“I have to leave by 5 because my primary lover and I are going on a date with someone we’re both lusting after.”
The afternoon breeze on Friday was practically non-existent, so both, Yash (name changed) and I, welcome the aggressive table fans at The Bagel Shop in Bandra. It’s all nice, just that their noisy, bass-like hum makes it hard to hear him. Yash wants to pick a spot with “enough privacy,” he says. Once we find our place in the outdoor seating area, he says he wants to step out to smoke, leaving the canopy of buzzing fans to stand on the street for 15 minutes that left longer than usual. When he returns, he leans across the table, interlaces his fingers, and says that he’s ready to be questioned.
Yash begins his story by tracing his life as a personality in broadcast media. Surprisingly talkative for someone deliberately speaking in hushed tones, he describes a traditional upbringing as one of three children to a conservative south Indian couple. His two older siblings managed to follow paths that were expected of all three of them– acquiring a stable job, marrying in their 20s, and raising children. Yash, however, has always stood out as a black sheep. “From my 20s to my early 30s, they would tell me that I would have someone to take care of me as I grew older,” Yash says about his parents. But, after noticing that couples around them were struggling with marital troubles and divorce, Yash’s parents stopped insisting he marry.
Already averse to the duties of a monogamous boyfriend, Yash says that a string of unsuccessful relationships made him realise he was “incompatible with monogamy.” “In my 20s, I had a girlfriend who said I didn’t get jealous enough when she told me she was meeting her ex for drinks,” he shrugs exasperatedly. The years that followed this college relationship were marked by casual sex and hookups in a no-strings-attached environment that was conducive to him embracing his polyamorous ways.
Yash, who is now a 48-year-old professor at a university in Mumbai, has comfortably settled into a polyamorous arrangement that involves several partners. “At the beginning of first dates, I usually give this 20-minute pitch about polyamory. If the person likes the idea, we go ahead with the date,” he says. When asked for the pitch, Yash laughs, “I have to leave by 5 because I’m having a threesome with my primary lover and someone else we’re both lusting after, so I’ll give you the shortened version.”
Yash starts his pitch by drawing an atomic diagram of his polyamorous sex life with him as the nucleus and a series of orbits containing current and potential mates. Describing what sounds like a handbook of rules and regulations, Yash explains that the first orbit houses women he is currently seeing, the second orbit holds women he is pursuing, the third orbit is ‘Do not do,’ which includes women who are off-limits. The fourth orbit called ‘Chance pe dance’, in jest, consists of single women like Scarlett Johansson who he would definitely pursue if given the opportunity.
This polyamorous freedom is not without responsibility and comes with self-imposed restrictions: Yash tells me that he refuses to have “guilty sex” and pursue colleagues, students, married women, and vulnerable women (who are navigating their emotions or unsure of their decision to have casual sex). But he skips no beat in clarifying that women do not have a fixed place in any orbit, making them potential mates as time goes on and circumstances change.
Calling them “concurrent partners,” Yash says that he isn’t the only man in the lives of the women he’s seeing and that each woman has her own relationships of which he is one part. “I have a lover who is monogamous with me. She knows I’m polyamorous, but she’s not seeing anyone else and doesn’t want to know who I’m seeing. But, I also have partners who know each other and are good friends,” he says, painting a picture of variety.
Woven into Yash’s 20-minute pitch is a thorough examination of how men abuse the power of their professional positions and prey on younger, vulnerable women. He talks at length about how society’s heteronormative biases are established by folk and fairy tales that condition us all into treating monogamy as the norm and polyamory as the ‘other’. He even talks with expertise about the fluid nature of sexuality and gender and declares polyamory as a natural consequence of his being, not a conscious choice that can be undone if demanded.
Although this polyamorous lifestyle seems like one of casual fun and sexual debauchery, Yash admits that he is emotionally connected to his lovers. Although he is currently living with a woman he calls his “primary lover,” he says that each connection he shares with his concurrent partners is important to him and has its own valued place in his life. According to him, polyamory isn’t solely about sex; it is “the orientation that drives one towards multiple, concurring, loving relationships, of which sex is only one small part.”
Yash details a fascinating system that is built on a foundation of maturity and transparency. He strongly believes that a polyamorous arrangement does not work unless all parties are open about their desires and intentions, an honesty that allows love to flourish. “That’s what love is to me… Having a deep respect for someone by being honest with them and really caring for them… I genuinely love all the women I’m with and I think they love me too,” he says.
While India may not be ready for polyamory or consider it on equal footing with monogamy, Yash has found a special liberation in his life and dealings with others. He tells me that he’s happy, feels no pressure to be someone he’s no, and is relieved at how straightforward and uncomplicated his life is. As the interview draws to a close, he checks his watch and, in chuckles, takes his leave for his 5 pm “appointment.”
The low hum of the fans takes over again.
Feature image by: The Sungkyun Times
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