I was sitting at the back of a hole-in-the-wall eatery in Pushkar, India, having mediocre dal, naan and chapati. As I ate, I chatted with my new friend Heather, who was sitting back there too. I’d decided to just say hello, which I never really do. Turned out she was from New Zealand and had been traveling for a few weeks with her partner but was now on her own.
We spoke in code about our sexuality for some time before realizing that we were both queer. Personally, my apprehension to disclose was due to some strange experiences I’d had during my first few days in India. Funny that the first person I’d met in this small and somewhat out of the way town would be a lesbian traveller, since I hadn’t met a single openly gay guy yet in India.
I’d started my trip through India two weeks earlier in Jaipur, getting myself reacquainted with the chaotic beauty that I’ve always loved about this country. I headed to Pushkar next, which was less chaotic and more enchanting. On my first day there I walked along the holy lake, passing devout Hindus bathing in one of the ghats and throwing flowers in the water. Up above, on the street around the lake, the hippies roamed the bazaars on foot and scooters, dressed like it was 1969, like we were in some mystic time warp.
I chose India specifically to see these sites. It was much more of a cultural trip for me, although I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t also hoping to hookup, particularly after my dry spell in Thailand. Maybe I could meet a local who could also show me around — or something else?
That didn’t happen. Not in Jaipur anyway.
The reason for my failings during the first leg of my trip really boiled down to, in my opinion, India’s regressive laws surrounding homosexuality. In 2009, the Delhi High Court ruled that Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which criminalized consensual homosexuality, was unconstitutional. But four years later, the Supreme Court overruled the High Court, ruling that only Parliament can change the law. As a result, the Supreme Court declared that the 2009 ruling was legally unsustainable and homosexuality was criminalized again.