By Jeremy Kinser
Originally published on Advocate.com September 23 2011 7:00 AM ET
As with Ode to Lata, his autobiographical debut novel about a young Hindu man coming to terms with being gay, out Indian author Ghalib Shiraz Dhalla continues to write about provocative subject matter. With his latest novel, The Two Krishnas (Magnus Books, $14.95), the author chronicles a married man who risks everything to have an affair with a much younger man. Despite its gay theme, the book has crossed over into the mainstream, drawing raves from critics and other writers, both gay and straight. It's even a best seller in India. Dhalla talks to The Advocate about what inspired his novel and why it's resonating with an unexpected audience of readers.
The Advocate: What was your inspiration for the new book?
Ghalib Shiraz Dhalla: I wanted to explore the tragedies we unleash, not just on ourselves, but also upon those we love, when we forgo truth in a futile attempt to fit in and comply with what is expected of us. Men who deny their sexuality either out of shame or social pressures and end up marrying and raising families, only to end up — at best — completely unfulfilled, or worst — devastating their families when they come out is a tale as old as time. I also wanted an opportunity to write a love story that transcended gender and sexual orientation, ironically by exposing those very elements and rendering them irrelevant against a backdrop of human drama.
Would you consider the book a cautionary tale about coming out of the closet too late in life or about the dangers of getting involved with a married man or someone who's still in the closet?
The novel cautions against self-deception and refusing to be authentic, because we do not live in a vacuum and inevitably drag others through whatever hell we’ve created. Rahul Kapoor, the husband in this triangle, is the dutiful person in all of us. He has made the mistake of thinking that he can squash his desires until one day, when he meets a young man who fulfills him in a way that not even his wife can. The beckon is irresistible. But this epiphany, the courage to be himself, has come too late. Others are involved, and there will be casualties. I also hope that the novel points to our culpability in such tragedies. The Rahuls of this world feel it necessary to enter into such shams and shun what’s natural to them because of the stigma of desiring another man. Look at us today. With pressing issues like climate change, financial corruption, and poverty, people possess incredible zeal and gullibility to fight gay marriage. So, when we encounter women who are devastated because their husband’s suddenly gay, it’s important to remember that we enabled this deception by creating the closet, by preventing the Rahuls of this world from leading a dignified, equitable existence.
The book has sold well overseas and received praise from noted
writers such as Andrew Holleran, who called it "riveting." Why do you
think the novel has resonated with such a broad audience?
it involves an extramarital, gay love affair, it’s about much, much
more. It’s also about a straight woman who suffers the worst kind of
betrayal at the hands of a man she has followed to ends of the world and
had a child with. And it’s also about the incredible sacrifices
immigrants make when they leave their homes for a new world in which
they might always remain outcasts. The novel explores the pitfalls of
blind faith and questions whether unexamined faith — ironic as it seems —
sets us up for the greatest fall. I’d like to think that while there’s
no doubt our experiences are colored by our sexual orientations, we
possess the capacity to relate to any kind of art, not because it’s gay
or straight but because it speaks authentically about the human
condition. Ultimately, we are equalized by our emotions. Gay or
straight, the gravity of grief is the same, and the joy is just as
elevating. I feel incredibly blessed that after working in a cave for
years the results have been understood and embraced so warmly by my
For more information on Dhalla, visit GhalibDhalla.com.