upon) said...

I'm with you on this one. Most 'desi' people are ridiculously intolerant about a lot of issues. And 'gay' issues are in the top 5 for sure :) I've had friends denouncing 'Brokeback Mountain' because it showed a gay relationship. Let alone accepting things they aren't even ready to tolerate it because it doesn't confine to their narrow boundaries. Bugs me to no extent.
Really well written piece megha.

Anonymous said...

IPC 337 is on its way out. Debate is already on about its relevance. Homosexuality in the public space is a new thing. All that happens happens behind doors. It shocks and surprises people that this exists. I dont think people have yet formed an opinion about homosexuality yet.

I therefore dont think Indians by and large or homophobic. Yes part of the Sangh brigade is definitely homophobic. But not the common man. They just dont know or dont care.

Incidentally it is the madcaps of the safron brigade who raised their voices against progressive paintings by MF hussein. ITs the same brigade that is homophobic.

Bunch of useless goons


Sue said...

On a lighter note, did you ever consider that Manu makes a great bathroom read? It's neatly broken into chunks of fun. That's how I read most of it, anyway.

the wannabe indian punkster said...

@ Maxim: Oh, don’t beat yourself over Amar Chitra Katha! I love them too! Hee!

@ Drunken master: lol! It is ignorance and social ineptitude and the mulish denial possessed by people who are faced with the truth about their 'culture'. It’s the denial which gets my goat, actually.

@ TAP: Um no actually I don’t read ancient texts just to come across salacious parts. I read them because I like to read them. Now there’s a thought!

And yes yes I saw the TAG. Somehow I think it’ll be right up my alley.:)

@ Anonymouse: Amen. The problem lies in the fact that most people don’t even have an inkling that the ‘culture’ they swear by is not theirs to begin with! It is a cocoon of conservativeness enthused by a few centuries worth of Victorian morals.

And yes. Sexual politics have always been about power and control, sex and sexuality have a very small part to play in it. I also think that the actions of homophobes are basically goaded by fear, a fear of the unknown and also a fear of facing their own internal struggles with their own sexual orientation or a severe suppression of their homosexual desires, for the most part.

@ Rohini: Counseling? Disowning? You must be the lone voice of reason in your office, no? How about erm, not treating gay preferences as a disease and accepting it as well, something normal? I hope that I never come across such people, ever. If I do, well too bad for them.

@ Vij: Let’s start a lynching squad against homophobes! Seriously! Down with forced heteronormativity I say! Hehehe!

@ m: Thanks! And don’t even get me started on Brokeback Mountain. Some of my desi friends refused to come with me to the theater to watch the movie. I was like hello, it’s a love story! What is wrong with a love story? But you know the interesting thing is that most homophobes, including desi ones will refuse to acknowledge the simple fact that people with gay preferences fall in love and go through the relationship motions just like everyone else. In a homophobes mind, any aspect of normalcy is ignored and homosexual relationships are degenerated and regarded upon as an abomination. It disturbs me to no end. Sigh.

@ Sheethal: IPC 377 is being contested upon and gay rights activists are seeking a de-criminalization of gay sex. That is true. But I’m not as optimistic as you about whether it’s on its way out. I really don’t think it is. We have a large section of the population still reveling in cultural and sexual hypocrisy and the government is usually stuck in a medieval time warp so I really don’t think it’s on its way out anytime soon. Also I do think most Indians are homophobic because of sheer ignorance and utter sexual hypocrisy. Anything related to sex and sexuality is taboo and ‘must not be spoken of’ so it is only natural that most Indians follow this mantra with respect to gay preferences too.

@ Sue: Ha ha. I used to read the Manu at work if I was excessively bored. It always made for a good laugh!

jax said...

I used to be homophobic, because gays are people too, and people include morons who do not understand the concept of "consent". I made a few gay friends later and now I am only moron-phobic. I think I should befriend some morons and conquer all my phobias. Hmmm.

Read this post on heterophobia. A very good perspective.

Yogi said...


lets not forget the ardhanaari reference to vishnu during the ayyappa "incident" which clearly portrays him as only masquerading as a woman, and yes of course that was made a God too in ancient times, wonder why hijras are so hated in the society too..definitely goes to prove that a lot of those works were far more evolved and mature than the Indian "PENAL" code!!

Yogi said...


lets not forget the ardhanaari reference to vishnu during the ayyappa "incident" which clearly portrays him as only masquerading as a woman, and yes of course that was made a God too in ancient times, wonder why hijras are so hated in the society too..definitely goes to prove that a lot of those works were far more evolved and mature than the Indian "PENAL" code!!

Canary said...

Only one comment, I love your blog!
Glad I dropped by :)

Vijayeta said...

By the way, forgot to mention that the law that labels homosexuality as a criminal act is actually being debated upon rather vociferously and there was a petition against it started by none other than Vikram Seth and was endorsed by anyone who's someone. People like Shashi Tharoor, Amartya Sen, Mira Nair...
So I guess there's still hope!

Szerelem said...

Sigh......I have ceased to be shocked by things like this. Perhaps the idiots of the world have stopped having an affect on me....

But the Indian culture argument is the dumbest really....(and as you excerpts rightfully point out).

@TAP: Re the lesbian thing - did you know there's a story about Shiva taking the form of a woman to better satisfy Parvati? Heh.

Anonymous said...

See, India for large parts is pretty uneducated. The politicians represent these uneducated lot. Most of them are incapable of critical analysis and are bothered only about making money. They therefore need to be on the right side of a morality which is largely based on poor education.

Its all a combination of bad education and definitely unformed opinion. Thats why when you utter the word homosexual, it is a shock reaction coming from a sheer lack of education.

That in my opinion is not homophobic of the virulent variety. Its like AIDS... these people dont even have that woman on woman or man on man sex in their minds.

Its sheer shock.

Having said that, the politicians exploit this aspect for their own purposes, mostly to polarise the voting population and divert their attention to sentimental issues.

The RSS and bloddy BJP are the key people in the moral poliecing.

Got admit that you have travelled a long way from indulging in MF Hussein bashing to "Moral police " bashing. Glad to see you have changed your opinion.

Keep up the good work. We need to raise our voice in one in blogosphere to fight these communal and divisive forces. Otherwise we wont be able to enjoy any kind of freedom. Especially those of expression. Being gay is one of expression and is enshrined in the constitution.


Vidya said...

