Half Lives

By Devki Pande

Karan and Aryan

“I met Aryan* when I was fifteen. I would like to say that it was love at first sight, but if I have to be factual about it, Aryan thought I was obnoxious, and he hated me. Well. He was attracted to my impossibly handsome features” (laughs). “I started interacting with him through common friends. You know how the social circles intersect in Delhi, structures like Venn diagrams. They show all possible logical relations between a finite collection of sets, and even though Aryan went out of his way to avoid me, mathematics brought us together. Almost makes me regret that I dumped it in eleventh. We realised we had more in common after about twelve tequila shots – isn’t that the beginning of all great love stories in Hollywood? Well, one thing led to another and here we are.”

“Excuse me”, he apologises and then proceeds to bury his nose into a handkerchief. I look away politely. After a few minutes, he is himself again. “I’m sorry”, he apologises; he says that has a cold. So I write it down dutifully: Karan* has a cold. We both know its camouflage for that catch in his throat.

Well, where is Aryan now? He isn’t entirely sure. It is really hard to keep track of someone who is continents away, and right now they have a spring break. Many of Aryan’s friends are heading to Cancun, Mexico, and Karan expects Aryan to be accompanying them. A light enters his eyes and his mouth begins to tilt upwards in almost motherly pride. Aryan is studying English Literature at Oxford. Karan was expected to join him; right up till his father ripped his acceptance letter, and his heart, into half . You see, although nothing was acknowledged, apocryphal stories had begun to circulate. To Karan and Aryan, it was irrelevant. They were both incapable of the conception that their joy was a sin.

A man carrying the gay pride flag | Photo Courtesy: WGAL News

Do You Love a Person or the Things That Make Them That Person?

Jacques Derrida asks: Is love the love of someone or the love of something? Suppose I love someone; do I love them for the absolute singularity of who they are? Or because of all the things that make them who they are? I love you. I love you because you are you? Or do I love your qualities, your beauty, and your intelligence?

[su_pullquote]Given that it is the qualities that one loves, to be fastidious about the gender one finds those qualities in, is to discount the value of those qualities itself.[/su_pullquote]

Given that it is the qualities that one loves, to be fastidious about the gender one finds those qualities in, is to discount the value of those qualities itself.A person is viewed as a collection of qualities, and love is then given to the most sought-after combination. But then, if a person is not his qualities, what is he? A person is how his mind operates. Qualities are a manifestation of the mechanism of the mind. So how does the discrepancy between the love given to the “you” and the love given to “qualities” arise?

“I come from a very orthodox background”, Karan continues. “Arranged marriages are the norm; in fact, dad has already got a girl in mind for me, some distant family friend who I met when I was five. But Aryan is someone who I can talk to about anything. The kind of person he is, me loving him was inevitable. Our love for literature, our common thought. I don’t know if you can call it love or a deep connection and understanding between two people, who just happen to be of the same gender. If Aryan was Aadya instead, the family would have probably approved.”

“An Imagined Life…”

Plato said that according to Greek mythology, human beings were initially two headed with double the number of arms and legs. But Zeus feared their power, so he split them in half; condemning them to spend their lives searching for their other halves. The other half of a male is always assumed to be a female and vice versa. This thought is used to fuel an “anti-immoral” propaganda. But individualism recognises that a person cannot run another’s life, nor should he allow anyone else to run his own.

[su_pullquote align=”right”]But individualism recognises that a person cannot run another’s life, nor should he allow anyone else to run his own.[/su_pullquote]

Just like a single meal can be shared among people but cannot be digested by a collective stomach, an idea can be propagated but cannot be imbibed by a collective brain.

Opposed a personal choice to the extent that it escalates to brutal violence is not shocking for just the community involved. It also raises serious questions about people in general. People who don’t accept those who dare to be different.

If society can feel rage over something as paltry as sexual orientation, what is the barrier that holds back anyone with a voice from engaging in brutal violence?

“Do you think you’ll see Aryan again?”, I ask Karan frankly. He pauses for a long while before he answers. “I don’t know”, he says. “Maybe, when he comes back for his holidays”. “What if you never see him again?”, I immediately enquire. He has a bittersweet smile on his face as he speaks. “It’ll be an imagined life”, he says.

Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code dates back to 1860 and criminalises sexual activities “against the order of nature”.
But half of an apple is still an apple.

*names have been changed as per request

Devki is a student at Srishti Institute of Art, Design and Technology, intern at Contract Advertising Ltd, has worked for Essel Vision Productions Ltd, developed education oriented content for Laugh Out Loud Ventures, conducted workshops for underprivileged children in rural Uttarakhand and is an avid marathon runner. She is currently interning at Penguin. 

Feature image credits: Alexander Lam via Unsplash