Folks of Prempura village discuss their sex life and sexuality. There seems to be an air of denial, for they call homosexuality a ‘playful act’
This was when the ‘Kiss of Love Campaign’ against moral policing in Kerala became popular across the nation, many young people were seen hugging and kissing in public to demand personal freedom and freedom to make choices.
To understand the impact of this campaign in the hinterland, we travelled to Prempura — which literally means city of love. A discreet village in the district of Aligarh, denizens with feudalistic mindset, where society and religion imposes normative restrictions. It’s located not very far from the capital, an hour-long drive on a muddy road punctuated by potholes takes you to this Jat-dominated village who live in harmony with other castes like Jatav and Khumars.
They were fairly open about their discourse on sexual practices when they started talking. We settled in the open courtyard of a house with no parapet wall. Villagers joined us for conversation without being invited. A conversation converted into some sort of a group discussion. Gajendra Choudhary, 35, who works for a central government agency, had just purchased a big car that was parked in front of his pucca house glowing in the sun. He affirmed that villagers do everything that people in the cities do, just not so openly and blatantly in public glare.
They feel kissing in the open, for whatever reason, even as a protest, is an assault on Indian culture. Incidentally, there was an interesting distinction that surfaced — women who are graduates don’t wear veils in the village. Education was in that sense a source of emancipation in the village.
Momraj Singh, 59, father of seven sons and a daughter, explained that the veil is for Aankho ki sharam or to prevent eye contact. He has never seen the faces of three of his daughter-in-law, it’s a sin he’d never commit. He wants his daughter to become a police sub-inspector and loves her more than any of his sons.
The village is named after Prem Sukha (joy of love), a mythical figure who’s believed to have lived in the medieval times, a very loving person, explains Chandra Pal Singh, 56, a former village-head who is a matriculate, one of the first in the village to achieve that level of education. Dressed in a spotless white pyjama-kurta, this lean and tall man calls purdah or veil a Muslim tradition that Jats adopted, which was a mistake. “Veil is andhavishwas or superstition,” says this liberal.
Brijesh Choudhary, a contractor in his early 30s, who rides a Bullet motorcycle to work, agrees that it’s a problem that boys and girls grow up in isolation. The only women that a man gets to know well before they get married is either their mother or sister. The older folks keep a tight vigil on the younger folks, almost guard the girls.
Needless to say, isolation is not always a successful strategy. Jaiveer, 30, , has been married for seven years and is father of a girl and a boy. He says restriction forces people to indulge secretly. In his formative years, he had sexual liaison with boys, but is straight for all practical purposes.
“I watch BF (blue film) with my wife, she likes to experiment and I’m open to exploring my sexuality,” he explains in Hindi. His wife, Neha, is a graduate but wears a veil in the village, perhaps because she’s now a daughter-in-law and not just a daughter. But she wears jeans when they go to the city.
Some 25 residents of the village, both men and women, of all age groups were asked about sexual practices, some general inferences were: oral sex is not taboo, giving wife a massage is usual, some even acknowledged to have made films with their mobile camera while making love. Another middle-aged farmer narrates to the amusement of all present that his wife likes him to wear a turban while making love.
So, what do men do before marriage since thet can’t go out with girls? The same question is valid for girls, but there was no opportunity to ask them. The answer to this question was silence, not because they didn’t know the answer, but weren’t sure whether they should talk about.
Later, a curious group of young men met under the mango tree to talk. They invited Babu, a middle-aged skinny man with big bulging eyes that seem to scan people. “Ask him about his sex life, one of them suggested in Hindi and the rest burst into laughter. Babu spoke without an iota of hesitation, “I present my arse on demand. I have presented my arse to him,” he says pointing towards a young man wearing a loose shirt over tight rugged jeans “and also his father.” Young men were embarrassed but forced a smiled. Babu wasn’t joking.
Babu broke the ice and then there was no stopping. Some insisted they not talk loudly, as there were people around who they wouldn’t want to listen, especially older men puffing hukkas. They seem to enjoy talking about their sexapades in whispers. The group informed that they often take baths together after playing out in the field, also fondle, check out each other, explains Rahubeer, a college dropout who stays in the city these days in the lookout for a job.
They discuss a young man Gaurav (name changed on request) some 20 years old, mentally challenged, who grew up with them. He has lately become their sex toy, they ‘play’ with him. Many a times in the evening, younger men take turns to make love to him inside a broken hut out in the farm. Gaurav likes it, he demands it.
One summer afternoon, Gaurav went berserk on the streets of Prempura, ambling in the scorching heat, he called out people’s names announcing that they have been with him, not out vengeance, neither out of love, just for the heck of it, and he wants it now. Some of the respectable people ventured out of their homes and beat him to stop his diatribe. He bled from his mouth and it was Babu who came to his rescue.
Later, all those who bashed him up, took him to the hospital in Aligarh. They were trying to explain him that such things are not talked about.
Sociologist Shiv Vishwanathan explains this peculiarity, “It’s only when things come out in the open, that it defies a certain power equation.” So people don’t talk about it.
Many of the married men acknowledged that they have had fling with Babu when they were unmarried, some meet him even after marriage, but rarely. “After all, men and women are not perfectly interchangeable substitutes”, Babu explains in Hindi.
It’s part of growing up to explore one’s own body and the one’s own sex. The pursuit to explore each other’s body becomes sexual in nature. The denizens of Prempura didn’t deny kissing, fondling, even having entered other men on at least one occasion. Do you know the English term for men having sex with men? “They are homo,” answered Prakash, a graduate student. So, you indulge in homosexuality? “No, we don’t,” they say emphatically in chorus. “But what you describe are acts of homosexuality,” they are told.
“Men have sex with women,” asserts Prakash, who has become their spokesperson. They were a bit offended by being labelled. Raghubeer supports Prakash and elaborates, no more in whispers, in level tone as if stating a universal truth, “Men play with each other like we do. Men have sex only with women,” he explained the distinction.
This is not very different from what Godmen do when they indulge sexually with their disciples, they give it a different name to accord it legitimacy. They called it energy transfer, blessings from the god, cleansing of the soul, anything but sex.
Vishwanthan calls it a conspiracy of silence but they seem to be happy calling it by a different name, a sort of denial that helps them deal with their deviant sexuality. And come to think of it, it’s not very different in the city even after decriminalisation of homosexuality.