Vidya uvAca:
Oh A.Y.W (Angry young woman),You have indeed hit the nail on the head on the sons of this anshiyunt and holy land of Bharatha varsha ;)

This reaction you mention is not typically limited to TA / student community but widespread in the entire desi community too pervading across Education, Class, gender. In such conversations what annoys me are the following imbecile assumptionsL
- Confusion of sexuality with gender identity.
- The real man vs effete stereotype when refering to gay people.That in itself stems from the thought that being a men is somehow a status symbol and stems on the notion that being a woman and feminine qualities are somehow at a lower stature.

Sudarshan. A. G. said...

Amazingly well referenced article.

I wouldn't know about the desi creed. But, back at our 'matrubhoomi', there are various acceptance levels to homosexuality. And the tendency now is mostly towards : "As long as its not in my face, I don't care."

Historical inertia exists. If opinions have wavered and changed over generations, they shall take generations again to revert back.

Nice reads on ur blog!

Rohini said...

Mostly I find it's the men who have great discomfort with their sons being homosexual - most of women are much less appalled at the thought.

Sridhar said...

I am not a homosexual or a homophobic but finding homoerotic undertones in guy-guy friendship is total piece of crap.
The society first dictated that you couldn't be a close friend with a female and now are saying that a guy cant be another guys close friend... total crap.

I have close friends in both the sexes. I think finding sexuality in friendship of any kind (in scriptures, present, past or future) is totally judgemental and uncalled for...
Bring on the flames now :)

the wannabe indian punkster said...

@ Jax: Maybe you are just plain moron phobic. Really. Think about it. ;)

@ Yogi: Yes! And let us not forget that Shiva was not accidentally seduced by Vishnu or anything. He asked Vishnu to don his Mohini garb, because he wanted to see for himself if all the praises showered on Vishnu/Mohini wrt to his/her beauty was warranted. So Shiva knew exactly what he was doing.

Heh. How I love Indian mythology.

@ Canary: Thank you so much! Now you must drop by more often. :)

@ Vij: Oh I know! But I'm not optimistic at all. Sigh. Maybe I'm just a jaded cynic. Hmpfh.

@ Szerelem: I know!

And yeah, there is a story in the Brahmanda Purana which deals with Shiva changing into a woman while making love to Parvati, although the story is a little ambiguous in the fact that it doesn't mention if Shiva changed into a woman to please Parvati, or by some unforeseen circumstances. But nevertheless, they still continued their lovemaking, so hey. :)

@ Sheetal: That is true. It is utter sexual hypocrisy at play here. Since anything related to sex and sexuality is wrong and therefore 'should not be spoken of' homosexuality automatically becomes wrong as well.

Sheer blind ignorance at its best, I swear.

the wannabe indian punkster said...

@ Vidya: lol. I'm probably pushing the boundaries of good Hindu desi girl-ness no? Ahh, well I was never good to begin with, so there. ;)

Oh and the imbecilic assumption with pisses me off the most?

- being gay = being transsexual.

It is probably the most noxious tripe I have ever come across on this subject. But try as I might, I can never convince desi's that such a belief is not just dumb, its utterly spurious and wrong. At least know your genders, for f**ks sake.


@ Sudarshan a.g: Hello and thanks! I know that historical inertia exists. But to what extent? Is is really inertia or just plain denial? I think it's a mix of both.

@ Rohini: Probably because they see it as an attack on manhood and we all know the common belief that feminine attributes or mannerisms are considered demeaning in general as Vidya said in a comment above.

@ Sridhar: The society first dictated that you couldn't be a close friend with a female and now are saying that a guy cant be another guys close friend... total crap.

Huh? Is this a joke of some sort?

Sridhar said...

No I wasn't joking.. I just feel that you are reading too much into the text. I dont think that the Krishna-Arjuna friendship had any homosexual undertone. They were just good friends. The translation you quoted does not explicitly state anything.

Secondly even if one looks for something like that in the text, I think that the sanskrit scripture should be quoted. One cannot completely convey the meaning of those texts in english. Also since Mahabharat is in the form of poetic verses, the translation is more difficult and mostly reflects the opinion of the translator.

I do not agree with your examples.. although I whole heartedly support the message you are trying to convey. Correct me if I'm wrong...

anonymouse said...

I don't think Sridhar is joking. In most conservative places, two people of different genders talking usually implies an intimate relationship of some sort, if they are not blood relatives.

hedonistic hobo said...

"Most desi folk I’ve come across are predictably ambiguous and inexplicit about where they stand on homosexuality,..."

Bebe for someone railing against bigotry the way you use the word 'desi' connotes the same sens eof disapproval and condescension as the word 'faggot' by well most of society.

I was unaware of the extent of acceptance imparted to homosexuality in our ancient scriptues, though it doesn't come as a surprise. Excellently referenced and thanks for it. FYI from my interactions with activist type people here I get the distinct impression that GLTB rights movement has gained maximum momentum (and success) in the peri-urban and rural areas of India. I feel, and I've expressed it with regards to life here in Delhi, that contemporary Indian urban society in particular is very feudal beneath the surface. Patriarchy is the most predominant structure and means of ordering society, it seeps through the political, religious, cultural, economic and socio-psychological realms. It's the cement in our walls, the foundation of our personal edifices like family.

I maybe wrong here, and perhaps your insight in to ancient Indian mythologies might shed some light on this but say with regards to eve teasing one can't help but think that a. this is a power issue and b. culturally there are no rules of conduct for single, independent women in the public domain. In small towns and village societies often, women can negotiate the spaces outside their private homes with perhaps less fear because in these 'communities' they're not anonymous irreverent sexual beings but so-and-so's mother, sister, daughter. There are culturally sanctioned mores of conduct to dictate how you interact with so-and-so's mother, sister, daughter. Thus in the big urban jungles where traditional communities donot exist, independent women i.e. independent of a man to validate them, are treated like an open game. This rant is of course completely unrelated to your pontifications.

But on the subject of homosexuality and public atrtitudes towards it in India I would guide your attention towards

'Because I have a Voice: Queer Politics in India'. http://wwwsshe.murdoch.edu.au/intersections/issue14/chatterjee_review.html

Perhaps you met a particularly repugnant and medieval avatar of the 'desi'. Because it is very hard to draw broad-sweeping general opinions on how 'Indians' (not a monolithic identity anyway) treat such topics as sexuality. And as one of the essayists in the book asks, 'If normal behaviour were so natural, why wpould it require such an elaborate system of controls to keep it in place?' :)

Nath said...

hedonistic hobo:

Bebe for someone railing against bigotry the way you use the word 'desi' connotes the same sens eof disapproval and condescension as the word 'faggot' by well most of society.

