Here is a side to a regular love and wedding story, which you don’t hear quite often in India. This is not one of those regular boy meets girl, love happens, flowers blossom, violins play and they get married. This story is of two men and their love… for one another!
Meet Sameer Samudra and Amit Gokhale, an Indian gay couple, settled in the United States, who had the courage to come out of their closets, declare their sexuality to their families and the world, and got married according to traditional Maharashtrian customs.
For this beautiful couple, the only thing that matters is to hold each other’s hand through thick and thin. They are both very different people– Amit is very organised while Sameer is very impulsive. “We are like yin and yang and maybe that is why we get along well with each other,” says Sameer. After a long battle with homophobia and overcoming many other hurdles, they are together; and here is their exclusive heartwarming love story.
The friendly beginning, thanks to the Internet!
“Amit was looking for friends and I responded.”- Sameer
Amit was looking for a male friend on GayBombay’s mailing list and Sameer responded. Although neither of them knew that they would find soul mates in each other, they spoke on the phone for a couple of months for at least three hours every day.
“Slowly we both realised, we had fallen for each other.”- Sameer
After getting to know each other as friends for good enough 5-6 months, the two slowly realised that they cared for each other and like each other’s company.
Gradually, the bond between them started moving beyond friendship. And, they were both ready to take their relationship to the next level. As Sameer says, “We did not realise when and how we fell in love.”
Their first date
“He asked me out. It was very romantic.”- Sameer
Amit, then a student in Cleveland, Ohio, mustered up the courage to ask Sameer out on a date. It was he who planned a very romantic evening at a cozy Mexican restaurant. He even designed a cute e-invite for Sameer to ask him out. Amit even bought flowers and card for Sameer. Sameer was extra touched by Amit’s efforts because, “In spite of his student status, he (Amit) did all these things and that mattered to me a lot. I was very touched to see his love and affection.”
That evening was very touching, emotional and special for the two. And more so, because the young lovers shared their first kiss that very evening. That beautiful date lit a spark that got these two together, forever!
Amit Gokhle (left) and Sameer Samudra (right)
“It was something we both wanted and we craved for, so we went for it.”- Sameer
A seeing each other for a while, Amit and Sameer moved in together. Initially, they both had to make a lot of adjustments, but since they both had similar Maharashtrian middle class upbringing, it was easier for them to find a common ground and settle in.
Amit, who lovingly calls his partner Ladu, says that it is Sameer’s “cute smile, pretty eyes and mischievous attitude” that makes him attractive. Amit adds, “Sameer is a great friend and a mentor. He is always willing to help others,” and that is what he likes most about him. And, here is what Sameer loves about his Amit, he says, “Amit is a caring and extremely humble human being. He has passion for life and does not shy away from expressing his love for me.”
After living together for sometime, marriage was not too far away from their minds.
Bring in the families– how did they react?
“Obviously it was very painful and hard for all of us. Their acceptance didn’t come easy, it took 3-4 years!”- Amit
While Amit and Sameer were sure about their relationship and its future, they had an uphill task ahead because their conservative Indian families had major reservations against homosexuality. When they told their families about their sexuality, after the initial shock, Sameer’s family gradually came around when they realised they he was not alone. His sister and brother-in-law were very supportive of him from the very beginning.
However, it was Amit’s family that took it harder, with lots of tears and awkwardness. It took them about 3 to 4 years to accept their son’s relationship status. Unfortunately for him, his sister was not as supportive as Sameer’s sibling, and even chose to pretend that he was straight. To help his family come to terms with the situation, Amit even took them to a psychiatrist, who helped them understand that homosexuality is natural.
Sameer talks about the whole situation and says, “I think it is a work in progress and I believe it will be. Indian parents have a lot to learn and know about homosexuality.”
Sameer's sister, brother-in-law, and his nephew wholeheartedly became a part of Sameer and Amit marriage.
Their big, fat Indian wedding
“Our wedding was the happiest moment of our lives.”- Sameer
Amit proposed on Sameer’s birthday, April 21, 2009. And, an ecstatic Sameer said yes. They took almost a year to plan their wedding. Sameer’s sister, his family, and all his friends helped in organising the special occasion. “They played a key role in making our wedding a big success,” he says. They decided to get married in Columbus, Indiana, since both of them lived and worked there. And, yes it was the same city where the two met for the very first time, making the destination even more special. The occasion was attended by around 60 to 70 close family members, friends, colleagues, and some relatives too.
