Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Queer man out

Vartanama, Jan '15
By Pawan Dhall

This piece of writing is fresh off a big fat Indian wedding, which was also about Punjabi and Gujarati integration – makki di roti and sarson saag marrying shrikhand and dhokla towards marital and culinary bliss (all items mentioned being personal favourites)! The Punjabi side of the marriage was special in its own right – the bride was from Hindu-Muslim parentage. National integration di ho gayi wah bhai wah – and that is not tongue-in-cheek, I mean it and I am happy to be part of a family that has often pushed boundaries. This has also been cause for personal inspiration on several occasions.

As part of the choora ceremony in a Punjabi wedding, young aspirants
for marriage bend at the bride's feet, who gives a vigorous shake to
the kaleeras (danglers) she wears with the chooras (set of red and
white bangles) - if any of the kaleeras fall off, marriage is considered
on the cards for the aspirant. Both girls and boys display a keen
interest in this ceremony. 
Photo credit: Pawan Dhall
Yet, at many points during the wedding rituals spread over three days, I found myself straddling many worlds – one that in spite of pushing boundaries still swears by and celebrates lavishly the social supremacy of the heterosexual marriage, another that says the joys of wedding festivities and marital bliss should also be extended to same-sex couples and mixed gender couples (where one partner is transgender), and yet another that questions the very concept of marriage as a patriarchal manifestation replete with gender and other inequities, exploitation and violence. Throw in another school of thought that wonders why plastic can’t be eliminated entirely from serving water and other delicacies at mass attendance events.

With all these conflicting thoughts occupying my mind along with some genuinely enjoyable and fun-filled rituals that wished the bride and the groom the very best ahead, I could well have been the odd . . . or queer man out at the wedding! This is not to claim that others present for the wedding couldn't have had the same thoughts as me, or that I was the only queer individual present. But then I can only speak for myself, and as I sign off on this article, I wonder what options I will exercise if and when I (next) meet someone who is companionship material.

Yes, I'm out fishing – not again, I can hear some of my friends exclaiming in exasperation! But no, I'm not losing sleep over wedding plans. And I'm not going to forget my ‘extended queer family’ or ‘family by blood’ even if I meet a ‘dream person’ – both families have made me what I am (for better or for worse). I'm plain and simple happy that in the here and now I can at least think about making some choices when it comes to relationships. This may well be because of my privileges of gender, class, religion, location or education, though I would also count in all the efforts I have put in to be in a position where I can say a considered yes or no. But most importantly, I wish 2015 brings in happy tidings for more and more people so that they too can enjoy the basic right of being able to choose, and I don’t mean choose only between competing brands of cars and toothpastes or politicians with credibility challenges!

Pawan Dhall aspires to be a rainbow journalist and believes in taking a stand, even if it’s on the fence – the view is better from there!

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