July 12, 2015 1:00:59 am
At the pride week celebrations in Mumbai in January, Rohan Khadse and his partner, Vishal Rao (names changed), marched with others, but as a couple decked in wedding finery. The walk ended at August Kranti maidan, when activist and LGBT campaigner Harish Iyer took to the stage to congratulate them on their wedding.
Khadse and Rao had exchanged vows that morning in the presence of a few close friends. “Since Vishal and I had been in a stable relationship, some friends suggested we get hitched. And the timing felt right,” says Khadse.
The decision was, however, meant to be closely guarded. At the time, Khadse and Rao had not come out to their families. “I had always thought of telling my parents, but I was nervous about how they would deal with it,” says Khadse, an animator and filmmaker. Before they could read about it in the next day’s papers, Khadse decided to break it to his parents. “My father was calm. My mother was shocked. You read about these things, but never expect them from your kids,” he says, when we meet at a suburban coffee shop. Rao’s parents were enraged.
Six months later, Khadse and Rao are together but apart, living with their respective families in Bandra and Kalyan. “We’ve decided to give it a year’s time, before moving in together. The distance doesn’t bother us. We started out that way,” says Khadse. The duo had connected on a social networking platform in 2010, when Rao, an engineer, was working in Pune. After three months of phone calls and online chats, the duo met. “I was unsure of my orientation till I met Vishal, and thought I was bisexual. When you’re brought up in a heterosexual society, you’re expected to follow the same path as everyone else, but with Vishal, I knew it was love,” says Khadse, adding that he also had a short-lived heterosexual relationship in his teens.
The wedding was held at a close friend’s house and the vows were solemnised by a pandit from the LGBT community. The Sanskrit shlokas with reference to var and vadhu (groom and bride) were suitably altered. “Many Indian rituals are entrenched in misogyny, and since this was a marriage symbolising equality, there was no sindoor or mangalsutra,” says Khadse. A friend’s mother, who had seen them through the relationship, blessed the couple.
Last week, Khadse won an award for his Marathi film Ek Maaya Ashi Hi (A Love Such as This), which had premiered at the Kashish Film Festival in Mumbai. The 27-minute film chronicles a widowed mother’s struggle as she finds out that her son is gay. “My mother said she really liked it and that meant the world to me. She seems to have come to terms with my marriage now,” he says.
The future for the couple remains uncertain — as it is for the entire community in India, where homosexuality is a crime. “While I didn’t care about it before, I realise the importance of legalisation now that we’re married. Medical emergencies, joint accounts, naming your partner as your nominee, it’s all very difficult.” The US Supreme Court ruling leaves Khadse optimistic. He believes that the effects of their landmark judgement may trickle down to India someday. “Here, decriminalisation remains most important. Marriage legalisation will follow.”
Where acceptance is concerned, Khadse biggest hurdle has been most people’s misguided view of queer relationships. “They assume that we’re only sexually interested in our partners. But it’s like any other relationship.” As he waits for Rao’s family to come around, he remains hopeful of an inclusive society in the years to come. “After all, revolutions take time,” he says.
The story appeared in print with the headline Out of Wedlock
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