One Gay Artist vs. India's 'Moral Police'

Balbir Krishan's celestial artwork still shines even after censorship in southern India.

BY Christopher Harrity

January 03 2014 6:00 AM ET

This Is Not Dark Life
Acrylic on canvas
Size: 37” x 37”

Mike Giangrasso writes:

Balbir Krishan is from and of the villages of northern India. He has spent the last several years at odds with a culture and society unwilling to allow him to live freely as a gay man, and to express himself openly through his art. With threats mounting against him, he fled his village in December. Today he is in refuge in Delhi at a location he can’t disclose.

To listen to the tale of Balbir’s 40 years of solitude is to fall into a Garcia Marquez novel of twisted plots, dubious characters, catastrophes, and conquests. That’s me, the reader. Balbir, the artist, sometimes looks at his improbable life as if he were a figure stretching across one of his surreal, cinematic canvases, too strange to be believed.

I don’t know his entire story. Balbir defers the scariest parts to another day. One terrifying chapter we survived together unfolded just recently. Some closet doors swing open with barely a squeak. Mine did. His blew off the hinges.

Like Balbir, I’m an outlier. An unusual kid, I paved a road to India from the United States at a young age, 35 years ago. Several years back I made the country my home. I met Balbir, and he became my lover.