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Unjust cruising

Gaurav Deka | Updated on January 17, 2018 Published on July 01, 2016
Step by step: Gaurav Deka — spaces need to ‘come out’ too. Photo: S Subramanium

Step by step: Gaurav Deka — spaces need to ‘come out’ too. Photo: S Subramanium

Parks as delicious alternatives. Photo: S Subramaniam

Parks as delicious alternatives. Photo: S Subramaniam

BLink02_Delhi

Much like homosexuals, queer spaces in Delhi too assume a different identity during the day

It’s a weekend and we are at a cafe in Select City Walk. I’m with the guy who’d asked me some months ago if we could meet for a date at the Delhi Queer Pride. I had immediately declined. Appearing a bit vexed, he’d asked if I was still in the closet. We didn’t meet eventually, for my silence was taken quite personally and as if I had betrayed his community. This he told me two days ago, when we finally decided to meet, and I explained to him that a lot of men and women from the Delhi LGBT community happen to be my clients and it would have been awkward to meet them at such socially active spaces. That’s the reason I consciously avoided going to gay house parties, gay nights, film screenings and even exhibitions. I would rather want them to feel more liberated in such spaces instead of making them aware of my presence. That almost always would catapult them to the darker parts of the stories they have lived so far and shared with me. It would make them too aware of their existence in that particular habitat, which is supposed to work as a safe space.

Talking of ‘safe spaces’, with homosexuality being a criminal offence in India, any guarded territory of a similar kind — be it a nightclub or a party — remains under a constant unknown threat. My date that day at Select City Walk told me how, in spite of being from a well-to-do family, he preferred going to the parks. Perhaps he’d said it in a tone that was meant to make me feel good about his spirit of inclusion, but I could still see that he felt his social identity was clearly demarcated from the rest. A month ago, a certain client had expressed his discontentment at visiting a park somewhere near Connaught Place and finding an attractive looking man who, he later came to know, was an autorickshaw driver.

What bothered my client was not that he found him attractive and kissed him in the park but that, in spite of being ultra-liberal in his sensibilities, he felt guilty of transgressing outside his social compass. He said, “I am supposed to be liberal. I have been an academic all my life. I am supposed to fight for Dalit rights and act against class and caste. How could I feel guilty about engaging with someone of a lower socio-economic status?” He said he felt disgusted about the anxiety the incident added to his life, in spite of the fact that it was nothing but the manifestation of the same desire he would feel kissing men at gay parties and nightclubs.

Every city, in fact every place, has its own spirit called the genius loci. It’s like that invisible GPS which tells you something about the place that is autochthonous and independent of its physical identity. You can come back to it with your eyes closed and yet identify it by something greater than its geographical profile. Queer spaces in all cities in India have this similar genius loci of evanescence. They never seem to survive.

Compared to Mumbai, where pre-endorsed clubs/hotels are taken up for gay night parties every Tuesday or Saturday, in Delhi these places don’t actually last. There are parties that happen but they die away too. Advertisements keep appearing in gay apps like Grindr, Planet Romeo and Tinder, but even these have clear rules about not allowing the transgender crowd and cross-dressers. Such places very clearly serve as hook-up joints for most gay men, but for some these are also places where they can be comfortable about their identity without the threat of looming violence. These become portals of expression for many. Some people, like my date at the mall, feel the transient nature of such spaces. It leaves them sad that, like their hidden identities, these places also change during the day. They are, in his words, heterosexualised and normalised. The whole idea of ‘coming out’ becomes a requirement by virtue of the functionality of those spaces.

Because those spaces themselves need to ‘come out’ too.

In that respect, socio-economically accommodative spaces like Nehru Park, Palika Bazar Parking, ISBT Kashmere Gate find men from varied backgrounds. Though these are equally infamous for thieves and vagabonds; quoting a journalist friend, these are delicious alternatives for the ailing gay heart. One can drop in and wait for the most conspicuous gesture that invariably leads to a blow job! It is to be wondered how class, in these spaces, gets subsumed in the pursuit of desire. However, most women clients coming to me have expressed their displeasure at the lack of an equivalent opportunity when it comes to ‘cruising’ in the most colloquial way. They say that they have to suffer far more than gay men in finding an ideal mate, raising questions also on the promiscuous nature of being homosexual, which is challenged in their case. That Delhi still remains a hotbed of patriarchy and the homosexual crowd and spaces aren’t yet spared or grown above.

G aurav Deka is a Delhi-based writer and psychotherapist

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Published on July 01, 2016
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