Wednesday, June 29, 2011

My mother's lesbian friend!

Last few days city of New York is celebrating the law passed by the NYC Governor to legalize gay and lesbian relationships. This piece of news has generated lot of debate in India. Should Mumbai or Delhi follow New York city in legalizing gay marriage? Most of the times such debates are so disappointing, since in India any talk on sexuality is so regressive and illogical proposition. So I am not going to concern myself what the Indian people think about this issue.

Personally I am happy what NYC has done and hope more cities would follow soon. I never could understand why all this brouhaha about being a gay or lesbians and same sex marriage? Gays and Lesbians have existed here much before there has been any debate in India. There are many records in ancient texts, which give you ample examples of gay and lesbian existence in Indian social life. In fact they are some rites which sanction marriage' among for gays and lesbian relations. In Tamil Nadu, Hizra ( kind of gay and lesbian community in India) marry lord Krishna to be his bride. So why are we making such a deal of gay and lesbian marriage in India?

Well, I knew of a lesbian couple even before I heard or comprehended the word gay or lesbian in its true sense. This blog is for her memory.

Let me introduce to my mom's friend. My mom had a lesbian friend. Of course I never knew she was lesbian for a long time. It was only when I had got to understand the term gay and lesbian and on a whim I had asked my mother "was Jeevan lesbian Amma?" My mom who was ailing of cancer then, had smiled weakly without saying anything.

Jeevan - means life. I have to use past tense becasue she died many many years ago, much before my mom passed away. She was tall may be 5 feet 6 inches, broad and hefty and rugged like a man. But that could be just my childish perception to associate feminine as dainty and delicate and masculine as rough and rugged. Or was this perception enhanced by the nick name my mom had given to her. She used to lovingly call her "Jeevan the Bheem"?

Jeevan would come visiting us quiet often. she was more like a family than a friend and often had access to every part of the house. I remember she would walk in and walk out of the house any odd time of the day and mostly she would come calling on my mom and they would sit in a room and talk hours together. As a kid I never understood what they were talking about. But their expressions would be very serious and often I used to hear my mom consoling her.

Nevertheless whenever she would come over, we children would have great time. She was not only funny; her exaggerated mannerisms added to her character. But all said and done she was a normal human being, treated like any other guests in the house. And as far as I remember she was never discriminated for her sexual orientation. Hence I never got to know she was a lesbian till I started reading about it in books magazines and news paper as a category of people other than heterosexuals.

Jeevan openly lived with her female partner. She had a permanent job at a local girl's convent school where she taught at secondary school level. I don't know how good her social life was becasue I was too young to understand the complexity of it. But I do not rememebr any one discriminating her for her sexual orientation. Elders generally remained hushed but never harassed her or socially castigated her or her partner in any obvious manner. Probably Jeevan had her own tales to tell which I could not have known as a child. But I guess she had accepted that any person who dares the social codes has to accept some form of scoff from society. It is price that you pay for being different and is applied to heterosexuals as well as homosexuals.

I could never understand the bonding between Jeevan and my mom. But they were very close friends. My mom never discussed anything about Jeevan or her life with us but I knew she had great sympathies for her and that made Jeevan all the more special for us.
When I asked my mom why you never told us that Jeevan was a lesbian? were you trying to hide her sexual orientation from us? She had a straight forward reply, " I knew someday you would discover about Jeevan's lesbian nature. But had I made you aware her lesbianism, you would always viewed her first as a lesbian than as a person. Gays and lesbians are people like me and you. There is nothing different to talk about".

I am not sure if her explanation was kind of covert defense for not discussing other sexual orientations or a brilliant strategy to respect gays and lesbians as human beings. For my child mind, message was delivered in a simple statement. Any kind of "other-ness" should never precede the person who or she is. It is the person and the human who comes first.

As I watch gays regaling in New York, my thoughts go out on Jeevan. How would she have reacted to such a news ?. Would legalization of relationship would have made any difference to her life? She did not hide her relationship but she never had a social sanction too.

Jeevan was the first lesbian I met in my life. I thank my mother, because she was Jeevan first, lesbian later! But more than that she was a dear friend of my mother!

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