Affection in India

On May 22nd, the people of Ireland will vote YES or NO to Gay Marriage. It reminds me of one my first experiences, a few hours only after landing at Mumbai Airport, waiting for my flight to my final destination: Jaipur, the Pink city.

I was sitting in the big modern hall of Mumbai airport, the international flights section, struggling not to fall asleep as I have had a baby crying the whole way from London Heathrow to Mumbai and could not rest a lot, really. So reading was definitely not an option, I would have fallen into the arms of Morpheus, and I was alone with my suitcase, having to look after myself. So I was watching the movement in the building. Among the travelers, I saw 2 men, I came to a conclusion they were both airport staff from their uniform, holding hands.

I knew already that in Indian Culture, couples do not show affection towards each other in public places: holding hands, holding each other, more generally, touching, and kissing are considered an inappropriate behavior.

That is why those 2 men holding hands surprised me. So later, when in my Indian Community, I asked about this and my assumption was right: those 2 men were not a gay couple but really close friends. And in that case holding hands is acceptable (same sex people) and indeed very common in India. However they must have been on their break, otherwise it would not be professional, as I have been told.

Would that mean that FRIENDSHIP is acceptable to be shown in public but not LOVE?

Well, in Indian people’s mind, the reason for that is in public places, no behavior should suscitate sexual excitement. Under the Indian Penal Code, causing annoyance to others through “obscene acts” is a criminal offence with a punishment of imprisonment up to 3 months or a fine, or both. By “obscene acts”, they more generally mean public display of affection.

Those things should definitely stay in the private sphere, at home, behind closed doors.

I would not say it is the right thing to do, but having seen the other extreme in the West, I kind of understand where they are coming from with this idea but of course this is going too far.

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