A middle-aged married man talks about his relationship with another married men for the last 30 years. There’s no jealousy, ill-will or need to control…
They met for the first time in their twenties, three decades ago, when they joined a training academy. They stayed there for a year to emerge as the officers of the government of India.
It was a great learning curve, says Rahul (name changed), now 55 years of age and a resident of South Delhi where he stays with his wife, two grown up sons, both of them happily married and a grandson who has just learned to walk.
The academy shaped his life. There were so many important influences. One of them was his batchmate, Ritesh (name changed). He was from a Southern state while Rahul is a Punjabi who spend good part of his formative years in Mumbai.
So the two met in the academy, and initially didn’t like each other. It was only after six months that they moved into the same room, not by choice. Ritesh would mostly hang out with his friends from Southern India, his Hindi was very bad. But language was not a barrier. Rahul would hardly find Ritesh in the room, which he thought was a blessing in disguise for he was the sole master of the room.
That winter, Rahul was taken ill. One night, Rahul suffered severe body ache and thought he was about to die. Ritesh came to the room “like an angel” recollects Rahul. Ritesh attended to him, called for a doctor. Rahul had to be shifted to the in-house hospital due to high fever. He had to be kept in the hospital for a week. Ritesh would make it a point to visit him twice a day and spend time with him. They became good friends.
Rahul and Ritesh started to spend a lot of time together in the room. They would miss each other when were away with other friends. Ritesh accompanied Rahul when he visited his family for Holi.
Towards the end of their stay in the academy, they became intimate. They started sleeping in the same bed together. “We liked to feel each other, embrace and kiss. We weren’t doing more than that,” states Rahul, sitting in a café in Khan Market.
They were both commissioned as officers and went their own way. But they never severed contact with each other. In those days, there was no internet or mobile. The best way to express their feelings was write letters. They would meet three-four times a year, plan a holiday together, till they got married. For both, it happened the same year — 1990.
They both have had a prolific married life and proved to be a great husband, caring father and professionally were very successful. Their destiny, it seems, was tied. They took similar decisions for their own reasons. After working for two decades and securing a pension, they both quit their government jobs and joined the corporate world. It was a financially sound decision.
A lot of water has flowed under the bridge. Their parents are dead, their children are grown up, their perspective on life has changed beyond recognition, their relationship with their respective spouses has evolved into what they call “true companionship”, but one thing has remained constant in their life. Their friendship. “It is as fresh as a daisy,” says Rahul.
The families of the two are very close. Their children are friends. It’s a good situation. For all these years, they have always found occasions when they can spend time together — just the two of them. They have no confusion about their role in each other’s lives. They get intimate, still. There’s a need, there’s passion and there’s a lot of love that binds them together. Neither of them has the power to challenge it. They call it, their togetherness, God’s blessing.
Rahul was not happy with the question: What would you call your relationship? He felt like he was being confronted. His reply was a series of rhetorical questions. “Why should everything need to have a name? Why should I be able to explain everything to you? Language fails to describe our relationship.” He pauses and takes a deep breath. He is worked up. A disconcerting silence engulfs us. Then he adds as an afterthought, “If you demand an answer, I will call him my soulmate. He’s the only aspect in my life where there’s no confusion.”
Rahul and Ritesh have not talked about the true nature of their friendship to their wives. They, however, suspect their wives know more than they show they know, but haven’t ever raised this issue. As far as Rahul and Ritesh are concerned, they too don’t feel the need to talk about it to anyone. The world will not understand and they don’t owe an explanation to the world, either. “I’m glad we don’t discuss our relationship with anyone, even amongst ourselves. Or else people will ask silly questions…Are you gay? Are you this or that…”
Recently, homosexuality was legalised in India by the apex court. There’s a legal sanctity to such relationships.Rahul is quick to respond. “It makes no difference to us or our life.” Why so?
Rahul tries explain, “Ritesh is the only man I’m intimate with. We have a need to connect, to be together in the same bed, some sort of bonding activity that needs to happen periodically and regularly in our life.” There’s no commitment, there’s no jealousy, no malice, ill-will or guilt or need to control each other’s lives.
They don’t even want to know what’s happening in their day-to-day life. It’s not about what they do when they are not together. It’s all about connecting with each other. And this connect has the power to make all other aspects of their life beautiful. “You’d be amazed to know, when we are together, we hardly talk. We can remain together for hours, sitting next to each other, or cuddled up in bed without uttering a word.”
They have been cheating on their wives but they don’t consider their intimacy as disloyalty. This relationship preceded all others. Rahul — and he can vouch for Ritesh as well — has had many extramarital affairs, always with women. There is, there wasn’t, any other man in their lives.
They have decided without stating so in words that they have to live close to each other. They plan to buy adjacent houses, or at least in the same building in years to come and settle down for the rest of their lives in Noida. Their greatest fear is losing each other.