(This story was first published on 21 April 2017. It is being reposted from The Quint’s archives to mark Shakuntala Devi’s death anniversary.)
Born on November 4, 1929, in Bengaluru to a Kannada Brahmin family, she was quite the math-magician. Famously known as “human computer”, Shankuntala Devi was known for her profound calculation skills. Right from the time her father discovered her outstanding abilities to outdo any cumbersome arithmetic problems at the age of five, Shakuntala had created wonders in her field. But it’s a lesser known fact that the holder of a world record was also an early pioneer in explicating the plight of homosexuals in her book the World of Homosexuals in 1977. To honour this woman of great wisdom, here are a few quotes from her book that last the fate of time and offer a progressive understanding about homosexuals.
The World of Homosexuals talks about homosexuality at a time when the Emergency had just ended, and was one among the many books written by her. She wrote it post her marriage and divorce with a homosexual man. This book is also considered to be one of the first studies of homosexuality in India, a country where the idea is still quite a taboo.
Shakuntala’s approach to the topic was rather simple. The book includes interviews with Indian homosexual men, along with a same-sex couple from Canada. These interviews narrate a deeper understanding of discovery, issues, societal obligations and much more.
1. Ignorance of Sexual Matters
During my travels round the world, everywhere I have found that human problems arise more out of ignorance and prejudice on sexual matters, than from any other cause.Shakuntala Devi, The World Of Homosexuals
2. On Immorality
Immorality does not consist in being different. It consists in not allowing others to be so. It is not the individual whose sexual relations depart from the social custom who is immoral – but those are immoral who would penalize him for being different.Shakuntala Devi, The World Of Homosexuals
3. Time to Face Facts
The time is overdue now, when rather than pretending that homosexuals don’t exist, or hoping to eradicate them by the sheer weight of disapproval or prison sentences, we face the facts squarely in the eye and find room for them.Shakuntala Devi, The World Of Homosexuals
4. The Condemnation of Homosexuality
This conception of homosexuality as a “condition” and the behaviour it supports, merely operates as a form of social control in a society in which homosexuality is condemned.Shakuntala Devi, The World Of Homosexuals
5. Acceptance Is Key
On this level, nothing less than full and complete acceptance will serve – not tolerance and not sympathy.Shakuntala Devi, The World Of Homosexuals