Love says to me
Gay marriages are becoming increasingly legalised and recognised globally. Andrew is British and Caribbean. Vikram is Norwegian and Indian. They got married in Oslo, Norway, with a Hindu priest conducting part of the ceremonies. Here is a revised excerpt of Vikram’s wedding speech.
Every night my parents and I sang a good night prayer. It was a Norwegian, Christian prayer, Dear God, I am well, thank you for everything I have been given, your are good, you care for me, protect the little and the big, ending with Amen as Christian prayers do. But after Amen my mum added the names of some Hindu gods, asking that they too may protect us. For a while I thought Amen was one of the gods. Amen, Ayu, Shankerdada, Lirbai raksha karjo. We then said good night and I love you to each other. Having said and heard that, I was safe to enter the night.
Love says to me: You are safe; we are here together, in all that is uncertain and frightening.
Pappa, I could ask you any question. If you did not have the answer, we had a big encyclopaedia we consulted together. I thank you not just for the knowledge, but for being there with me. That is a feeling that remains, your presence.
And more than knowledge, I thank you for the encouragement to find my own answers to important questions in life. I am inspired by your service as a medical doctor, professor and father; your humility and peaceful manner, surely the greatest wisdom there is. Even before you met Andrew I knew that you would get along.
Love says to me: Be peaceful, humble and ever grateful; the greatest servant is the greatest master.
Mamma, I thank you for how you have welcomed Andrew. I lied to myself for many years, trying to convince myself I was not gay. When I first told you, I remember you saying that you were worried about all the prejudice and challenges I would face, that you wanted an easy life for me. I have told you since and I tell all of you now, that I embrace being gay. Not everyone has the opportunity to be courageous and truthful every day. I do – every time I hold Andrew’s hand in public, even in Oslo, even today. Belonging to ethnic and sexual minorities has increased my compassion for myself and others and the passion to address any injustice and oppression I see. Mamma, you also taught me to fight. I came home from school one day. I don’t know if I had been bullied or what had happened. You said fight back, and suggested I learn martial arts. I did. I do.
Love says to me: Stand up for yourself; don’t hide. Be brave and truthful. Be beautiful. Fight all injustice and oppression you can find.
Chandaben, we only met this year at a cousin’s wedding. I remember how you performed the Hindu rituals with love. Afterwards you asked me, are you looking for a nice girl? I answered – as love had taught me to be brave – I am actually already with a man I love. That is wonderful, you said, and you gave me your blessings. Since then we have been friends. Thank you for the fire ceremony this morning and for your presence here!
Love says to me: I am your ritual, your first and your last ritual. Fruits, statues, mantras, all these things can help, but they are only things without me; without me, the fire will not burn.
I would like to say something about many more of you, for there are so many family members and friends that are significant to me here. And others are here in spirit. I imagine Andrew’s mother standing in a red dress in the corner. We had some brief but beautiful moments together before you passed away earlier this year. I felt fully accepted as a son-in-law. You were looking forward to our wedding. You introduced me to your African and Caribbean friends as Andrew’s fiancé. Even at your weakest, you were also strong. I still wear the jumper I used to borrow from you. It is like a warm embrace.
Love says to me: I am an ever-expanding circle. I am community. Longing and belonging. I am home.
Andrew, it has now been five years since I fell in love while studying law in London. On Tuesday 9 January 2007 at half past midnight, we had communicated on an Internet chat site for more than a week but had still not met. I had hardly slept the night before because I had been thinking of you. I quote from my message to you:
- Spilt coffee on my shirt on my way to LSE where I met some friends for more coffee.
- Thinking of you.
- Fell asleep every two minutes in my lecture. I have a piece of paper, which is blank except for the words “concept of migration” in my bag.
- Thinking of you.
- Had a microwavable dinner again and spilt some of the sauce on the already stained wall-to-wall carpet – no coordination.
- Thinking of you.
- Cancelled meeting up with a friend for beer. Instead I have tried to read about terrorism, thinking mostly of love and sleep, or falling slowly into both.
- Thinking of you.
- Had a cigarette looking at the TATE; only the sound of the building breathing.
- Writing to you, while you are somewhere out there in the same city sleeping. I can only imagine how beautiful you must look sleeping in your bed.
A few days later we finally met in the Elements bar. I was a bit late and had been walking fast so my heart was already racing when I saw you. You were on a leather chair next to a small table. Light shirt, black jacket, loose jeans. Good looking. I remember thinking, oh-oh, too good-looking. Still I think I get to marry the handsomest man I can imagine.
Love says to me: I am brilliant body, excited and intimate.
Do you remember our first morning together? We went to a shop. I queued for the Sunday papers while you got in the line to pay for food and other things. You were standing there talking to the lady in the till when I glanced over at you and when I finished paying a few minutes later. Did you know her? I asked. No, you said. I looked at you. She was considering becoming a teacher like me so we talked about that, you said. It still astonishes me how you make everyone feel so welcome that they open up and talk to you about all that is important to them.
One day you visited me with a definition. You were reading M. Scott Peck’s The Road Less Travelled. I skimmed through it as you were sleeping one morning. Love is the will to extend oneself in order to nurture ones own or another’s spiritual growth.
Love says to me: You will grow in a spiritual relationship. Do not expect to always have the same feelings for each other or always be happy. But always work for increased awareness. After you have fallen in love, make sure you rise in love.
A relationship carries the risk of rigid roles. I have had to take back some projections about you being calm and always positive and me being the temperamental and neurotic one, and rather allow us both to be full persons. We are doing this together. Expanding. This year has been emotional for both of us, particularly with your mother passing away, and we have become fuller persons with each other. I have also been calm and happy, you have also been sad and fiery.
Love says to me: I can contain them all, all experiences and emotions, all aspects of you and the other. I am this accepting awareness, inside and all around. Have faith in me. Rest in me.
Last year I made some important decisions. I said an important no, a courageous and clear no. I quit a PhD in law. My no was unconventional and not fully understood by everyone, but you, Andrew, were there throughout the process.
Love says to me: I openly question. I openly listen. True dialogue, this is where I arise, letting you be clearly you.
Last year there was also an important yes. I decided I wanted to propose to you. You decided to accept. It was spring. The most beautiful graveyard in Oslo was an ocean of blue flowers. That is where and when it happened. We have some very brief moments here together in this form. I do not know what was before or what comes after.
Love says to me: Death is a dear friend. A breath, a whisper: be present for this moment. Dare to live your life, dare to love.
(Vikram is a writer, psychotherapist and human rights lawyer)