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'I am afraid that the Ram Sene may attack homosexuals next'

In a country where they object to inter-caste, inter-religious and same sex relationships, it is important to have a day that recognises love. Purva Mehra tells more...

india Updated: Feb 13, 2009 20:55 IST
Purva Mehra
Purva Mehra
Hindustan Times

Am I too well dressed? Will they blackmail me? Will I be outed to many other people? These were thoughts that raced through Hemant Shah's mind on a November evening in 2007, as he got ready for his first social meeting with fellow homosexuals.

Fifteen months on, Shah remembers every minute detail of the meet, down to the folds of his black trousers. "If courage hadn't prevailed over my apprehensions, I would have never met Rohan (Hinduja)," remembers Shah, adding, "The first thing I noticed was his fluffy curly hair."

Constant eye contact and casual flirting followed. Soon love was in the air.

The 22-year-old medical student and the 18-year-old media student have been dating over a year and are preparing for their second Valentine's Day. While for Shah everyday is Valentine's, Hinduja feels certain that this year too will be a special occasion. "Last Valentine's, he made me a book in which he expressed his want to spend his life with me," smiles Hinduja.

Nurtured by endless conversations on Tata Indicom handsets, theirs is a relationship that qualifies as long distance. "We speak everyday but meet only on weekends.

Super cool mom

As far as the approval of family is concerned, Hinduja's mother was very supportive. In fact, "it was she who suggested we switch to a more affordable phone deal because of the huge bills we were running up," says Shah whose own mother has not come to terms with his orientation.

Mrs Hinduja, on her part, had quickly abandoned dreams of her son marrying a pretty, Indian girl. Says her son, "All gay men should have a mother like mine." All praises for his mother, Hinduja says, "I was aware of my sexuality very early but she has been incredible. Not only has she accepted me but has also sparked off a wonderful relationship with Hemant."

Age no bar

Journalist Vishal Damani and lawyer Ajay Kher have long moved past coming out to mothers and getting coerced into marriage. They are hurtling fast toward their 10-year anniversary this March. "We really love each other," says 28-year-old Kher. "I was insecure in the relationship when we started off, but no longer. We have plenty of disagreements but just as many common interests." And after 10 years, Kher says Damani continues to be the most interesting person he knows.

Older of the two, Damani, a journalist, was 31 and reluctant when he met Kher. "He was too young. I had deep reservations about that so I kept withdrawing from the relationship," recalls Damani. He adds, "Ajay was the one who kept pursuing me over coffee and dinner and now we're at 10."

The couple has been through a lot. Together, they have braved a 13-year age gap, dealt with a lack of intimate spaces in the city, and both are actively involved in fighting to repeal Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (that criminalises homosexuality).

"We're still fighting the basic laws. Only married couples in the city can avail of joint housing loans. Lots of same sex couples want to live together. But our concern is that if one partner passes away then there's no guarantee the other partner can claim the home," says Damani.

Comfortably in love, anniversaries and celebrations don't figure in this couple's life. "Valentines has becomes a very political day. I am afraid that the Rama Sene may attack homosexuals next."

A memorable Valentines, recalls Kher, was some years ago when "Vishal and I visited colleges outside Mumbai and spoke to the youth about our sexuality." Kher elaborates, "We talked to them about a different kind of love." It was a simple message but went a long way. "In a country where they object to inter-caste, inter-religious and same sex relationships, it is important to have a day that recognises love."

First Published: Feb 13, 2009 19:09 IST