This is an excellent point.

the wannabe indian punkster:

and don’t even get me started on harebrained nutcases comparing homosexuality with ... bestiality. Such people cannot, or purposely refuse, to grasp the lucid concept of consent.

Consent, especially when it comes to animals, is not a particularly simple concept. It kind of depends on whether you consider them self-aware.

Sriram said...

"for someone railing against bigotry the way you use the word 'desi' connotes the same sens eof disapproval and condescension as the word 'faggot' by well most of society."

Wow. And I mean WOW.

First, know the meaning of the term. Second, the context in which it was used. Third, as far as I've known her, when the punkster considers herself part of the desi community, how the flying f**k is it the same as "faggot"?.

Having said that, may I PLEASE know how you jumped to that particular conclusion? Before you jump to more conclusions (seeing that you love doing that) I know the author quite well to defend her, so I can safely say that the accusation you are making is a bit wild, not to mention a bit.... retarded. Of course, you're either half-brained/dim-witted to say you gathered that from the blog or you are just pulling it out of your ass. I'll give you the benefit of the doubt and go with the latter.

Considering the amount of anonymous retards that inhabit this place, a hundred of them would be glad to jump on that bandwagon and call her a racist. So, directly or indirectly, you are encouraging a witch hunt. Think before you type meme (See?, I can patronize too,).

Sriram said...

@ Nath

"This is an excellent point."

No it isn't. See my previous comment as to why not. Idiot.

"Consent, especially when it comes to animals, is not a particularly simple concept. It kind of depends on whether you consider them self-aware."

Really? Now, please do tell us if you think homosexuality is the same as bestiality. You seem to avoid making your views known. And BE VERY CAREFUL about the next words you choose.

Drunken Master said...

Like Jon Stewart stated at the height of Indecision 2004, when people think gay, they express their disgust because they imagine of two guys going at it.

How about thinking/imagining/fantasizing about two girls going at it? Is that bestiality? Kinda hard to label it so now innit?

the wannabe indian punkster said...

@ Sridhar: Really now? The first translation I quoted clearly says “as unto Indra and his consort”. The meaning given to the word consort is either a life partner or a wife which aren’t two very different connotations. They are almost alike and lucid in their denotation.

With respect to the second passage, there are several other passages and stories which refer to their mutual affection as translated to physical intimacy and this particular passage was just an illustration of that. I am surprised that you would take such unheralded umbrage to it.

So what will you do with the Sanskrit translations? You are unwilling to trust seasoned scholars deciphering and translating the Mahabharata and yet you are insinuating that you reading the Sanskrit versions will somehow make everything transpicuous. No offense, but how is your own rendering of the original Sanskrit texts less blamable than the translations I’ve quoted? By your own admission, your understanding of the original texts would reflect your own opinions, yeah? Then why accredit any translations of any work by any scholar then?

@ Anonymouse: Hmmm.

@ Hobo: I’m sorry hobo but how did you come to that utterly spurious conclusion? I consider myself desi! I.am.desi. When I say desi, I mean “of the homeland”. It is as simple as that. I don’t use it as a derogatory epithet (I can’t imagine how, as I explicitly consider MYSELF desi and I don’t even KNOW how a person can use it in a derogatory manner!). I use desi because the word is shorter that “Indian” and it takes me less time to type. No double or triple meanings, no ulterior motives, no vague allusions, nothing, nada, zilch, for god’s sake.

And I never said “all desis” or “all Indians”. Now that is a sweeping generalization. I specifically referred to my own interactions when I said “most desi’s I’ve come across” which is wholly different from a “sweeping generalization” and I thought I made that perfectly clear. Again I thought you would get the gist of what I was referring to without me having to explain myself for every word I type. Oh well.

I’ll stop here. If we go on like this, this’ll just go nowhere. I hope you can understand too.

@ Nath: Refer to my answer to hobo’s comment.

@ Sriram: :)

the wannabe indian punkster said...

@ Drunken master: Interesting.

Anonymous said...

Hey!! I was first introduced to your blog by a friend who suggested I read the article titled "Why doesn't she just leave?" Thanks for writing that article.

This is the second time I am visiting your site and felt like commenting this time. Two of my close friends are gay and it makes me furious to come know there are so many homophobes in this world. I am hoping our generation and the next generations will enable my friend to introduce his partner as "love of his life" to his coworkers soon.

I felt very uneasy reading your interpretation of relationship between Krishna and Arjuna. Then, I read exchanges between you and sridhar and it made me realize that there are probably others who feel the same way and don't say anything. And, that it makes no sense for me to be upset about your interpretation of krishna's and Arjuna's relationship. Its your opinion and is as good as mine. =)

Nath said...

No it isn't. See my previous comment as to why not. Idiot.

Hurray ad hominem! Clearly, your argument is correct because it contains an insult.

(I stand by my previous statement, but will not go into the reasons because TWIP has requested that we abandon this line of argument. If you'd like to hear more, we can continue this discussion elsewhere. If, that is, you are interested in a discussion rather than a schoolyard name-calling contest.)

Really? Now, please do tell us if you think homosexuality is the same as bestiality. You seem to avoid making your views known. And BE VERY CAREFUL about the next words you choose.

The next words I choose are these: frog blast the vent core.

Now, as for my views. No, they are not equivalent. One involves two or more sentient creatures; the other involves one or more sentient creatures and one or more insentient creatures. Morally, however, I don't see much difference: if none of the sentient creatures involved have any problems, then neither do I. Rights are limited to sentient creatures. If I thought otherwise, I would not consume meat. Or perhaps even vegetables. Or water for that matter. I suppose I am hardcoded not to assign rights to insentient objects, so that I don't starve/dehydrate to death.

(Um. When I say 'consume meat', I mean that in an entirely gastronomical sense. Not a metaphor, there. [Seinfeld]Not that there's anything wrong with that.[/Seinfeld])

Neither is my cup of tea, though, and both are (to varying degrees) unpleasant to think about.

Q. Do you consider either or both immoral? If so, why? (5 mks.)

S - Currently a cynic said...

I totally agree with what you say.. If you noticed, the people who actually condemn all this under the pretext of 'Indian culture' are those who do not understand the culture properly. Everyone knows India as the land of kamasutra, but sex is still a taboo.. If it did not happen in India, then where did all the population some from.. Huh.. Hypocrites..

Well, forget people who do not respect same sex relationships, there still are soooo many people who think an American actor hugging a desi woman on stage is 'against our culture.' Well, yes, Shilpa Shetty is in news again! Phew...

nevermind said...

