We Met, We Marched, We Kissed

Love and Sex

We Met, We Marched, We Kissed

Illustration: Akshita Monga

O

n the morning after Deepika* had hooked up with a nice-looking man off a dating website, she got a nasty little shock. As they said their goodbyes, her one-night stand booked himself a cab and then cursed loudly. He’d got a Muslim cab driver.

No matter what singletons have you believe, hooking up in the city is not the party it seems and sex is not all about the lay. For an act that demands you to strip down – it’s still the mental nakedness where you find yourself more vulnerable. The urban jungle hides creatures with mindsets you’d never believe.

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Deepika, who is openly bisexual, has had her fair share of them. Men who are racist, or openly amused by feminism. Women who have told her to keep all this ideology aside and talk “rationally”. Each time she has hooked up with men and women who seem so far removed from her own personality, it has left her with a feeling of abject self-hatred. There is a lingering feeling that she had sunk to a new low every time for not maintaining her integrity or compromising on who she really is for the sake of a relationship.

“It isn’t just my sexuality, it’s a lot of things I believe in strongly – feminism, gay rights, honesty, unity…” Where do souls seeking like-minded people go in today’s world, Deepika has often wondered.

The answer came to her the morning she met Sanjana*: Protest marches. Like the annual Pride parades, or spontaneous ones like #NotInMyName that took place yesterday across 13 Indian cities.

With a horde of information at our fingertips on the choicest singles around us, everything from weight, height, religion, hobbies, pet names, and interests… we still have no idea about the kind of person we’ll be sleeping with. Is he kind to animals? Is she a racist? Will he fight for what he believes is right? Does she think transpeople are weirdos?

A protest march takes care of several of these filters. It is full of people with good intent and a willingness to back it up with at least some action. It’s so much stronger a filter than say age or which city you come from. “Not to take away from its seriousness,” Deepika tells me, “but it is so hard to find like-minded people.” You might be the only one in your office who finds an ad sexist, while everyone around you rolls their eyes. And then you meet someone like Sanjana at a protest, who completely agrees with you.”

At a protest, you have some common cause, a shared passion already in place. Then it’s up to you to extend that passion and take it into more interesting spaces.

Deepika met Sanjana on the morning of the Supreme Court verdict on Section 377.

“I was in Bangalore and nobody around me seemed to care. But then I saw an event on Facebook for a protest and rushed off. Over the placards and the rainbow flags, I saw her. She had short hair with red highlights, and she had such a loud voice man!”

Deepika inched towards her through the crowd, stood beside her for the remaining protest, and as the crowd began to fizzle out, they began talking. Sanjana was open-minded about small things, as driven by the craziness descending on our country, and “knew so much more about 377” than Deepika.

“We chatted away on the footpath until the sun went down and then I asked her if she wanted to come over since my apartment was close by,” Deepika said. “We rolled a joint, sat in my balcony, and smoked up together. We spoke for the rest of the evening, and we ordered food before we first kissed.”

What sets apart dating and hooking up through protest marches is that you get to skip a bunch of checks on Tinder, OkCupid, Aisle – which is great, since those checks don’t end up meaning much anyway. And you don’t have to start from scratch with a stranger at a bar or a blind date. At a protest, you have some common cause, a shared passion already in place. Then it’s up to you to extend that passion and take it into more interesting spaces.

We live in a world where phone apps and websites supposedly help “break down” the barriers and get straight to the point. But they actually end up making things worse. “Love is so difficult for our generation, even though we have such powerful tools of communication, no? People don’t even want to talk a little extra, because oh no, that means you are serious and you want to marry them,” complained Deepika.

Kiss of Love movement, students of Kolkata protested against the moral policing in India

What sets apart dating and hooking up through protest marches is that you get to skip a bunch of checks on Tinder, OkCupid, and Aisle.

NurPhoto/ Getty Images

But protests are different. You want to talk. You want to be serious. People are there to make a point to an opposing force. And more than anything else, people are there for each other, for a cause they truly believe in. “So many of my friends ask what the point is. You went for this, you went for that, did it change anything? But it does. You meet people. You discuss issues. You share the despair. And then you share the dream.”

For that one day of protest-passion, Deepika was completely head-over-heels in love with Sanjana. Just for those few hours. “We never met again, and that’s okay.” For Deepika it was about that moment – two girls maddened by a verdict that made no sense to them. Two girls, who could not explain what was happening to the world around them. Two girls, lonely. Two girls, who suddenly understood each other. A flash of anger, a flash of despair, a flash of hope, and then… a flash of love.  

This time without the self-hatred.

* Names have been changed to protect privacy.

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