At the break of dawn, Nikesh Usha Pushkaran made his way through the crowd and nervously waited at the Guruvayur Shree Krishna temple, located in the Thrissur district of Kerala.
It was July 5 2018, and after three months of dating, Nikesh was finally going to tie the knot. As eyes wandered, he noticed several brides and grooms who were also there for the same reason as him. And then he saw Sonu, his beloved, and his heart skipped a beat.
The priest started the ceremony, and the couples in the temple exchanged rings, garlands, and vowed to be together forever.
Nikesh and Sonu stood a distance but followed the same rituals, and soon enough, under the beautiful blue sky and with God as their witness, they were ‘secretly’ married. The secrecy was not because they had eloped, in fact, both their parents had given their blessings beforehand.
The fact was that, their wedding was a crime.
Nikesh and Sonu’s Kerala wedding was probably India’s first same-sex union and was announced publicly only two months later when the Supreme Court struck down section 377 of the Indian Penal Code and decriminalised the LGBTQ community.
Earlier this year, the couple filed a writ petition in the Kerala High Court (HC) demanding the recognition of same-sex marriages to enjoy civil rights like marriage, adoption or inheritance.
Speaking to The Better India, Nikesh, an entrepreneur, says, “We were turned away when we went to register our marriage under the Special Marriage Act of 1954. Since we did not have any official documents legalising our marriage we are denied several privileges–like being able to open a joint bank account or apply for medical insurance–that heterosexual couples can easily access. In the eyes of the law, we are still single.”
The petition filed by their lawyer, Manu Srinath, underlines an attack on their fundamental rights like equality, equal protection before the law, liberty, freedom of expression and non-discrimination.
“Though the text of the Act (Special Marriage Act 1954) does not exclude homosexual unions from its ambit expressly, Section 4 and Schedules 2-4 to the Act carry a heterosexual undertone in its language as it shows marriage as an affair between a male and a female or between bride and bridegroom,” it reads.
The HC has asked Centre and state government to respond to the petition, and the couple now awaits a hearing.
If the writ petition is successful, it will be a pathbreaking victory for a community which continues to face discrimination, humiliation, psychological damage, mental torture and prejudice from the society.
“It Was Love At First Sight”
Nikesh was overcoming a terrible heartbreak from a 14-year-old relationship when he first met Sonu, an IT professional via a dating app.
Like most of the love stories, theirs too started in a restaurant in Kochi.
“It was love at first sight,” reveals Nikesh. “My heart was racing throughout the meal. His charm, wit and sensitivity floored me. By the end of our date, all I knew was I wanted to spend more time with Sonu. I did not want to end our conversations on the phone. It was silly considering we would spend hours together. I guess love does make you go an extra mile to see a wide smile on the special one’s face.”
By the time they started seeing each other, both of them had come out to their families. They consider themselves one of the few fortunate ones whose parents and friends understand and support all kinds of love.
Both Nikesh and Sonu are active and integral members of the LGBTQ community in Kerala. They are always at the forefront when it comes to pride walks, awareness sessions and extending their unconditional support for the community members.
“People who ridiculed or mocked our relationship were the ignorant ones. With the right awareness and sensitivity, homophobia can be eliminated,” adds Nikesh.
Accepting all kinds of love is the most crucial step for a healthier society, and we hope couples like Nikesh and Sonu get their happily ever after.
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)