Lovely stuff, layered, nuanced, referenced and visceral. And there’s enough qualitative data in your responses to write a whole paper (can I? ha).

All right, now, I can’t resist this. I have not done original research in the area, but have been privileged to read a lot of it, having held a very part time job as a columnist for a journal on sexual behaviour.

@ Sheethal: I agree with you on the relationship between education and considered opinion. However, the fact that such an opinion, however ill-informed and benign, exists, in itself provides a rich culture medium for the other, more virulent brand of homophobia you mention. And in that sense, you and I and the common man, as representatives of a public that doesn’t mind ‘unacceptable’ behaviour (either homophobia or it’s Other, homosexuality) only as long as we don’t actually see it, are complict in homophobia. And the BJP/RSS/Tableeghi Jama-at don’t exist in a vaccum; they supply a demand. And part of that demand is also fuelled by those who, though not homophobic, are willing to vote for them, say, because their economic policies appeal to them. But that will, of course, eventually fuel homophobia, no? There again, collective responsibility is key.

@jax, I am moronphobic too It probably has nothing to do with your experience, but think about this. If a woman made a pass at a man, he is very likely to feel flattered. Now, if a gay man made a pass at another man, he’s more likely to feel annoyed, resentful, angry, outraged etc. I wonder why.

@Rohini, it is men who have more issues with homosexuality than women, there is robust cross-cultural research evidence for this. And the Punkster’s response is more or less spot on, as usual.

nevermind said...

@ Shridhar, finding homoerotic undertones in male-male friendships in the Indian social context is not crap, to put it mildly. Almost every Indian gay man who has come to me for help of any kind, has affirmed, at some point, that such casual physical contact has held significant relevance in the course and outcome of their sexual lives. For less anecdotal evidence, I direct you to Prof. Bhugra’s (a Partition refugee, a gay shrink, an socio-anthropologist, sometime student of the Armed Forces Medical College and a bonafide intersectoral superstar) website , and especially, his papers on being gay in urban India, and his review of Homophobia. I suspect the Hedonist’s recommended read may have something to say about this as well.

And again, if you were to read parts of the sacred texts that describe male-female sexual intercourse, the content (as the Punkster points out) would, if subjected it to proper qualitative analysis, be almost identical to the passages of male-male interaction she mentions. So, why the sudden irritation, the eagerness to somehow convince onself that Arjuna didn’t fuck Krishna on the grass (or vice versa)? Or is that very image too disconcerting/ threatening to an average Hindu male’s perception of his own macho-hetero sexuality, to be even considered? This, again, brings us to the question I asked Jax.

@ the hedonist, your first remark was, obviously, your way, of just taking the piss, right? Hint. Say yes. Unless you want to discuss exactly how pejorative that casually thrown, ‘activist type people here’ is (Heh). Which, of course, would be an exercise in futility, since how a regularly slandered ‘activist type person’ sees that phrase need not necessarily be how you see it.

Thanks for the reference. And your take about the links between patriarchies, feudalism, and power is just brilliant. To quote from Chapter 14 (which uniquely mixes the emic with the etic, within a wider etic-cum emic context) of Pankaj Mishra’s ‘Butter Chicken in Ludhiana’, ‘For a man with wealth and power, everything is his domain, whether humans or property, something to be owned…...Women are no more than chattel to you, and a foreign woman is even less that. Unlike an Indian woman, she is not a wife or daughter or sister to anybody. And she has no caste. She is a pure and simple object of lust, a ‘sex machine’, as Susan puts it…... to be consumed, if not owned.’

@ The Punkster, and another angle to this would be that at I bet least one of your regular commenters would now be maintaining an uncomfortable, ambivalent silence, courtesy your post. What fun:-D

Sriram said...


"Morally, however, I don't see much difference: if none of the sentient creatures involved have any problems, then neither do I. Rights are limited to sentient creatures. If I thought otherwise, I would not consume meat. Or perhaps even vegetables. Or water for that matter. I suppose I am hardcoded not to assign rights to insentient objects, so that I don't starve/dehydrate to death."

Wow. You are sitting with a smug look on your face thinking you've made a brilliant point haven't you? Sorry, but those lines make NO sense. Let me explain why. First, you begin with "Morally, I don't see much difference". Really? as opposed to what? Difference between what? So, according to you, morally, bestiality and homosexuality are the same, which is what that statement reads. And yet, you mention... "if none of the sentient creatures involved have any problems, then neither do I."

You do realise a drunk who is high on cocaine and speed would make more sense, right?

"I stand by my previous statement, but will not go into the reasons because TWIP has requested that we abandon this line of argument. If you'd like to hear more, we can continue this discussion elsewhere." - Lets see your reasons for it. I'm sure the punkster wouldn't mind.

Actually, going by the way you reasoned in the first part of the comment, I think we know it isn't going to make a world of sense. It isn't a high school shouting match, but when you agree to someone's statement that accuses someone else of racism, you better bring a good reason to the table or get lynched yourself.

Considering the amount of morons that visit here, it is difficult to establish who is and who isn't one. "If you sound like a moron, you are probably one" is the reasoning I go by. Nothing personal.

Sridhar said...

@nevermind: You have misunderstood me. I just meant that guys who are not gays can be close and not have sexual motives.

@wannabe punkster: The translation was done in 19th century and given the
current definitions of the word "consort".. it might be different from what the author had intended then.
The author tried to make sense of a highly poetic verse some 100 years ago and now you are trying to make some sense out of that translation.

Nath said...


Wow. You are sitting with a smug look on your face thinking you've made a brilliant point haven't you?

Pretty much.

So, according to you, morally, bestiality and homosexuality are the same...


And yet, you mention... "if none of the sentient creatures involved have any problems, then neither do I."

Also yep. Both are morally the same; I don't find either morally objectionable, but the thought of both is unpleasant. No contradiction there.

You do realize, of course, that I don't consider cows and such to be sentient creatures. Unless you didn't really read the post, and just copied out random parts of it to respond to.

Lets see your reasons for it. I'm sure the punkster wouldn't mind.

Fine with me. Punkster: let us know if you want us to take this elsewhere; I can leave an email address for Sriram to contact me with.

First, note that you were the first person to bring up the issue of race. Neither hobo nor I said anything about racism. What I am accusing Punkster of is negative stereotyping of a nationality.

Racism is taking away someone's rights because of their race.

Stereotyping of a nationality is making or encouraging negative assumptions about someone because of where they come from.

In CliffsNotes form:

There. Now, why do I think Punkster's post encourages stereotypes? Lines like this:
I already knew where this was going to go.