“We got married in traditional Maharashtrian style with all the rituals. It was extremely meaningful for us both.”- Amit
On September 18, 2010, Amit and Sameer finally tied the knot. Sameer wore a beautifully embroidered sherwani with pyjamas while Amit went for a bright red sherwani with threadwork on it and a dhoti. They had a traditional Maharashtrian wedding, complete with all the holy rituals including agniphere and saptapadi. “We modified some of the rituals to make it appropriate for a same-sex wedding,” reveals Amit. The sacred ritual of kanyadaan was renamed vardaan and both the men were given away to each other by their parents. While summing it up all, Sameer says, "Our wedding was the happiest moment of our lives."
Life after marriage
“I feel very lucky and blessed that I was able to marry the love of my life!”- Amit
Since Amit and Sameer were living together already, life continues to be almost the same for them after marriage. The only thing that took some time to get used to was the ring around their fingers. Apart from that and the sense of security in the relationship, everything else remains same for them. They share the household responsibilities just like they did before.
Now, they they have taken the sacred marital vows, in front of the holy fire and with God as witness, their relationship has gone to a whole new level. They even talk about having kids, but are not completely sure about it as of yet.
Finally, legally together!
“It is a historically day for both of us, and we had been preparing it for a few weeks now.”- Sameer
In 2010, when Sameer and Amit tied the knot, same-sex marriages were not legal in Indiana. The two had to wait for four years after their traditional marriage to make their union official. Yes, in June 15, 2014, Sameer and Amit legally got married in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, when the same-sex ban was lifted in the state. After eleven years of being together in a relationship, and already getting married in front of their family and friends in an Indian ceremony, Amit and Sameer said I Do to each other, and got married, legally!
Jubliant and excited Sameer and Amit (far right) after they got they made their union official, in Pittsburgh (Image by: Michael Henninger
Their relationship mantra and advice to other gay couples
“Believe in love and the power of love.”- Sameer
Amit and Sameer say that for a gay relationship to last long, communication, respect and love for each other should transcend looks and bodies. And, above all, couples need to have “a strong desire to make the relationship work.”
To other gay couples, Sameer says “Don’t give up!”, and Amit says “Just follow your heart”. They also advise couples to leave behind the ‘ideal images’ and ‘fairytale ideas’ and accept their partner for who and what they are, even if it means making some compromises. Amit also adds, “Without open and honest communication, relationships can’t sustain.” Well, aren’t these perfect mantras for any and every relationship, same sex or not?
Sameer and Amit getting legally married in Pittsburgh on June 15, 2014
So, will they ever change?
“Somewhere I can see that they wish we were both married to girls.”- Sameer
Sameer said that after their families knew about their sexuality and relationship they had stopped questioning them, but, he adds, “somewhere I can see that they wish we were both married to girls."
Well, when Sameer and Amit were asked that if given an option to magically become straight, would they take it up? The two are very clear that they won’t. “Marriages fail even among straight couples. Many straight folks take everything for granted, so sometimes they don’t appreciate the privileges they have in life. Guess, being a minority gives us a different outlook and appreciation about life— not sure if we would want to trade that,” they confess together.
They say that they would always remain the way they are because they have found true happiness in each other. They do not want to break their lovely cocoon for anything in the world.
Sameer and Amit (in the far right corner) waiting in Pittsburgh to get legally wedded, along with many other same-sex couples (Image by: Michael Henninger)
Are we truly ready for love?
"I hope India would legalise gay marriage one day."- Sameer
Yes, in the end it is all about love. But, yes if that love gets social acceptance too, then wouldn’t things be far easier and comfortable for such lovers and their families?
Sameer talks about his hopes and says, “I hope India would legalise gay marriage one day. I don’t know if that will happen in our lifetime, considering Indians are so hush-hush about sex and sexuality. It is an irony that India is the creator of Kama Sutra and still discussions about sex and sexuality are such a big taboo in our country. Unless a big cultural revolution happens, I don’t see Gay Marriages becoming legal in India, anytime sooner.”
Well, we don't want to say anything further, we would just want you all to think about what Sameer has said. Do let us know what you think about this by talking to us in the comment section below.