ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival Blogging Competition Shortlisted Entry
Babur’s Grindr YearÂ
Rohit Chakraborty, 21 years old, Calcutta
Surreptitiously, with quiet exhilaration, in-betweeners and Nethersexuals study the digital tiles, a hesitant, submissive selection of other Nethersexuals and in-betweeners. Each comes with their best features, each specifies their interests, their proportions, their positions, their HIV status. Negative, for the men beyond the territory of these tiles have a very Pacino Scent-of-a-Woman appreciation of the lady, and women woo the men. Negative, because a stifling breeze blows about these Nethersexuals, a colonising air. Negative, because if they cannot be the Pacinos of the anaconda-buns dynamic, they might as well be invisible to these Pacinos.
Was it really all that different in 1499-1500? The camp market of Kodzhent, the earth-wind-fire Grindr for the newly-wed Babur, where he falls in love with Baburi, who might be cat-fishing us all with that name. Things get lost in translation. Babur, the 19-year-old to-be father of the Mughal nation, the “Daddy”, and Baburi, the twink, who inspired him to poetry: “I developed a strange inclination for him,” he writes, “rather I made myself miserable over him.”
The man who vanquished Ibrahim Lodi in Panipat – could he also be so bashful that he “could not look [Baburi] in the face”? He is remembered in our History books as the man who exchanged his life for his son, not as a role model for the Grindr generation. His queen consort and concubines find a mention in Classes 4 and 7. Where is Baburi who urges him to write bad couplets?
Colonisation was our plight and is now our inheritance. Listen to Pattanaik and he will tell you about how we erected temples with men and women who did not treat the genitals as a binding contract of self. And, yes, Chadragupta Maurya’s India did not believe in capital punishment for those who had same-sex lovers. Instead, there was a fine, a little dip in the holy water, a no-dinner-tonight clause, and eating five things from (C/G)ow Mata. Fasting, feasting.
The Overlords giveth and taketh away – like our pornography and 377. How will we pass our time as backbenchers in our Sabhas if you take away nude individuals in the throes of passion from our phones? How can we let Ramdev be undermined, Ramdev who thinks chocolate, like men feasting on penises, and women vaginas, is sinful and yet who I strongly suspect dyes his hair. He would find a friend in Pence for he believes yoga cures it all. Go back to your celibacy, Baba, unless, of course, you have kept a scandal concealed.
We inherited the notion of anything going against Nature’s Order from the English. Macbeth dictated the adverse effects of interfering with it. And its creator made a fair man triumph over a Dark Lady vying for his affection in his sonnets. Willy had a tribe preference and so do those seasoned Nethersexuals of assorted digital tiles, who know whom they want. But this must be done in secrecy lest those, who accuse me of writing in a borrowed language but are the sufferers of the Raj Hangover themselves, clamour their 377 bequests, courtesy of Macauley Sahib, Edwardian England, and Wilde who had a(n) (in)famous end. Stephen Fry was forced to live like a monk for 17 years, and now Elton John is married with kids in the same country.
We import our literature too: there’s Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room, there’s Forster’s Maurice, there’s Proulx’s “Brokeback Mountain”, there’s Hall’s The Well of Loneliness. Where is the brown Nethersexual in fiction? Chocolate, Ramdev’s aversion, is the title of the stories of Pandey Bechan Sharma ‘Ugra,’ where men are ‘effeminate’ and prefer their own gender. I cannot seem to find it. Sure, I can find its English translation for a heft price but where is his direct Hindi? Ugra and Chughtai’s enamoured women in “Lihaaf” are on the other side of character assassinations in public and at court. How tenderly Marikolanthu and Sujata Akka share homoerotic afternoons in Anita Nair’s Ladies CoupÃ©. So why are Highsmith and Blanchett, or even Mr Ripley flashing across our screens? When did Katy Perry’s “cherry ChapStick” become free from censure, whilst they cancel “homosexual” at a televisual broadcast of Aligarh?
From the private tiles of Grindr to those public quadrilaterals of Instagram, the nude women and men who reclaim their sexuality with their bare arses, their androgynous attire, their painted faces and bodies, escape this colonisation of language, where A. Revathi struggles to find a pronoun for herself, of a sartorial kind, where her pottai overlords prescribe her to dress as wholly female instead of wearing wigs and clip-ons, and begging, prostitution, and doli-badhai are the only resort.
There is a dream harboured by these in-betweeners and Nethersexuals to rise from the crevices and be visible to the Pacinos, to challenge them, for we now know that Brando shouldn’t be revered at all. The escape of Instagram DMs, Grindr, private meetings, confidential lovemaking will one day traverse to the lawmakers’ pens who have til now carved out our colonial inheritance of intolerance.