New play tackles how society perceives lesbianism
A courageous play seeks to point out how lesbian romance isn't different from any other form of affection
Three days ago, the Supreme Court decided to rethink its stand on Section 377 of the Constitution, which criminalises "carnal intercourse against the order of nature". It said that a larger bench would be formed to reevaluate the validity of its 2013 order that had upheld this section. In doing so, the court sent out a signal that, maybe, it's time that the concerns of the LGBTQ community were taken into account. Maybe, it's time we freed them of the everyday prejudice that is their lot.
But whichever way the SC verdict ultimately goes, the question is, how much are we as a society willing to accept homosexuals as one of our own? Be it casual homophobia in the form of "gay jokes" or outright hostility towards same-sex couples, a large section of the country's population still views homosexual people as "the other". We frame them into boxes and shelve them out of reach, afraid to let them out in the open to live as an equal. And probably the most unfortunate part is that it's not just strangers on the street who are guilty of this attitude. Even families and friends of gay and lesbian people are often equally culpable, if not more.
These are the sort of issues that the Delhi-based Asmita Theatre will address on a city stage this week with a play called Ehsaas. Arvind Gaur has directed the solo play that casts Kakoli, his daughter. The story, Gaur tells us, revolves around the sexual awakening that a young girl called Komal goes through. She realises that she is lesbian. But her family will have none of it. As a result, she goes through a series of traumatic experiences, including an uncle telling her that her "disease" stems from her never having been with a man and then subsequently raping her to prove his distorted point.
A scene from Ehsaas
"The problem with our society is this — we are under the impression that whatever we think must be right. And everything else outside of it must be wrong," Gaur tells us, adding, "We also refuse to let people recognise their own identity and live how they want. For example, we place boundaries around girls as soon as they are born. Who tells them what to wear, how to behave and how to talk? The so-called progressive society, that's who. And that is the irony of it all."
He also says that it's important to start a dialogue around the hypocrisy meted out to lesbian girls, and Kakoli echoes her father when she says, "See, love in itself is a really beautiful feeling. Whether it's between a husband and wife, parent and child, and family members or friends, it happens to all of us. But why should it be limited to these dynamics? Who are we to say that lesbian love is wrong?"
It's a pertinent question, and we need a mirror to be held up before we find an answer. But Ehsaas doesn't end in despair. Instead, Komal decides to chart her own path, borrowing from the song Ekla Cholo Re written by Rabindranath Tagore. So, the final message is one of hope, though its source is only a semi-fictitious play that aims to start a conversation. More concrete hope, of course, lies in the hands of the apex court.
On Friday, 6 pm
At Godrej India Culture Lab, Vikhroli.