Love – Ishq Ki Ijazaat

To Not Be Able to Love the One You Love is to have your life wrenched away.

Love is my right, not a crime

To accept us as your own is the call of our times

Perhaps He has answers, the one who made us as one

Yet of different hues, are our passions spun

You deride us, of nature we aren’t

For you are the masses, and our number are faint

So we will barter for love your gods and your saints

The passage of ages drips, painted with our pleas

But you did not relent, the slander never ceased

You who wish to change us, answer us please

Where is the justice in your blind reproval?

In fear draped cocoons, hidden we’ve lain

Under archaic curtains that colour our pain

Banish these laws, unshackle the chains

Treat us as equals, embrace us without blame

Accept us as your own, it’s the call of the times

Since when has love played by the rules of faith

Or chained the helpless, or made caste it’s wraith

Or been bound by borders, or the rules of the age

Then why single us to be stopped by your rage

This meeting of hearts, your blessings can tether

You and us, all in love and celebrating together

So accept us as your own, it’s the call of the times

Let love be my right and no longer a crime

I was out in Chennai trying to get my driving license today, and I read this in Hindi on a poster that was hand written and posted on a street wall. By some kids no doubt. Poetry as Graffiti and what poetry.

A quick look around the Internet netted me the source. It’s the Storytelling Twins and their video of this is hauntingly gorgeous. Possibly because Hindi has a long literary history of poetry that speaks to your very soul. I admit to being a terrible romantic. To the many people who read my girlfriend’s blog, they are aware that I am ham fisted.

My culture stands in the way of love. This poem? It’s mainly about Section 377 and the current re-criminalisation of homosexuality and the drive to get the law overturned. The argument was that the Courts have no power to overturn the law, it must be overturned via legislative rather than judiciary. But that’s all a moot point when we come down to it. The real issue that in India you can be arrested and charged for being gay. While the police may not heavily enforce the law, it is available should someone wish to use it.

My culture stands in the way of love. It writes stories about love. It fetishises them on TV and in the Movies, but when it comes down to reality? Love is just a fantasy. Young boys are more interested in food and wealth than the women they marry. Some of my students are amazed that I love a woman and don’t really care about wealth or status.

I have written about love denied. Of love destroyed because of religion and because of caste and while these are huge problems in India, so is love denied because of gender. Being gay, bisexual, trans or queer in India is a lonely road, I am not sure anyone would pick that out of choice. Even being straight and in love is a lonely road. My choice in who I choose to live with is roundly derided due to the fact that we picked each other. My family, despite living in the UK are still prey to the same nonsense that plagues Indians in India. And India is changing fast with regards to this.

So nearly every “love story” in India is just that. A fairytale romance. With heroes and villains and princes and princesses rescuing each other from hate. And when we hear about it we go “aww” but when we see it we are emphatically in the villain’s camp. We see young boys and young girls being harassed. Love is indecent to the haters and most Indians are the soppiest and lamest romantics ever. Red Hearts, Boxes of Chocolates and Roses and Bad Poetry. Holding Hands! But not every fairy tale has it’s happy ending. More often than not? The villains win. Even if you are straight.

Imagine how bad it must be for the GLBT? If straight people have to fear the lash of society for dating outside caste and religion (bear in mind I pretend to be Hindu around Hera’s family and I am so good at it, I joke about it and say  that Hera is bad Hindu because I know all the prayers and the stories and why things are done).

One of the things I have tried to oppose was legislation halting “love” marriages where children would elope to get married because it was often inter-faith and inter-caste marriages where it occurred. I have stood and even signed my name as a witness on marriage certificates for people whose only crime was to love someone.

The lines that speak to me the most?

Since when has love played by the rules of faith

Or chained the helpless, or made caste it’s wraith

Or been bound by borders, or the rules of the age

This is everything about love in India. Religion, Caste, Creed and Sexuality are all reasons given to stand in the way of the happiness of others. No More.

I don’t work with the Hijra anymore. I do see them for check ups. I do see their lovers. I know their names. I know some of them would never admit to their families that their “girlfriend” is really  a hijra. We can say that they don’t have the courage, but not all of us can brave the sticks and stones. I do know that I am one of the few medics out here who will see them and treat them honestly.

We all wish we could fall in love. Even the most straight laced of cultures has poetry about love. I have often quoted an Islamic quote about how those who are in love have paradise at their feet. A far cry from the Taliban or ISIS or Shabab.

Check out the video recital of the poem above. It’s not gone viral.

