It is funny how in the wake of Section 377 and LGBT rights, I finished reading, “Gaysia: Adventures in the Queer East” by Benjamin Law – a book on gays in the East and more importantly on their culture and lifestyle. The reason I find it funny is that I find the judgment quite a farce and love how Law speaks of gay men and women (sometimes) in an account that is hilarious, emotional and mostly a travelogue in search of identity across Thailand, Indonesia, Japan, Burma, China, Malaysia and India, each with its own peculiarities and quirks.
The book as you delve further in is not really a travelogue; it is more of an insight to a troubled world. It is a world where two men cannot love each other – though the rules of lust are very different. There is humour and a lot of angst to the people and stories that Law documents. The social patterns from where he comes, which is Australia are very different in Asia. The world when it comes to rights of men and women is not the same. The Eastern world when it comes to same sex love or lust as Benjamin sees it is quite an eye-opener and it is for this, I would urge people to read, “Gaysia”.
It is funny how things are in different countries. For instance, in China, there are self-flagellation techniques, when a “bad” or “homosexual” thought occurs. Of how in China again, lesbians fake marry just to keep their parents happy. In Malaysia, people – Christian and Muslim fundamentalists, whom the author encounters, thinks homosexuality can be cured. In India, a certain yogi (should not be too hard to guess who this one is) thinks that it stems from bad thoughts and that it can also be cured.
“Gaysia” was released in our country without raising any eyebrows. I think it did so also because the so-called law holders, could not care less about a book – may be they would not understand this type of non-fiction or any book for that matter. The writing is sharp and humorous (the trans-gendered beauty pageant in Thailand, pride parades in these countries) in parts and in some, Law reflects on his sexuality and his relationship with his boyfriend. To me, including something personal in a book speaks a lot about the writer. It somehow makes him more accessible to readers, which is most needed in a book of this nature.
“Gaysia” is an eye-opener – for most people out there. I think it is written with a lot of eloquence and at the same time, Benjamin does not shy away from writing what he witnessed. The writing is honest and that is hands down one of the strongest features of the book. I want to gift this book to every friend of mine – straight or gay, just to understand if nothing else, about orientation and the fact that people are different and entitled to living their lives, the way they want to. Free love does not come with a section or with a judgment. It is just there, for all.