So since he's Indian, she knew that he'd turn out to be homophobic?

And yes, one can indeed hold one's own nationality in contempt.

Nath said...

And yes, one can indeed hold one's own nationality in contempt.

This line came on a bit strong. What I should have said is: one can indeed make excessively negative assumptions about one's own nationality.

McGermy said...

"Sriram :Wow. You are sitting with a smug look on your face thinking you've made a brilliant point haven't you?

Nath: Pretty much"

What in the name of stinkin landlubbers is going on here? I step away since there aren't many mongs on this post and one gets served on a platter!! So the guy thinks he has made a point? Seriously, deluded twats and mongs are always noisy, rattle on without rhyme or reason and for some reason, nath sounds like one. I know it is a reach, but could it just be because there is no logical flow to his argument, not to mention contradictions.

@ Nath,
Mate, there are a few types of folk I absolutely hate - mongs, deluded mongs and mongs. Clearly, your argument (if you call it that) is full of earth sized holes and when that's pointed out, you still go on some more hole-filled stupidity. Let me show one instance.

"And yes, one can indeed hold one's own nationality in contempt." -

So, for example, a Brit who is white can hold another Brit who is black in contempt because of the color of his skin and that is fine? Darwin is so bloody wrong. Survival of the fittest my arse!

Racism isn't just taking someone's rights away.

"Racism : a belief or doctrine that inherent differences among the various human races determine cultural or individual achievement, usually involving the idea that one's own race is superior and has the right to rule others."

And in context, the indication is that the author looks down upon a certain race of people, without taking into account she considers herself part of the race, is an accusation of racism. So pipe down, smart ass.

One more thing : "I can leave an email address for Sriram to contact me with." This for discussing something about your reasons for saying why a "brilliant point" had been made about the Punkster? ROTFL!!!!!!!!!

Blatant error on your part? Or are you taking the piss? An explanation is due.

Oh FFS!!. Pipe down. Mongs are mongs for a reason. They will refuse to see reason and will continue to think they are the intellectual masters of the world. You don't argue with mongs who refuse to see sense. You ignore them or, you bait them and have some fun.

Nath said...

So, for example, a Brit who is white can hold another Brit who is black in contempt because of the color of his skin and that is fine?

Don't recall saying it was fine. I was saying it's possible. I figured someone would argue that it isn't possible for Indians to believe/promote negative stereotypes about Indians.

"Racism : a belief or doctrine that inherent differences among the various human races determine cultural or individual achievement, usually involving the idea that one's own race is superior and has the right to rule others."

Darn tricky to rule people against their will if you don't take their rights away.

And in context, the indication is that the author looks down upon a certain race of people, without taking into account she considers herself part of the race, is an accusation of racism.

Promotes negative stereotypes != looks down upon
Race != Nationality
Racism != Stereotyping

So pipe down, smart ass.

Excellent advice, for all parties concerned.

This for discussing something about your reasons for saying why a "brilliant point" had been made about the Punkster? ROTFL!!!!!!!!!

Well, yeah. Punkster said this:
I’ll stop here. If we go on like this, this’ll just go nowhere. I hope you can understand too.

I took that to mean she didn't want this line of discussion to continue here, so I offered Sriram a way to contact me if he wanted to continue this discussion elsewhere.

Sudha said...

Have u read the Afghan? when discussing Islam, the prof actually explains that Hinduism is one of the relatively "younger" religions which is quite open with regards to sexuality, where the union of man and woman is openly referred to in mythology.

What about the incident in Mahabharata where Krishna advises Arjuna to use Shikhandi to un-man Bheeshma? When Arjuna is torn about the scruples of such an act, Krishna says somthing like - its never unscrupulous to use someones own fears/hatred/prejudice against them. Now I am not quite sure if Shikhandi was gay or transexual.

Its embarassing listening to many an educated ppl in the rishing and shining India of the second millennium, about their prejudice towards gay ppl. One of my classmates (Masters from CMU and working for a s/w MNC) said - "ofcourse i wudn't hate them or anything. but i wud feel really really uncomfortable around a gay person". wud u feel uncomfortable if i were to accidentaly poke my finger in your eye?

On a last note, i have had this feeling that women are more often gay-friendly than men. I guess we relate their state of oppression in some way.

Sudha said...

Just saw "neverminds" comment on there being research evidence that women have lesser issues in general
with homosexuality.

Apart from the macho-manism that men feel is requisite of all men, there is the other angle, that women who have faced any kind of oppression in their lives, generally are more emphathetic to discrimination of any kind.

the wannabe indian punkster said...

@ Nath: There. Now, why do I think Punkster's post encourages stereotypes? Lines like this:
'I already knew where this was going to go.'

So since he's Indian, she knew that he'd turn out to be homophobic?

Um, wow. Erm, I was plainly and explicitly referring to the fact that he called Karan Johar a fa***t and the way he expressed repugnance at his 'gayness'. As soon as I saw his disgusted reaction, I felt that "I already knew where this was going to go" even though I decided to give him the benefit of the doubt and question him a bit further.

I thought that aspect was perfectly clear and indeed if it wasn’t, I'm pretty sure everyone else (or a substantial number of commenters) would have called me out on it or at least questioned me about it.

The fact that you erroneously interpreted it as "because he’s Indian, I already knew where this was going to go" is frankly insulting to my sensibilities.

Anyway, this argument is inane as it is meaningless and frankly it is starting to get a tad personal and offensive. Criticizing my post is one thing, but if it branches out into personal allusions about ‘how I stereotype’ or ‘how I look down upon my nationality’, it is just unacceptable. I was under the assumption that I have a right to turn a critical eye towards my own people, and I do as you do. If you cannot comprehend or stolidly nitpick every word I have written pertaining to desis or Indians or whatever or you refuse to accept the simple fact that I obviously did not include or mean to include all Indians on this planet or every Indian in existence or every Indian living in India or elsewhere under the ‘homophobic’ tag, then this is a pointless excursion in futility.

I think we will stop this ridiculous argument here and now.


the wannabe indian punkster said...

@ Anon: Thank you and hello! Homophobes are a-plenty on this planet, I totally concur. I hope everything works out for your friend and his partner.

My point (as nevermind so clearly stated in his lovely comment) is the fact that I really don’t find it uneasy or anomalous to recognize that physical expressions of a deep seated friendship is in itself not bizarre or blasphemous. My interpretations of these texts was also by association to the Padma Purana which clearly describes a specific instance where Arjuna becomes Arjuni (again we see the mutability between the sexes and this can also be construed as Arjuna taking on a female garb) and wanting Krishna. Krishna divines the intentions of Arjuna (Arjuni) and leads him/her into the forest where they indulge in sexual play.

