Friday, March 30, 2012

No lefties and gays in India? Where are they?

Having lived in the US for 25 years means that I naturally draw comparisons based on what I might expect to typically experience here.  Thus, for instance, I felt rather strange to be amidst a whole lot of male passengers when in local flights in India--the passengers were overwhelmingly male, with very few female passengers, in contrast to the typical flight here in the US where there isn't that kind of a gender imbalance.  It was similar gender ratios in restaurants.  Of course, it does not mean that there are no women in India; it is just that they are not as "visible" as their numbers would suggest.

If females are flying under the radar (yes, a bad pun!) then could it be a similar situation with gays and left-handed people in India? 

I rarely ever met a lefty during the hundred days in India, and nobody I interacted with was any self-declared gay either.  Surely they do exist, no?

Even way back in my school days, left-handed students were rare.  One classmate, "K," I do remember favoring his left hand and he was so much an exception that even when we recalled him at the reunion, to brush up one's memory all we had to say was "remember, he was the lefty?" 

Using the left hand was considered gauche by many cultures and perhaps more so in India where eating was/is also with hands.  No utensils--no forks or spoons or chopsticks--means that there is a sensitivity to making sure that the the hand that delivers food to the mouth is not the same as the one that cleans one's bottom in the traditional ways without toilet-paper. 

That age-old shying away from using the left hand is understandable to some extent, particularly in olden times where many kinds of irrational beliefs prevailed.  But, we live now in a world that is very different from the past.  In India too.  Yet, even left-handed children were rarer a sight than a polar bear walking down the road in Chennai.

If that is the case with left-handedness, then what about gays and lesbians?  Surely not everybody in India is heterosexual! 

Of course, it is always possible that I have zero gaydar abilities and, therefore, was oblivious to the loud gay classmates at the reunion, for instance.  After all, I still remember that one funny episode during my second year in graduate school when apparently I was the only one who had no idea that another student in our group was bisexual. 

A few months ago, India's courts declared that homosexuality is not a crime.  While the legality has been cleared, I suppose there is very little public acceptance of homosexuality. Not surprising, given that even a divorce is spoken of in hushed tones as if it is the "d" word.  After a few instances when I joked about my divorced state, I realized that the jokes were simply falling flat--not something to be joked about.  If that is the case with the "d" word, then perhaps it is a long way to go for the "h" word?

Imagine then the complicated life for a left-handed lesbian in India!

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