But I think it should. It’s in Hindi but the video maker has translated it.

Love makes fools of us all because it always breaks what you expect. Through colour like among same brave souls who fell in love across race lines, religious lines, caste lines. But the one we never spoke about was the GLBT. I am not Indian by nationality but I think India deserves to embrace those who need it. Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code MUST fall if India is to be a place without bigotry. It won’t stop the bigotry, but what it will do? Is stop state sponsored bigotry. And yes, a lot of us straight people WOULD break this law. Oral sex is listed as an unnatural sex act.

And section 377 is a weapon against love. As recently as the Khobragrade incident (where an Indian Diplomat was effectively engaged in slavery by lying about how much she was paying her maid and trying to maintain an Indian standard of pay in the USA along with Indian work hours rather than adhere to local laws. In short? They brought a maid/nanny from India claiming her to be essential staff. Then told her to lie about how much she was going to be paid in the USA if she wanted to keep her job. Once there the maid realised how much money she was MEANT to be earning and in what conditions she was MEANT to be working and decided to report her employer. The Indian response was to promote the low level diplomat till she had diplomatic immunity, kick up a fuss because she was strip searched and held among common thieves and prostitutes in a gaol! And then harass American diplomats. The USA has a law that the victims of human traffic and their families are entitled to safe and secure passage if they ask for it. So a embassy worker in India was held to be responsible for all of this by issuing green cards to the family of the maid. India’s response was to kick him out. One of the threats was from the Indian Finance Minister. He suggested that Section 377 of the IPC be used against GLBT embassy workers.

Shame. Sharaam in Hindi. That is what this law is. This law is designed to harass and jail those who disagree with you based on a progressive sexuality that most people have. For fuck sake? I can be jailed for being straight due to the “unnatural” sex I have had (Not within India. I have not broken the law here since I am celibate in India.). This can be used for practically anyone. The supporters of this law are not the future of India. They are the people who kowtow to conservative principles. They are the sort of people who would clothe Michaelangelo’s David. No. These are the sort of people who would deface Titian’s The Sun Amidst Small Stars because it is filled with naked women. These are the people whose minds cannot comprehend what love is outside of their TV or Movies. These men of gods and saints are India’s “past”. Not it’s past of kings and heroes but one of petty men who hide behind the gods and appoint themselves as moral guardians when they themselves are immoral.

It is quite simple. A bribe is economic theft. Asking for a bribe is theft. Accepting a bribe shows that your principles are for sale and demanding one shows that you sold your principles and now are merely forcing others to be just like you. Bribery is rife in India. Yet these people who have such backgrounds are the ones who tell us that love between two consenting adults is immoral. Who does that harm?

Both the video and I started with the same Vikram Seth quote. I will end with it in full. End the hate, Section 377 must fall. It will not turn our children gay. They already are. What we must do, is show them the love and respect to be individuals and to be happy. It is ironic that we call them gay when we do so much to make them so sad.

We are Avicenna the Last and Hera the Keling and we both stand against Section 377 of the IPC. Indians should not have to hide their love and love must not be a fantasy unrealised irrespective if they are straight or gay and while straight people don’t have that full freedom yet, at least there is no law that allows their relationships to be punished out of hand. Our relationship is considered wrong because of a set of cultural rules that my parents adhere to adrift of progress, not because it is considered unnatural and against the order of nature. That is why the law must fall. India must shed its colonial past and progress to a future of true egalitarianism rather than the lip service it currently pays and this is one of the things that must fall.

I end with the same quote from Vikram Seth that the video starts with.

To not be able to love the one you love is to have your life wrenched away. To do so this to someone else is to murder their soul. 


  1. blondeintokyo says

    That was really beautiful. I shared it on Facebook, and I hope it will be shared by many others.

  2. says

    How beautiful
    I guess there were lots of cultural messages that simply flew over my head….
    What I really liked was that they featured a not so young couple, too, to show that this is not something new, but has been going on for all times

  3. M can help you with that. says

    With each couple, it feels like there’s a story that has developed over years and decades — like we can see just enough to know that we only have a partial image, but still enough to empathize. That’s a storytelling skill I don’t see demonstrated often enough, and it’s even more impressive that it’s done in such a concise form. And it’s the right choice politically as well as artistically — that kind of empathy is how you make long-term transformations.

    I get the feeling that a non-rhyming translation might have been able to capture the feel of the original text more naturally; but what’s important, really, is whether it works in Hindi.

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