#NoBarForPyaar: This Gay Couple Taught Me About Love
Bobby Tiwana and Abhijit Shetty share their lives and stories with me at a lakeside in Sheffield. (Photo: Megha Mathur)
Bobby Tiwana and Abhijit Shetty share their lives and stories with me at a lakeside in Sheffield. (Photo: Megha Mathur)

#NoBarForPyaar: This Gay Couple Taught Me About Love

In my single years, while recovering from a failed relationship, trying to understand love all over again, a gay couple came to my rescue and made a world of a difference.

At university in the UK I settled right in with a bunch of students, who were as creative and endearing as they were misfits in the world. Bobby Tiwana, a budding theatre director, and I clicked instantly. He was proper British but his Indian looks and last name got me interested. “So, do you eat rotis for lunch and dinner?” was one of my few dumb questions to him. But it made him crack up. “Yes, but that’s because I love Indian food. Why? Does that make me more Indian than British?” he mocked. Somewhere during this conversation his sexuality also came up. He was gay, and now I was even more intrigued.

Hazel, Bobby, Abhi and I pose for the sake of good times and nostalgia. (Photo: Megha Mathur)
Hazel, Bobby, Abhi and I pose for the sake of good times and nostalgia. (Photo: Megha Mathur)

As Bobby went on to tell me and our Korean friend Hazel more about his partner Abhijit, the handsome Indian doctor he was dating and living with in Sheffield at the time, I noticed how he smiled just talking about him.

Hazel and I couldn’t wait to meet Abhi. While I was single, she was going through a rough patch in her marriage and motherhood. But something about these two men gave us hope. Bobby was kind enough to invite us over for a weekend of sightseeing and cultural exchange. For me, it was much much more.

Up until then, I had never had the chance to interact with a gay man or woman this closely. So understanding the dynamic of their relationship was a bit overwhelming to begin with. But they had a calming effect on me and ‘weekend love school’ commenced.

Love is all about partnership- Bobby and Abhi. (Photo: Megha Mathur)
Love is all about partnership- Bobby and Abhi. (Photo: Megha Mathur)

1. Love = Partnership

Bobby was a few years older than Abhi and theirs was a solid partnership in every way. While Bobby took time off work to become a student again, Abhi made sure he got the most of that experience. The beauty of their bond in a straight person’s lay terms was that I couldn’t tell who in their relationship was the husband, and who was the wife. They were simply partners.

2. Stand Your Ground When It Comes to Families

Abhi’s family took much longer to accept his sexuality than it took Bobby’s parents to deal with his truth. But once they had crossed that bridge and found each other, it worked like any other relationship. They both stood their ground not only about being gay, but also about each other. It wasn’t easy getting both families to meet and like each other. They did their best for things to be ‘ideal’ but that was a tall order.

I remember Abhi saying with clinical clarity, “We get along already, now our families should try. And if they can’t, which is understandable, it’ll be sad but we’ll all move on.”
Abhi and Bobby took me out for lunch on a glorious sunny day in Sheffield. (Photo: Megha Mathur)
Abhi and Bobby took me out for lunch on a glorious sunny day in Sheffield. (Photo: Megha Mathur)

3. Your Partner Should Be Your Biggest Enabler

I was soaking up the new perspective that my Yorkshire trip was giving me. ‘Partner’ was no longer a word that came with a homosexual connotation. I also observed very closely how uplifting Bobby and Abhi were for each other. They both left fair scope for disagreement, dislike and judgement. But they never became any of that. They constantly nudged each other to be better human beings and lovers. What I took home was the understanding that the partner I choose must be my greatest source of belief, encouragement and grounding.

4. How To Manage Expectations- Yours and His

To be honest, it didn’t take me all weekend to figure out that as different as our sexualities and contexts may have been, gender has no bearing on a relationship. Love really is just love. Or it’s not. They had the same set of expectations that straight relationships carried too. Not everyday was disappointment free. But they used the word ‘no’ in the most healthy way I’ve ever witnessed. ‘No’ simply meant that I respect your expectation, but I have the right to not give in. They weren’t under any pressure to prove their love on a daily basis. This made me think long and hard about all my relationships, not just the romantic ones. I realised that unknowingly I was translating a ‘no’ into a blanket ‘he/she/they don’t love me enough’.

I was scandalised and Abhi was amused by this ‘soak up’ boob. (Photo: Megha Mathur)
I was scandalised and Abhi was amused by this ‘soak up’ boob. (Photo: Megha Mathur)

5. Is Love Hard To Find Because Sex Is Easy To Get?

Yup, that’s a soak-me-overnight boob! In case you were thinking that ‘weekend love school’ was way too intense, well it had a ton of madness and a Queen moment too. My hosts took me to a ‘naughty’ toy shop and all we did was crack up. Then we got talking about sex.

Bobby joked about how common perception suggests that gay folk have a ton of sex. He sadly admitted that neither of them got laid any more than the normal Asian looking late 30 year old walking on the street.

But what we did end up chatting into the night about was casual sex and whether in the day and age of Tinder, our search for love has been a bit distracted. But again, like everything else I learnt from these boys, sex too wasn’t about your sex.

There’s something so beautiful about being different. I think it’s the fact that despite it all, at our very core, we’re all the same. I often wonder why our differences make us incapable of learning from each other, when there’s hardly much that our similarities can teach us.

(This story was first published on 12 February 2016 and has been reposted from The Quint's archives.)

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