‘I never had to go to gay pick-up points to seek love’
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.
The fashion designer and his partner met on a blind date and tied the knot in New York in 2013 SUNEET VARMA & RAHUL ARORA