‘I never had to go to gay pick-up points to seek love’

India Today - - STATES -

Abird cage oc­cu­pies pride of place in de­signer Suneet Varma’s house in south Delhi’s New Friends Colony. On Thurs­day, Septem­ber 6, the day of the land­mark 377 judg­ment, the two mar­ble birds that sat in­side this palace-like miniature prison were re­leased in a quiet cer­e­mony in­vested with deep mean­ing for Suneet and his “hus­band” Rahul Arora.

Suneet, 52, and Rahul, 31, mar­ried in 2013 in New York. They first met in a gay bar in the city, on a blind date, set up by com­mon friends, which re­quired them to ex­change a code. Rahul reached at the ap­pointed hour but Suneet was held up in the rain. To find Rahul, he had to shout the code across the crowded bar. That first date in 2008 led

to a pe­riod of steady courtship over the next five years. It was Rahul who popped the question in 2013.

Varma makes no bones about his priv­i­leged life. He par­tic­i­pated in many LGBT protests, was most vo­cal in his at­tack on “a most re­gres­sive law” but the sanc­tu­ary of his priv­i­leged ex­is­tence meant he never had to re­ally worry about ex­er­cis­ing his right to love. For him, lov­ing Rahul was not about ac­tivism; it was sim­ply an act of love.

The com­ing out was not dra­matic ei­ther. Suneet’s mother was dis­tribut­ing heir­loom jew­ellery among sib­lings when he said he wouldn’t have any use for it as he was gay. Mother Indira told hus­band Baldev that their son, Suneet, wanted to say some­thing. Baldev brushed her aside saying it could wait un­til the news bul­letin was over.

In Suneet’s fash­ion fra­ter­nity, be­ing gay was not even out of the or­di­nary. “There was no ho­mo­pho­bia around me. I never had to go to gay pick-up points like Nehru Park to seek love,” he says. But for Rahul, the grow­ing up years weren’t easy. In Class 5, Rahul was caught kiss­ing a friend in school. “I was called a gay boy; it was trau­matic,” he says.

In Pune, while study­ing en­gi­neer­ing, Rahul dated a few men. Suneet en­tered his life 10 years ago. Suneet dated an Amer­i­can for 10 years be­fore they broke up. His mother would treat his part­ner like her son-in-law. Sec­tion 377 never mat­tered in their lives. What changes now is that they are le­git in the eyes of the law. “I feel re­lieved that I am no longer a crim­i­nal in a coun­try I love,” Suneet says.

“To me the fu­ture is ex­cit­ing,” he says. The door of the bird cage now lies open.

BANDEEP SINGH

The fash­ion de­signer and his part­ner met on a blind date and tied the knot in New York in 2013 SUNEET VARMA & RAHUL ARORA

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