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Book Review: The Other Guy by Aakash Mehrotra

Who does not like a love story? If one were to judge by the ‘bestseller’ shelves at bookstores, love stories are among the most read books in the country. However, romantic stories of gay love are hard to come across in India. The last gay literature that I remember reading is Hostel Room 131 and Quarantine. The market, however, seems to be growing. Several small and big publishers are coming out to help queer writers publish their works. And the advent of social media has given the movement a fillip it needed.

Akash Mehrotra’s book is an endearing read, because it is a strangely realistic take on a contemporary same-sex relationship. Strange, because the book does not have a tragic ending (which is the case with most queer literature). Realistic because Anuj and Nikhil are relatable in every sense of the term.

If you are gay, reading the book must have brought back memories of your past relationships; it surely did for me. That first crush in college, secret dates, the passionate lovemaking, lying about relationship before your friends, the precious little moments of sweet-nothings – juxtaposed against the sad realities of life.

Love, they say, is blind. The heart does not care for societal taboos or legal conventions when falling for someone. But in a country where homosexuality is considered criminal, ‘forbidden love’ comes with choices that can be life-altering. However, it is the bond of love and longing that survives all odds and lasts us a lifetime.

Akash Mehrotra deserves credit for treating the subject with sensitivity. His simple and lucid writing makes the narrative interesting. India needs more books like ‘The Other Guy’ to break the ceiling, when it comes to mainstreaming of queer literature in India.

My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

P.S. The review copy of the book was provided by Leadstart Publishing

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Decriminalising homosexuality – Help my voice reach the GOI

On July 2, 2009, the Delhi High Court declared Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code unconstitutional, thereby, giving a new ray of hope to millions of Indians who were stigmatized for their sexuality. The section, which criminalized consensual sex between two adults of the same-sex, was grossly misused by the police to target and victimize homosexuals. With 377 gone, it was a dawn of freedom for the LGBT community in India.

However, on December 11, 2013, the Supreme Court overturned the Delhi High Court verdict, thereby declaring lakhs of Indians criminals in their own country, solely for their ‘choice’ of love. The decision of a legislation to decriminalise homosexuality was left the Parliament of India.

The judiciary is the custodian of human rights, and has the mandate to make decisions in the interest of the public. But Justice Singhvi adjudged that annulling Section 377 of the IPC for a “minuscule minority” is improper. Well, the Constitution of India warrants that no matter how minuscule a minority is, their rights must be protected.

Article 21 of the India Constitution includes right to privacy also in its sweep which was upheld by our Hon’ble SC in Kharak Singh v State of UP for the first time. The Supreme Court held that right to privacy is an essential ingredient of right to personal liberty.

While a common case against decriminalizing homosexuality is that it is “unnatural”, people forget that nearly 500 species on animals show homosexual tendencies. How can a trait so abundantly occurring in nature be “unnatural”?

There is also a class of people who say homosexuality is against Indian culture. That is definitely not the case. The controversial Section 377 of the IPC is a British law that was introduced in the Victorian period. In fact, Indian scriptures and epics are replete with queer characters (the most common being Shikandi from Mahabharata).

The American Anthropological Association stated in 2004: “The results of more than a century of anthropological research on households, kinship relationships, and families, across cultures and through time, provide no support whatsoever for the view that either civilization or viable social orders depend upon marriage as an exclusively heterosexual institution. Rather, anthropological research supports the conclusion that a vast array of family types, including families built upon same-sex partnerships, can contribute to stable and humane societies.”

Several countries in the world recognize same-sex marriage: Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Britain, Canada, Colombia, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greenland, Iceland, Ireland, Luxembourg, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Uruguay and the United States.

I, therefore, feel, it is about time we shed the colonial baggage, decriminalizing a private and consensual act between two consenting adults. It is time we modified Section 377 of IPC to decriminalize homosexuality.

Let every human being live a life of dignity, irrespective of their gender, sexuality, caste, religion or colour – just as the Constitution of India mandates.

Sign the petition by clicking here.

 

P.S. This is my first post for #BlogchatterProjects

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