It is a world of names, of categories. People tend to put a label on everything they encounter, to make it fit into their limited understanding and background, and then forget it. It is also a world of change. But love can never be categorized or changed.
I loved my cousin brother Raghu*. I liked to think I was the one in the family he was closest to, the one he would confide in, seek advice from.
Well, not close enough, evidently.
One morning, three years ago, Raghu called me on the telephone. Without preliminaries, he announced to me that he loved men, not women, and hung up just as abruptly. This, just weeks after he had become father to a baby boy, and a year or so after his marriage.
Later that day, Raghu, all of 26, ended his life in the south Madras flat where he and his family lived.
I wish I could say I had suspected something like this was brewing when he made that call to me, the call that was to be our last conversation. I hadn’t.
Love and forgiveness. I wrestle with these each day. Through love, one can overlook others’ faults, however significant they may be. Through forgiveness, one seeks peace.
Raghu, I wish I could forgive you easily for ending your life, leaving your wife and infant son behind, casualties of the choices you made. Forgiving you remains a struggle, though I try. Questions race through my mind all the time. Why could you not have thought about your preferences beforehand, and avoided drawing her into your life? Did we, as a family, make it so difficult for you to admit your different orientation? Or, was it your desire to conform, to not hurt your parents, that drove you to consent for marriage in the first place? What of the hurt that engulfed everyone when you chose to depart?
Raghu, wherever you may be now, I still love you, my brother. Your difference did not matter to me then, nor does it now. I wish you happiness wherever you may be. And I continue to try to forgive.
To the readers of this note, I ask that you live and let live. If you have a sibling, child, friend or other loved one who has a different orientation, please do not let this difference come in the way of your love for them.
And if you are yourself differently oriented from the so-called mainstream sexuality, be strong in your convictions. Going against family expectations may cause some grief, but that is nothing compared to the devastation resulting from the choices that Raghu – and I fear there have been many like him through the ages – felt compelled to make.
This piece is based on a note submitted by an Orinam reader, and is being posted on Sept 10, World Suicide Prevention Day. If you or someone you know is depressed or suicidal, please seek help. Some crisis support resources are here.