“Towards an Indian Gay Image, Oberoi Hotel, 2020,” Art by Sunil Gupta

Note: When I played high school tennis in the 1970s, I heard many say tennis was a “sissy” sport. Not sure I even knew what that meant: effeminate, gay . . . (not sure I even knew what “gay” meant at 15 years old). Those days are gone. Intriguing, though, that Gupta’s gay figure carries a tennis racquet, perhaps a whiff of a symbol from a past that keeps receding away from us as we move towards a more inclusive future.

In Towards an Indian Gay Image, Oberoi Hotel, 2020, Gupta’s lone (and lonely) figure, tennis racquet in hand, stands at the top of the stairs. His back is to us. We see what he sees. The societal barriers are many. The many-storied hotel to the left walls him in. Concrete, immoveable, as the majority of people inside. If he wants to move forward, he must climb down those stairs to present himself before all those empty tables. No one there to greet him if he says he’s gay. If he hides the fact and get’s married and has kids, as Gupta’s father told him to do, he will honor the family, fully belong. Only then might the tables be full.

Towards and towards and towards and towards . . . Towards an Indian Gay Image because no Indian gay images existed until Sunil Gupta created them, finally, after decades of pioneering photographs. No Indian gay images, but gays cruising Christopher Street in New York City. No Indian gay images, but gay togetherness and domesticity in Canada. No Indian gay images till Gupta photographs faceless Indian gay couples before famous world monuments.  Safer to be a gay tourist. Only then can you feel at home.

Homosexuality finally decriminalized in India in 2019. Not accepted, but decriminalized, an important first step. Towards and towards and towards and towards . . . 

Artist Bio: This archival digital image is from Jhaveri Contemporary, Mumbai. For more on Sunil Gupta and his pioneering photographs, you can check out his website or Wikipedia.

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2 replies on ““Towards an Indian Gay Image, Oberoi Hotel, 2020,” Art by Sunil Gupta”

In elementary school, we called each other queer, basically any friend (male or female) that was behaving like a jerk. When a high schooler told us we did not use words like that, we had no idea what he was talking about because calling someone a jerk for us only meant the person was temporarily acting in a way that was not appreciated–kid type of things that cutting in line or taking too much of a shared treat.

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