31 January 2015
The Johars moved to their window, prodded by the unsettling commotion outside. They could see a middle-aged lady waging a wordy duel with their no-nonsense sentry, who was refusing to allow her in, sticking to his guns.
For whatever reasons best known to him, unusual for a stranger-shunning person he is, Jatin Johar waved to the sentry. He gestured through the glass window to allow her walk up to him. The wailing lady was let in, but there was no let-up in the anger and agony in her looks.
She walked stridently up to Jatin Johar, hawkishly posturing outside his glass window as some Samurai from the world of the wronged.
Jatin Johar looked at her once again, trying to judge the state of mind she was in. Jatin Johar measured her up in one sweep with his penetrating glance. His deftly-dancing eyebrows did most of the initial questioning.
The gracefully greying lady began lobbing lacerating words at Jatin Johar: “Are you the same self-styled dispenser of LGBT justice?” asked the lady with her eyes bloodshot with anger and her face grossly saddened and shrunk with grief.
Jatin Johar’s silence answered her poser. The nameless lady beckoned a handsome young man from the crowd gathered behind her. The youth walked up to her and took guard on her right. Wailed the lady uncontrollably:
“Look at my son! Now, after your verdict, if he falls in love with another man, the law will not hesitate to imprison him for life. That leaves him with a Hobson’s choice: either remain unloving and unloved or spend his youthful days wastefully in dingy dungeons around the country. Or, exile himself to some other nation that surely understands his sexual orientation and choice of lifestyle.”
Tears began welling up in her eyes and his son began staring at her helplessly. Jatin Johar was all ears, as if he was hearing the riveting arguments of the defence in a sensational case.
The distraught mother continued venting out. She was in a frame of mind neither to remain calm and composed nor to move away to mope in unseen privacy.
“As a judge, are you not aware that criminalisation of the right to love violates the basic human right to equality and non-discrimination?”
At this point, the young man, who was patience personified until then, butted in: “Mom, add that it is a clear infringement of the human right to life and liberty, privacy and dignity as well.”
The harried lady pierced Jatin Johar with her penetratively probing looks. Someone in her retinue shouted from behind: “Ask him where the logic in his judgement is.”
Clearly, the hapless mother was fast turning into a dejected wreck, an object of universal sympathy. Can such sympathy provide her relief?
Jatin Johar could see that dejection swiftly turning contagious, spreading fast like the bubonic plague among those who managed to collect there. Unable to stand the verbal onslaught, Jatin Johar turned back to move inside, away from the glass window. The armed sentry chaperoned the justice-deprived lady and her son away from Johars’ glass window and led them outside the wrought-iron gates of the Johar villa.
Jatin Johar settled promptly before the box.
As he moved to his favourite news channel, he heard a news analyst and commentator saying that Jatin Johar’s pronouncement had ignored the emerging trends worldwide, had sidestepped jurisprudential propriety and had clearly overlooked the learned observations of human rights organisations from across the globe.
In fact, the vociferous and vituperative commentator was slamming Jatin Johar’s judgement for being flippant, frivolous and finicky. Why such adjectives, thought Jatin Johar. Certainly such adjectives are not normally employed to describe the jury and their judicial verdicts and pronouncements.
Jatin Johar helped himself to a bottle of cold water, splashed his face in the washroom and emerged out to tune down the volume of the tirelessly assailing television commentator.
He moved to the glass window again, to stand company with his wife, who was still there, possibly lost in her labyrinthine thoughts. Quickly, he took position next to her.
Good fortune or misfortune, outside the wrought-iron gates of his concrete microworld, the inconsolable lady was still there. And his Adonis-faced son next to her, much like the proverbial boy on the burning deck.
There was this medical professional who quickly emerged from behind the lady. He had been silent until then. With much composure, he put forward what he thought he should say: “There is ample medical evidence to prove that homosexuality is very much a natural condition.”
Seeing Jatin Johar was all ears, the medico continued to hold forth: “Such a natural condition is ingrained not only in our sexuality, but also in most non-human beings. In some, it is just dormant. In some others, it is active.”
An expert face-reader would have clearly deciphered what was churning in the minds of many: How on earth the former justice could try redefining the basic law of nature and redrawing the fundamental canons of human sexuality?
For a moment, Jatin Johar was tempted to tell all of them that there were as many as 77 countries in the world that still considered homosexual acts, even between consenting adults, as illegal and thus punishable.
But, the overriding reality that the West is turning ever more LGBT-friendly and LGBT rights-protective did not seem to influence his thinking a bit. Such LGBT-unfriendly thoughts were running helter-skelter across Jatin Johar’s mind, even as LGBT activists were baying for his blood.
For these activists, the despondent mother and her damned-by-the-court son were fast becoming the epicenter of their protests outside the Johar villa, and these protests were fast threatening to explode in the face of Jatin Johar.
Nevertheless, Jatin Johar knew his mind well and he had already made his choice, quite some time ago, which was amply clear to him: his conviction was more supreme than what the outside world saw as human rights-based canons of personal choice and personal liberty.
Perhaps he felt all those running his verdict down were only vagrants in a decadent Indian society and were the varicose veins of an immoral system.
Jatin Johar decided his presence at that spot was only going to inflame passions further and incite the motley gathering to indulge in sensational sloganeering. So, he turned again to move away from the window and inside his protected home zone. But, he was abruptly stopped in his escapist tracks by the shrill protests of the hawkish mother.
The relentless protester in her was trying to drive home a vital point: “If courts fail to keep abreast of all those changes in global thinking and pleasant cosmopolitan attitudes, if they fail to uphold supreme values of individual freedom and choice, if they fail to understand clearly what is crime and what is not, how can they be the self-styled custodians of humanitarian laws?”
Jatin Johar looked at her now with nonchalance. Indifference and insolence were written all over his face. Bathed in a wave of callous disdain, his inscrutable face betrayed no emotion, save for the predominant haughtiness and arrogance.
“What about the agony and suffering of the sexually different, what about their continuing harassment at the hands of the self-appointed moral police? Have you considered these issues before delivering your retrograde verdict?” the hopeless mother’s lament was getting more painful.
Clearly, Jatin Johar felt like running away. Unable to face her onslaughts further, Jatin Johar quietly slipped back into his expansive living room, slunk into his favourite reclining chair, closed his eyes and beckoned the sleep siren to embrace him.
His eyes were closed, but his mind was open and active, and the sleep siren failed to oblige him. Jyoti Johar too walked in. Jatin Johar saw her talking to someone on her cell phone and she seemed to be hardly interested in her hubby’s mental state.
Once again there was some commotion outside. Jatin Johar could now realise that the agitated assembly outside the wrought-iron gates was gradually melting away. However, his thoughts were increasingly getting frozen around the mother-son duo, who was so unsalvageably drowned in depths of despair.
Never before in his justice career had he seen and experienced such turmoil over a verdict.
This is one of the rainbow-chapters of this novelist’s debut LGBT rights factionette Who Took the Orange from my Rainbow? This novelette is sure to squeeze your heart and spin-dry your lachrymal glands. A must for anyone who believes in the rights of closets-consigned LGBTs in India or elsewhere.
31 January 2015