I am, what feminists, contortionists, gay activists, randy journalists and all my friends in the Dirty Tricks Department would call a prude. While I have nothing against people who openly celebrate and advertise their sexual drive the way Ratan Tata shows off his Nano, I do feel squeamish about physical displays of romantic or erotic fondness being played out before my heavy-lidded eyes. It’s one thing to see un-hijabed girls on Bondi beach in Australia playing with their boomerangs in the sun; it’s quite another to see butt cracks outside Palika Bazar in Delhi.
This discomfort, of course, does not clash at all with my covert obsession with sex, sexual imagery and smutty things that have made heterosexual schoolboys down the generations cackle with glee. But like the Pope, the VHP’s Giriraj Kishore and whoever’s in charge of Islam these days, I shudder both in fear and excitement when the subject of sexual behaviour crops up from time to time. Whether between men and women, men and men, women and women, women and rhubarbs, men and machines, my reaction to public displays of erotic affection has been fashioned by my surroundings. I’m sure if I had grown up in Buffalo, New York, near Rick’s Tally Ho Gentlemen Cabarets, my complete inability to follow what a woman in a low-cut blouse is saying — probably on the Railway Budget — would have never been there.
So when on Thursday, people went out on the streets to celebrate the decriminalisation of homosexuality — or rather, the bringing of gays into the long, rubber-gloved reach of the law — I was extremely happy that homosexual men could now park their cars outside Nehru Park. (Although I still can’t quite fathom why our media were obsessed about focusing on foreigners among the happy folks and why there were so many women out there, considering lesbians were never considered to be outlaws since the law didn’t even recognise their existence.)
But I also saw the celebratory outpourings as a shower of golden opportunity for me to come to terms with my own heterosexuality. While the religious lot continue to foam at their mouths about the ‘sickness’ of homosexuality and moan on about its ‘unnaturalness’ — as if the iPod, nationalism, shaving and religion itself aren’t nifty ‘unnatural’ concoctions that help us make lifestyle choices — I may soon be taking those small but manly steps that will bring me out of the hetero closet and slowly but surely make me comfortable about public displays of affection between men and women. Who knows? I may even become a non-neurotic participant one day.
Which makes me come to the crotch of the matter. It’s not homo- or bi- or tri-sexuality that makes many of us wince or fume (or feel that we’re missing out on a whole lot of action); it’s sexuality of any kind on display that makes most people like me break into a strange rash. The possibility that legal (read: decent) homosexual displays will now hopefully eclipse the heterosexual ones when it comes to upsetting wholesome family tastes and values will be something I am keenly awaiting. Who will bother about a Bipasha Basu-Cristiano Ronaldo public smooch or a raunchy deodorant ad on TV when the manufactured fear of finding Rohit Bal on a table with an unclothed mannequin becomes rampant? While the likes of Baba Ramdev, Father Christmas and Imam Whatsyourname continue to uphold the moral code of Victorian England, the rest of us, still hesitant to become mature heterosexual adults in 21st century India, can come out of our repressive Godrej almirahs. Policemen — who have been publicly seen latching on to each other’s little fingers since 1860 — can be busy tackling gay people pushing the envelope, while we heteros venture out and shake a leg.
So what if all homosexuals jump on each other just as much as all heterosexuals jump on each other — and as many homosexuals pounce on unsuspecting boys as heteros lunging at unsuspecting girls. The possibility of me becoming a fully developed alpha male, effortlessly chatting with — if not chatting up — ladies without the fear of being slapped or asked about my mother and sister at home, will be tested in the days to come. And for that, I can only thank my more visible friends in the gay community.