Communal Tensions: Homosexuality in Raj Rao’s The Boyfriend and Neel Mukherjee’s A Life Apart

  • Oliver Ross


In this scene from Raj Rao’s novel The Boyfriend, Yudi, the well-educated and affluent Brahmin protagonist, is welcoming back his Dalit lover, Milind, after a prolonged separation. There appears to be an inversion of the inequities of power when romantic relationships straddle differences in age, class, and caste, but the tone is not celebratory. Implicit in the hyperbolic description of Yudi’s “speechless” reaction of “joy” and “tears” is a critique of his servility, refracted through the eyes of the ostensibly liberal but ultimately conservative Gauri. The Boyfriend presents Yudi’s Brahminism as one of the ineluctable constituents of identity that coexist and overlap syncretically with his self-consciously Westernized homosexual orientation and preclude its ideal embodiment. In addition to spotlighting the Brahmin/Dalit divide, Rao polarizes Yudi and Milind by insisting that the former self-identifies as “radically gay,” while the latter falls below the radar of Anglophone sexual politics.2 Even when the two men are united, they are separated by the ideological differences embedded in their class and caste, a leitmotif that contributes to Rao’s depiction of Yudi’s more general social alienation. Ritwik, the male-male desiring protagonist of Neel Mukherjee’s novel A Life Apart, also falls victim to the invidiousness of identity categories, and he experiences a social alienation far greater than Yudi’s.


Communal Violence Indian Culture Identity Marker Identity Category Indian History 


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© Oliver Ross 2016

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  • Oliver Ross

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