Through Love’s Great Power


prev6On March 20, 2014, The New York Review of Books published this poem with the article “India: You’re Criminal if Gay,”. The article was written by the poet’s mother, retired High Court Chief Justice Leila Seth. The trigger was the Indian Supreme Court’s killjoy re-instatement of a colonial anti-sodomy law that had been revoked in 2009. Vikram calls this “to undo justice.” His mother affirmed her love for her bisexual son and wrote: “The Supreme Court judgment means that he would have to be celibate for the rest of his life or else leave the country where he was born, to which he belongs, and which he loves more than any other.” Thus Seth divides his time between Delhi and a home in England that belonged to Metaphysical poet George Herbert, whose 17th century language echoes in this poem.

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tinalicht4The moment I saw her standing there surrounded by the usual coryphées I knew this wouldn’t be fun. My haughty biological mother in all her splendour wearing gloves in black; of course, this was after all the terminal patient’s wing. She paid a social visit and left hastily not without first having footed the bill. I spent the night at the hospital taking care of her eldest sister, the lonely, gay, unmarried woman who brought me up.

Uncertain prognosis; that’s no good news. I closed my eyes,

The night is darkening round me; the wild winds coldly blow.  But a tyrant spell has bound me, and I cannot, cannot go.”

Emily Brontë’s poem made for the occasion. I walked out of the room craving for fresh air; as I approached the exit door of the hospital I perceived the strumming of a guitar, it was a security guard playing Stairway to Heaven. I bursted into tears, that stupid song hurt me from the bottom of my stomach all the way up to my heart; it was actually agony. A nurse thankfully dragged me away from there, right to the garden where I finally collapsed, a million pieces of me on the lawn.

She was my North, my South, my East and West. My working week and my Sunday rest. My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song; I thought that love would last forever, I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now; put out every one, Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun. Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood; For nothing now can ever come to any good.”

My aunt and true mother, we’ve been through so much together. How fortunate I’ve been having you as a model. How good was life with you. How hard we laughed that day when you categorically and in perfect French enlightened the director of the school where I was supposedly misbehaving: “My niece is entitled to express herself; there’s no fault in it. Period.”

Be sure that when the time comes I won’t be praying for your soul, it’s already blessed. I am now instead promising I will always stand by you; I will forever fight for the right of people to be different. We both believe that gay rights are a liberty interest and they include the right to do: the right of gay people to live as they choose, to express affection, to be who they are in public unmolested by harassment, and to marry and to inherit property. And that will be my life-long hommage de reconnaissance to you, my dearest proudly different Mom.