I do understand that it makes you slightly uneasy because these are not the stories we grew up with. But it does make for a slightly equivocal, thought provoking foray into the religious roots of sexuality with respect to Hinduism. And it does show us beyond all reasonable doubt that homosexuality was never an aberration to begin with. That is why I included the examples illustrating the complexity and the nuances of the friendship between Krishna and Arjuna in this post.

@ S-currently a cynic: Thanks S!

----Begin sarcasm----
Oh yes yes, because you know sex is wrong and any form of interaction between people of different genders is an unparalleled atrocity and he happened to not.be.Indian. on top of everything else. It is a travesty beyond travesties. Come S, let us make newspaper effigies of that charlatan Richard Gere, and burn it as offerings to our RSS goons, oh I mean gods, yeah gods.
----End sarcasm----

But in all seriousness, with respect to the protests over the Shilpa Shetty issue, I think its more of an itch in the groin for these protesting thugs rather than an “affront to the culture”, if you know what I mean.

@ Nevermind: Write that paper! And send me a copy across the Atlantic once you’re done with it, but if your languishing blog is any indication, I think I need to send you a super-prodder-deluxe to get you moving, eh? ;)
Oh and your comments are the epitome of gloriousity!


@ Sridhar: Refer to my answer to anon’s comment.

@ Sudha: Exactly. It is this very discomfort which I could never understand. Why? Would a person with gay preferences give you a pox or something? Or is it just ignorance? Or it is that these people confuse gay with transsexual? I’m not really sure, I think the reasons are very varied and quite random sometimes.

And Shikandi is transsexual. He was born a woman (Shikandini), but he was raised like a man by Drupada. On marriage however his wife finds out that he is a woman and she is devastated. Humiliated, Shikandi goes to Krishna who takes him to a yaksha and the yaksha makes him a man. So now Shikandi is ‘really’ a man. This is the basic back-story behind Shikandi. :)

hedonistic hobo said...

@The Punkster primarily, and Everyone else including the Angootha Chhaap Sriram:

Well I've been reading this blog for eons now and I completely relate to a lot of what the Punkster has to say everytime and even in this post. But within the post the word desi kept coming up as if to suggest that desis are one homogeneous feudal identity and that's that. I've done that in my own posts and upon later reflection felt that perhaps branding people as opposed to mindsets is unfair and it is exactly what we keep fighting against. So to fall in to the same trap as haters is self-defeating. Though allow me a chance to brand one last person before I turn over a completely new political correct leaf. Sriram, you're a fucking immature moron. And that's not just your mindset. Period.

Now I don't and never have considered the Punkster to be a bigot or anything. It was advice to her to reconsider the way she was presenting certain categories of mindsets. TAP and everyone else since I too consider myself a desi I find it insulting to think that this term is being used an umbrella term to describe only a sort of people when a myriad complexity of identities and attidues exist within it.
And that's my reading of the use of the word desi in the post. Otherwise as usual it's an excellent peice of writing.

Punkster, I hope you get what I'm saying.

Mohit Kumar said...

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WishfulThinker said...

I tried very hard to say something intelligent before I gave up and left, leaving you with only this.

the wannabe indian punkster said...

@ Hobo: First of all, many thanks for the clarification. I do see where you're coming from, and I do hope that you see that stereotyping all Indians or Desis was really not my intention at all. I always use a harsh/sarcastic tone in most my posts (who am I kidding, almost all) and I do know that it might come across as a bit severe. So I understand where you're coming from too (again, mucho thanks for a lovely clarification).

And since I'm thanking you profusely, let me continue in the same vein and thank you once more for the praise, it really means a lot.

And and don't ever be too PC, if you know what I mean. :)

I'd love you to keep commenting the way you've always been commenting (and yes that includes all your comments in this post too) and I'm glad to put this little scrimmage behind us.


@ Wishful: LOL! Its vokay. Indha vaati manikkaraen. :P

Drunken Master said...

Just like Chris Rock did for his brethren, I don't see why we cannot distinguish between the schmucks from the Motherland and the ones who actually think and try to make sense by calling one group desis and the other Indians. Maybe some other derogatory terms?

If one doesn't want to, that's fine too, but I actually thought that's how you, Punkster, worked the terms.

And just when I was going to shout "Cripple Fight!" you all kiss and make up. Goddammit!

JP said...

I like what you're doing here, personally. Sorry, gotta comment and run, but I look forward to reading more. We really need to examine the double-standards, hypocrisy and sheer crap in our culture instead of blindly carrying it forward.

Sue said...

@Rohini -- You are so right! I thought about it when I was pregnant, about having a homosexual son/daughter and it didn't bother me as much as the thought of the trouble they'd have to face. But V certainly didn't want to discuss it!


apu said...

I like the various linkages that you've drawn from our ancient texts. BUT. my point is - that even if these were to condemn homosexuality in the harshest terms (as the bible/koran do for e.g.), that still doesn't give anyone the authority to dictate what two other consenting adults can/ cannot do.

Scott Carney said...

As usual, too many comments on this thread to read. So I'm sure I'm treading on well worn ground.

Homosexuality in India is simply a fact. It isn't only a reference in ancient texts, or slight pecks on the cheek, or even errant quasi-out filmmakers. The MSM community is bursting at the seams. And it seems that these days I run into at least two or three Indian lesbians every week.

But I have a theory as to why so many people spew vitriol at out homosexuals. Bear with me, because I'm going to make a few generalizations that definitely don't hold up in all cases, but do in many.

For the most part the Indian educational system is not co-ed. Or at least, in schools that are co-ed boys and girls don't really mix. There are a variety of reasons for this, but the end result is that men and women never learn to properly socialize with one another.

In that fateful time called puberty all the kids with raging hormones have no place to express their sexual urges. Horny boys end up hooking up with horny boys and girls with girls. Sometimes it takes the form of "ragging"--which is something like hazing in American fraternities, but much of the time it is just good old fashioned homosexual sex.

But the boys and girls engaged in it aren't really gay. that is to say, they would prefer to be with a member of the opposite sex, but have no ability to consummate that sort of relationship. Guilty, they start to demonize their own sexual past and get angry at out homosexuals for what it says about themselves.

Did you ask your TA if he ever kissed a boy while he was in school? He just might have. His own preoccupation--and even immediate rejection of homosexuality at the beginning of a conversation--seems to betray it.

