Bromances from mythology

Published: February 14, 2015

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Devdutt Pattanaik
Original Article:

Bromance in India means yaarana, dostana. We saw it on full display when Jai and Veeru rode on bikes in the 1975 film Sholay. In 1990, journalist Ashok Row Kavi started the publication Bombay Dost. In 1999, Hoshang Merchant published an anthology of gay writing called Yaarana: Gay Writing From India. Karan Johar made Dostana in 2008. With that, the words yaarana and dostana became synonyms for gay. Many were upset that the purity of bromance was now contaminated by lust.

In Sarira Traya, the doctrine from the the Vedanta school of Hinduism, we occupy three bodies: the physical, the mental and the social. The social body is constituted by our title and estate that give us status, and is the outcome of our past deeds. When the physical body is attracted to another physical body, we call it lust. When the mental body is drawn to another mental body, we call it love. When the social body is attracted to another social body, we call it networking.

In lust, we want to exchange bodily fluids. In love, we rejoice and bloom in each other’s company. In networking, through a social contract, we benefit from other people’s property, or lack of it. The rules of society determine which of these three exchanges is allowed.

Lust is permitted between a man and a woman, but much of it is shaped by the social body: age, caste, class, religion, education. Love between a man and a woman is allowed, but only if it culminates in lust. Love without lust between a man and woman is seen as ludicrous. Love between two men or two women is acceptable as long as lust does not tinge it. Two men who love each other intensely as friends are called sakhas, two women who love each other are called sakhis. Sakha-bhaav (or bromance) is about homosociality—even homoeroticism—but not homosexuality. It is viewed as a pure relationship; lust is not allowed to creep in.

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