Jugaad / Of Love and Intimacy

In this ongoing project public gestures of intimacy form the departure point to explore friendship and love between men in India.

Deeply moved by these physical affirmations of bonding that are mostly absent in the West, through portraits and interviews I engage in questions surrounding the fluidity of masculinity and sexuality in India. How traditional South Asian modes of male to male interaction might be challenged by Western points of views, dichotomies and gender identity politics is of particular interest.

Understanding that the gestures generally–but not always–do not imply sexuality, I look at them as a gateway that takes me to 'grey spaces' in the private lives of men that allow same sex love to be acted upon, while left unspoken.

Informal interviews I conduct with collaborators from a broad range of identities, classes, educational backgrounds and ages sometimes reveal how men use these traditional 'grey spaces' to pursue their desire for same sex intimacy without identifying as gay or committing themselves to be ‘out’, through use of societal mechanisms that have been described to me as a form of Jugaad. The term Jugaad inhabits the world of simplistic mechanics and bears a slight negative connotation with its inherent lack of an ideal solution in lieu of a 'make do’, only. In the context of this work, however, it encourages a discourse about what is positive/negative about fulfilling sexual desires in different ways, and what the possibilities for the lives of those who desire same sex love in India today are.

As an outsider I understand that only some of the deeply personal journeys of love that I attempt to uncover can be told by me. While this role does afford me opportunities and openness at times, I also encounter the continuum of a veil of ambivalence and fluidity that allows for circumstances to be left untold, something that bears beauty in its liberty of the un-categorized.

At the onset of the project stood what appeared like–romanticized by the inherently western notions of my cultural background–the ideal of male friendship and brotherhood.
While I do find this kind of friendship and bonding, the ideal is being debated by my new awareness of the deep struggles and strides of those men who want a life that fulfills their desire for same sex love and who–for the moment–go against the norms.

Goal and Chandan stopped on their bike commute, Sahibganj, Jharkhand 2017
BW photograph from Negative
Friends Chotu and Rajan leaving the temple, Sahibganj, Jharkhand 2017
Color photograph from Negative
Day laborers in Sahibganj, Jharkhand 2017
BW photograph from Negative
Yash drying his Gamchha in the breeze, after his morning bath and worship, Sahibganj, Jharkhand 2017
Color photograph from Negative
Gaurab and Ravi asked for a selfie near the Ganges, Sahibganj, Jharkhand 2017
BW photograph from Negative
Irfan came to the hotel after Friday prayer, Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh 2017
Color photograph from Negative
Transcriptions and translations of informal interviews conducted in March/April 2017