Just a thought.


the wannabe indian punkster said...

@ Apu: I completely concur. It doesn't matter what any ancient text says on this issue, to be honest. What happens between two consenting adults is wholly their business and no one else's. I only linked to the texts to drive my point even further and to also illustrate the fact that the extent of hate and homophobia which we see today was really not in existence in that period or timeframe! :)

the wannabe indian punkster said...

@ Drunken master: To me, the words 'Indian' and 'Desi' mean one and the same. I use them interchangeably and mutably without giving it a second thought actually. But do you think a specific demarcation is necessary? The posts so far have been self-explanatory, no? I hope.

@ jp: Thanks!

the wannabe indian punkster said...

@ Scott: There are many interesting parts of your comment which I want to address, but I have an exam to run to, so I will reply to it sometime before the end of today!

anonymouse said...

Scott, I would beg to differ on your evaluation of the co-ed schoools.

Note that I am merely claiming anecdotal evidence here, so if you have real data, I am willing to suspend my claims. Also note that my claim is based on what I have seen and experienced in Bombay/Mumbai, rather than say, elsehwere in India.

the wannabe indian punkster said...

@ Anonymouse: I completely agree.

@ Scott: While I agree with the overall gist of your comment, I must beg to differ on your evaluation of the Indian education system not being co-ed for the most part. I grew up in Madras and as far as what I have seen/experienced I definitely don't think that there is a sad dearth of co-ed schools in Madras. I went to one! My sister goes to one and I know for a fact that the co-ed schools greatly outnumber the non co-ed schools, at least in Chennai.

Shruti said...

um so hi. i haven't had the patience to go through all of the comments
here so i didn't notice if there was a response to a comment made by
rohini saying something about women being less appalled at their sons
being homosexual or something.
NOT. true.
I know more young mothers who keep their baby boys safely away from
anything remotely, i use that in the strictest sense of the word-
exaggerate it beyond reason and then a little more, feminine. One's
even confessed to me how the thought that her son could grow up to be
gay freaks her out to no end and she doesn't like it when i wear
bangles because he's attracted to the colours and the sound. She calls
her behaviour very 'traditional.'
it's no wonder that then, if this is tradition, so many of us want out.
okay, this comment is turning out longer than i expected. why not take
it all the way? now i will make a valiant attempt at saying something
relevant to the post.
so i have just one question- what is a TA?
oh and like someone else pointed out, very well researched. that's
something i've noticed in some other posts as well and full on respect
for that. i just can't bring myself to agree with all the anger, but i
don't disagree with what's being said so what the hell.

Drunken Master said...

A prat is a prat, irrespective of origin, race, nationality or sexuality, but I guess I just let the Chris Rock piece permeate into my mindset when reading some of your posts.

To a certain extent, a demarcation already exists (what with 'FOB' being used so liberally), but that represents a different group. When it comes to attitudes and opinions, surely the people we consider morons think of us as equally high handed and corrupt, so I guess dividing further within the Indian community might not be a smart move.

As Khushwant Singh said, With malice towards one and all!

anonymouse said...

A TA is a Teaching Assistant. Someone who gives lectures in place of a professor, and hgets an income for that in lieu of a full scholarship.

nevermind said...

@ Scott, anonymousse & the Punkster: I think there is a rural-urban disconnect here. Having conducted 'school health check-ups' in rural/mofussil schools across Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and A.P in the late 90s -early 00s, I remember a clear Primary/Secondary vs High School demarcation. The schools were usually co-ed until about the 5th Std, after which the the vast majority of local schools became single sex. This often had another pernicious fallout, that stemming from the easier avilability and accessibility of the 'Boys' High School' over the rarer 'Girls' High School' and leading to the partly educated girl child suddenly falling off the educational radar altogether.

I spent my early school years, until Std 9, in rural/mofussil schools and the largest and oldest of these immediately spring to mind. All male, established by missionaries, set in an ancient, cosmopolitan and decaying port (a mini-India in every sense), 125 plus yrs old, handed over to the Govt post-independence, it was a gargantuan 'Government School' in every sense. By the time I left in the late 80s, we were peri-pubertal, and many of us a raging mass of hormones. Breaks saw some of the pupils (the pubertally more advanced?) playfully grabbing/pinching every bum in sight, laying hands on thighs (many wore shorts), sniggering and talking about having 'sex' with the 'prettier' boys (usually the lighter skinned; without often quite knowing how/what, I'm sure), smuggling in very heterosexual local porn and poring over it etc. This was part of the routine, and considered unremarkable. Occasionally, one of the bum pinchers would pick someone who wasn't in a good mood and then get whacked a couple of times. It never led to serious fights, presumably because it was looked at with a sense of humour and as nothing remotely alarming. More importantly, surprise, surprise, it was considered normal. I know where some of these guys are now, and all of them are very heterosexual.

I was then shipped to a co-ed private school, where people had 'boyfriends and girlfriends', tho' I doubt they ever even snogged. Strangely, the everyday homerotic behaviour of the previous school was almost completely absent. My perspective, of course, is subject to all sorts of recall bias, but does make me think Scott's point has an inherent face vailidity.

@ shruti, yes, women can be wildly homophobic, but the evidence, as it stands, merely show that they are definitely less likely to be so, overall.

the wannabe indian punkster said...

@ Anonymouse: Thanks for the explanation to Shruti.

@ Nevermind: Point taken. :)

Thats why I specifically mentioned Madras several times, because I really wasnt too sure about other cities or rural/slightly rural areas.

Anurag said...

I have actually been to this post many times but could never figure out what to say.

1. Homophobia, according to me, is as much about lack of awareness as about absence of desire to be polite to strangers.

2. Being politically incorrect (and irreverent) and being rude are two different things, which your TA probably did not understand. It is considered cool to be irreverent (and it can be, if done with restraint), but one may as easily cross the line.

3. What I find weird is that the guy would strike up a conversation with you over an issue which is sensitive without knowing your leanings over the matter.

4. I should stop writing so many reports and start writing letters and essays. :)

anonymouse said...

nevermind, as I said, I can only provide anecdotal evidence. The same goes for everyone else making statements on this topic. The plural of anecdote is not data.

Discussing anecdotes isn't really useful, a bit of data would be.

RefleXtion said...

oyeeee! Still at it eh? :) No comments on the post, although I think that stories and myths aren't to be taken literally. I have to agree with Sridhar on a few things.

The other thing is the authenticity of some of these literatures is kinda questionable so can we actually make overreaching interpretations and run forward with it? I would rather stick to the essence of the message instead of reading / interpreting / questioning the actions and motives of various characters.

