Love Story: Balbir And Mike

We met when I was exhibiting Out Here and Now, a series of paintings that became my personal and professional coming out breakthrough. Only the week before I had ended a 13-year relationship, mostly hidden, with a younger man from my village. Our views of the future had diverged and began to conflict. I was coming out as a gay man and artist; he didn’t want to test the dangers of a more public life any further than we already had. I didn’t blame him.

Mike and I both held the dream in our hearts, long before we met, that each of us would someday find his mate, and live freely and proudly in a loving partnership. Each of us had reasons, both personal and societal, for not believing we’d ever get there.

I am Balbir Krishan. I am from and of the villages of northern India, where otherness is not tolerated. I was “different,” and endured a severe childhood. While in my master’s at Agra, homophobic bullying led me to attempt to take my own life. I lost my legs, and forever entered into the world of disability. Still, I survived. Finding courage at last to begin living on my own terms, I won my life. I learned that I’d never be able to  kill my love for men. I became an artist, and have enjoyed more success than I ever imagined possible.

Mike was already “older” when we found one another. He’d led a colourful life – international travel, professional journeys, several long-term relationships, adopting kids as a younger man. At 50 he’d already lived in Delhi several years, but had wearied of the dating scene. He’d met fine people, though none willing to move to the next commitment level and open up to families.

We met when I was exhibiting Out Here and Now, a series of paintings that became my personal and professional coming out breakthrough. Only the week before I had ended a 13-year relationship, mostly hidden, with a younger man from my village. Our views of the future had diverged and began to conflict. I was coming out as a gay man and artist; he didn’t want to test the dangers of a more public life any further than we already had. I didn’t blame him.

A run of remarkable coincidences saw Mike and I bumping into one another over the several weeks that followed our initial meeting at the exhibition. We scheduled personal time together, first at Delhi’s 5th Queer Pride parade, and then more intimately at Mike’s Nizamuddin home. He and I discovered common values and visions. Love took root, and multiplied many times over in the years that followed.

With new US Supreme Court decisions, we were able to marry and plan for a more secure future together. We wed in June of 2014 on a superb, sunny day at an historic inn on New York State’s Hudson River, outdoors, with the river as a backdrop. Our ceremony blended Unitarian rudiments, old-fashioned American-style weddings, Italian opera, and elements of Hindu ritual, if one can imagine that. We had best men in tuxedos, a maid of honour, dinner, cake, and champagne toasts that melted hearts and brought tears. An old friend of Mike from high school sang, and his English teacher from 35 years prior read from Marlowe. We didn’t have dancing, and omitted such shenanigans as limousines and bouquet-throwing, so the afternoon was kept short, but deep. When it was over, we wished we could do it again. What would I change? That my family and friends from India could have stood with us, next to Mike’s. It wasn’t possible.

Sat samundar paar, we settled into a modest home in a town a few hours north of New York City, where we cook, garden, commune with friends, and explore the surrounding hills. I paint and exhibit. Mike, now retired, works on the house, and reads and writes. We are two men living and loving together, dreams coming true.

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Balbir Krishan

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