“What interests me about FSOG is its ability to show a part of India to the wider world that is not often seen.”
My recent fireside chat with Deepak Kashyap, an openly gay psychotherapist and certified life-skills trainer with a private practice in Mumbai, India was filled with anything but clichés and bromides. Rather, our conversation, in addition to exploring the nature of identity politics in India, delved deeper into issues about eastern/western philosophy, algorithms of connection, and the complexity of what we call the human condition.
What made our conversation even more scintillating though was the fact that over time it turned into something I would have never expected, a set of special commandments. Nine were given, ten would have been but that number had been taken somehow in an earlier generation. While I might not have time to do justice to four through nine, I feel comfortable sharing one through three:
“Realize that there is no east and west,” “Recognize that personal disgust often drives law,” and reconcile yourself to the fact that “Replacing God with government is a world phenomenon.”
The first commandment was given in brevity after a discussion about Section 377. According to Deepak,
“a lot of people look at the oppressed LGBT community in India as wanting liberation, and they do, but the story in India is much more complex than the overpopulated cities that are often the battle ground for civil rights.”
He went on to explain that “1.32 billion people live in India” and of those 1.32 billion people, “100 million may experience a same-sex inclinations and might be living in the shadows.” Even in a country as populous as India, “does the majority even know about Section 377?”
As an openly gay psychotherapist Deepak knows how dire the situation is: “in India people are getting forced into marriages, and in India even though on paper transgender people have more rights than gay people do, but the situation for them might be much harder given the nature of their existence.”
As a footnote about Section 377, a vestige of the Victorian Era, Deepak reminded me that the “People go as far back in history and wide in geography as it serves their argument.” According to Deepak, “India had its problems even before the British.” When it comes to looking at the nature of gender and sexuality in India then there is no east and west. We become comfortable way too often justifying an issue by setting up and living in-between these two camps. We essentially continue to inhabit a binary. Rather, the issue at hand transcends binaries and hemispheres becoming more global.
Not only do laws themselves, like Section 377, have their own sets of consequences according to Deepak, but so do the philosophies and ideas that will them into being, which brings us to Deepak’s second commandment:
“Recognize that personal disgust often drives law.”
According to Deepak,
“Tendency for lawmakers to make laws that disgust their personal sense of propriety, is universal.”
This particular commandment sheds light on the history of homosexuality as pathology and the laws that have historically been in place to “cure” and “correct” the said “disease”.
“This doesn’t take away from the importance of fighting against Section 377” says Deepak. In fact, he believes that in order to better understand the issue of identity politics one needs to “replace God with the word government.” Then, upon uttering the third commandment do we begin to reconcile ourselves to the fact that “exploring bodies and souls often triggers government involvement.”
The legal construct of marriage is a perfect example. Deepak mentioned that “marriage for love is a new idea, you used to marry for a purpose not for passion.” Nowadays, love has quite literally become welded to the legal construct of marriage insofar as it dictates who and how we love.
The only safe spaces for exploration are online technology. Technology becomes an algorithm for connection and a conundrum of connection, explains Deepak, a reason why for example there is no “dislike” button on Facebook. By short-circuiting the brain into thinking it is socializing, online technology mitigates our most basic needs and desires for connection and belonging.
Written by Aleksandr Chandra
Click here to know more about Deepak Kashyap.