Siddhu said...

Waitaminit, is it one of my classmates from my undergrad days your TA?

He hates girliness in men too. :P I mean, I enjoy a Karan Johar joke as much as the next man, but hell, its his choice.

Wish he'd stop making those movies though. ;)

Anyway, the friend I was talking about stopped talking to me today because I said I knew gay people - and had even shared a flat with one - and that they were just as nice or as bad as straight people could be.

He probably assumed I was infected by the 'gayness virus', and would infect him over MSN.

Siddhu said...

Oh, and was wondering if you could take a dekko at my latest post. Wanna know what you think! :) I was reading the rediff message boards, and was really pissed off after a long, sexist, homophobic conversation with that friend of mine, and ended up writing this piece about the holy cow of virginity.

Excuse me, I'm off to grab some beef jerky. The cow used to be 'vergin' - so its okay.

nevermind said...

@ anonymousse, first of all, you owe me for this, mate. Half an hour searching the literature on a catch up with paperwork day! And then another half hour figuring out how to fit it into a bleeding comment box. Jeez.

Here is a cross-sectional fraction of a rich body of research with some relevant quotes (the weird numbers in between stand for numbered refs cited in that paper)-

1. Go VF, Srikrishnan AK, Sivaram S, et al. High HIV prevalence and risk behaviors in men who have sex with men in Chennai, India. J Acquir Immune Defic Syndr. 2004;35:314-319.

"In India, MSM are a diverse group of individuals who may not necessarily be associated with an overriding homosexual identity. 9–11 Social norms proscribing premarital and extramarital heterosexual sex are strictly enforced in a manner that tacitly encourages men to have sex with men; because women are not easily accessible to men outside of marriage, men may release their sexual tensions with other men. 8,12 At the same time, men who seek sex with men are frequently married and engage in marital sex as a social duty in response to strong social norms and intense familial and community pressure for procreation. 13

Because Indian society often links sexual identity to procreation rather than to sexual preferences or behaviors, 8 dichotomizing men into self-identified homosexual and heterosexual categories may underestimate the number of MSM. Situational sex in men has been reported across all sectors of Indian society in both rural and urban settings. 9,14 One study among 1573 male college students in Chennai, India, found that of the 16.6% who had experienced sexual activity with another man, 45.2% also had sexual experience with a female partner. 15...... Panthi refers to men with a male identity whose sexual orientation is primarily toward women. As Asthana and Oostvogels 8 state, “Men in this category often assume a very macho identity and see themselves as having unbridled sexual needs.” Having sex with males is seen as another way of releasing sexual tensions and does not compromise the panthi 's male identity. Given the cultural complexity of MSM identity in India, prevalence estimates of MSM vary widely, ranging from 1.5% to 37%. 16–20"

2. Gupta, A; Shruti, M et al. Same-Sex Behavior and High Rates of HIV Among Men Attending Sexually Transmitted Infection Clinics in Pune, India (1993-2002. Epidemiol and Soc Sci.

"Although data are limited, studies suggest that MSM behaviors are occurring in complex and diverse ways beyond those who self-identify as homosexual.10-15" (this is an earlier paper, data is no longer limited)

AND finally, from that old All Male Hothouse of Sex and Sweat, the Indian prison-

3. Singh S et al. High prevalence of sexually transmitted and blood-borne infections amongst the inmates of a district jail in Northern India. Int J STD AIDS. 1999 Jul;10(7):475-8.
PMID: 10454185 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

"Out of the 240 men, 115 were married and 125 unmarried. One hundred and eighty-four (76.6%) men gave history of penetrative sex. Of the 184, 53 (28.8%) were homosexuals or bisexuals and 131 (71.2%) had sex with women only"

And believe me, there's loads more where this came from. The first paper's very good, because it's recent and cites a vast body of relevant research from India on our subject of interest.

And finally, mate, evidence IS the systematic sum of anecdotal data. And anecdotal evidence finds a place on every hierarchy of evidence, be it from the social sciences or biomedicine. Look around you, all these people's perspectives, tho' limited by their brevity, IS sound qualitative evidence. And they are such a rich, varied, and representative sample-homemakers, students, engineers, managers, techies, doctors, scientists, young, middle-aged etc.

So whoever told you that the sum of anecdote is not evidence needs to be shot. I could of course, arrange to have a social anthropologist sent across to pull that trigger for you. Or maybe Scott'll oblige.

anonymouse said...

Ah, no. Data (especially statistical data) needs to be checked for biases. As you yourself said, data is the SYSTEMIC sum of anecdotal data. That word makes a big difference.

I deal with a lot of crappy statistics (75% of all computer breakins were by insiders type). I refer you to an vi vs emacs, which raged for over a decade, but with no real facts on the table (why let facts get in the way of a good flamewar?). Marcus Ranum has a few posts on firewall-wizards about why the state of computer security sucks.

I am no statistician, but I know just enough statistics to be able to question them.

Oh, and you can collect the beer from me next time we are in the same town.

Thanks for the stats.

nevermind said...

@anonymousse: perhaps you might want to check out qualitative research (as opposed to quantitative), and particularly, its use in social anthropology.

zen babu said...


While I have nothing but admiration for your knowledge on all things great and and small - I do have a little point to make. You're assuming that "holding hands, hand on shoulder, head on lap" are examples of homo-erotic behaviour. How valid is this assumption? If I was place my arms around a female friend's shoulder, would you not be jumping the gun in assuming that I had sexual relations/feelings with/for her? If so, then why does the same behaviour become homo-erotic if I do it with a male friend.

Also, even in the the religious texts that you quote, you think roaming around and sleeping over constitute homo-erotica? As for the usage of the terms "consort" and "companion", which is what gives those two texts whatever homo-erotic insinuations they have in any case - isn't it possible that it's a classic case of lost in translation? Or, more probably, a classic case of the translator's own biases reflecting in the interpretation?

Drops Of Jupiter said...

Sex is against our culture! Any kind of sex! Didn't you know? Indians make babies by praying at the temples and staring into each other's pure, pavitra, heterosexual eyes.

For further questions, please contact your local culture vult.. I mean minister.

KingSlayer said...

:)) To continue from drops of jupiter's comment, sometimes there may be a great deal of affection showered on the belly button. Isnt that how you have babies, mamma?? :P

Seems like a lot of debate has already been raised on this post. I just want to say that it was one of the best researched, most knowledgeable posts I have ever read. WIP, hats off to you. I'm new to your blog and have just read a couple of the posts. Great stuff.