“I was 15 years old when I first fell in love. He was 20 and lived in my neighbourhood. We fell madly in love. This was a time before the internet, so our love was ‘old school’. We exchanged love letters, and as I wasn’t allowed to go out after dark he would come by my house on his bike at night, honking to wish me “goodnight”. I would turn my bedroom lights on and off to wish him the same. We stayed in love for 14 years. And as we got closer to ‘a marriageable age’, we told our parents of our relationship. They were against it. I fought back. He couldn’t. We had to break up, and so we did. It hit me hard, I was left heartbroken and inched close to depression. The next two years were tough for me, but I kept telling myself that there is someone out there for me. Someone who I’m meant to be with.”
That’s Nikesh’s story. Nikesh realised that he was gay around the time he was 10-12 years old. But apart from the fact that he fell in love with a man, his story of lost love seems all too familiar. Sounds like the story of lost love that you’d hear from anyone. It could even be similar to your first relationship.
You might have heard of Nikesh, and his partner Sonu. Nikesh Usha Pushkaran and Sonu MS came out as homosexual partners on the 29th of June 2019, announcing to the world that they were in love with each other and that they were ‘married’ (We put married in single quotes, as homosexual couples are not allowed to get legally married, yet. Something we’ll come to later).
Nikesh and Sonu met on a dating app. This was right around the time Nikesh was moving on from his breakup. Sonu too had realised his identity at a fairly young age but had bottled it up out of fear of family and society. As he got older, his family pushed him to get married, and it crippled him mentally. That’s when he met Nikesh.
Sonu and Nikesh started chatting on the dating app, and as they realised that the two of them were looking for a real relationship, they decided to meet. As Nikesh puts it, “It was love at first sight.” But like any sensible couple, they took their time to get to know each other. Over the course of the next couple of months, they kept talking to each other, spending 3-4 hours every day getting to know one another. They fell deeper in love and decided that they should tell their families. And on the 5th of July 2018, they exchanged wedding rings.
But over the course of the next year, they discussed how there’s a lack of awareness about homosexuality in Kerala, how many like them live out their lives in secret, and how the rest of society remains oblivious to their lives and the troubles that they face. It was then that they decided to speak out and talk about their relationship openly.
Nikesh and Sonu say that they feel like birds let out of a cage. They say that the response to them coming out has been extremely positive. For example, Sonu was met with hugs and handshakes at his office, his colleagues asked him why it took him so long to come out. Sonu and Nikesh say that they’ve not received any negative sentiments (barring some rogue comments below social media posts).
Since then, Nikesh and Sonu have been contacted by many people who have realised that they belonged to the LGBTQ community, and they have been offering help in any way they can. They have been spreading awareness and working with support groups like Queerala and Queerythm to help others.
But the path to freedom has just begun for the LGBTQ community. With the scrapping of Section 377, they have been given the right to have sex and live with each other. Basic rights like the right to get married are still tantalisingly out of reach. And without the right to get married, couples like Sonu and Nikesh cannot open a joint bank account or adopt a child together. The scrapping of Section 377 is, therefore, only the first step. All aspects of the law should be expanded to incorporate homosexual relationships, for not encompassing it is a violation of one of the fundamental human rights – the right to fall in love with and get married.
And then there’s the topic of awareness. A huge chunk of society still believes that homosexuality is a choice. Many people live their lives in secret. They hide their real identity and force themselves to get married to someone of the opposite gender. They end up ruining two lives by leading a dual life. They do so out of fear of family and society. The only way to change this stark reality is by spreading awareness.
Acceptance and awareness in society do not come from just the law being abolished. Nikesh and Sonu hope that the courage that they’ve shown and the positive responses they’ve received will inspire others like them to come out of the closet. For the ears of society is deaf to the cry of the few, but when it realises that there are many such individuals they will be forced to accept the truth. The truth that love does not have religion, caste, or gender, that one can fall in love with anyone, and just because a man falls in love with a man, their love isn’t any different. Love feels the same irrespective of whether it is heterosexual or homosexual.