Sexuality is a wide-dimensional topic, Masters and Johnson doctor couple assert. I agree. How naïve, thus it is for us to see it as a standalone conjugal rite between a husband and a wife? I have my days and nights, thoughts and acts immersed in this quest to demystify the unspoken; the sexuality, of mine and mankind. In the course of my research, this morning, I came across an interesting treatise on the Erotic bond shared between a woman and her brother in law, in Sudhir Kakkar’s book ‘Exploring Indian Sexuality’.
In the book, Kakkar talks about the erotic importance of the brother-in-law, in the sense that he could have sexual relations with his elder brother’s widow, post marrying her. The custom goes back to the times of Rig-veda in the form of ‘niyog’ where the brother in law is described as extending his hand in promised marriage to a widow inclined to share her husband’s funeral pyre.
Kakkar further cites the incident in Ramayana, where Sita accuses Laxman, her brother in law Lakshmana of hesitating to help her husband and his brother Rama, because of his feelings for her. It was when Rama has instructed Lakshmana to guard Sita while he goes out in the deep forest to hunt the golden deer. Lakshmana later reports to Rama in penitence: “Sita said to me, ‘Evil one, an excess of feelings for me has entered you. But if my husband is destroyed, you will not obtain me.”
I had a slight tryst with this evocative bond shared between a woman and her brother-in-law, during the initial phases of my own marriage. My then husband was a meek fellow, he never had a voice when it came to countering wrongs inflicted by his parents upon me. It often happened that his orthodox mother, spilled vile comments on me and my husband would keep mum. In those times, my younger brother in law came forward to my rescue and reprimanded his mother on her nauseous behavior. My brother-in-law’s logical and non-partisan behavior made me adore him more. I started drawing subliminal comparisons between him and my sheepish husband, who lacked a stance. At one moment, I found myself attracted to my brother-in-law. But as soon as I became aware of this, I was unnerved. I reminded myself of the cultural ideals, the unwavering promise that is the hallmark of marriage.
My partner is an actor and belongs to an upper caste (he prides on their puritanical mannerisms), religious, agrarian family in outskirts of Lucknow. He in one of our conversations, casually citing his elder sister-in-law, who said:
‘Devar Ji (a salutation used by married women to address their younger brother in law), you are going to join films and I know that you will get ample opportunities to savor many a nuptial nights.’
The sister in law hinted at scenes in numerous films where actors and actresses become intimate. My partner, on his own accord was red-faced while his sister-in-law teased and giggled. Now, if we deconstruct this conversation and look deeper, the mention of conjugal night has a sexual undertone. It is obvious that the said sister-in-law cannot cackle the same joke with her elder brother-in-law, because the relationship there is more rigid, and respecting. This psychological core, the mutual understanding between the woman and her brother-in-law as a salacious gossip partner, has until now remained unexplored in social mores.
In fact, just as I was searching for a free image to use for this write-up and searched for the keyword Devar Bhabhi on Google, the results showed an unbelievable large number of porn images. Is this stating the obvious that porn has unearthed this behavior before any of us could have?
It is surprising, how much of eroticism is hidden in our other relationships which are not spousal in nature. Erotically tinged banters between devar-bhabhi popularly known as chedchad, popularized by the likes of Bollywood movies and daily soaps is a form of verbal sexual expression with tender undertones. Isn’t it a high time to compassionately acknowledge sexual connotations in our families, in non-spousal relationships? It might seem a weird suggestion to you, but only when you think of sex as an immoral act. Think of sex as a joyous expression of two souls, two bodies in love. Sex is sacred, it does not make you impure. It makes you desired. Why being desired should be limited?