There's a really interesting photography project available online by Vincent Dolman, the famous celebrity and fashion photographer from London. It's set in India and features a set of 15 pictures, varying from two men sitting by the sea, friends talking a stroll on the beach, 2 elderly people walking on the road, amongst others. What's unique about the pictures? Each one of them features two men, just casually holding hands.
To understand the whole phenomenon, let's first begin with the creator. So what prompted Dolman to take up this project? "I have travelled around India around eight or nine times so far, and I've always seen men holding hands. I had taken a few shots of this but never thought of making it a full story. I found it really beautiful. It represents love and friendship, both much needed in today's world. It's a love between men that we don't show in western societies because we are probably scared of not being macho enough"
In a country like India, where gay sex has just been decriminalized and views on masculinity so horribly misinterpreted, it is surprising to see that such a practice is so predominantly prevalent. At a place where any physical expression of love apart from the confines of your bedroom is looked down upon, it is refreshing to see men, albeit unconsciously break the stereotype and express their emotions, even if it something as little as holding your best friend's pinky.
So why do Indian men hold hands? When Dolman asked one of the men, he simply looked at him baffled and replied: "We're best friends". Maybe it is as simple as that. Holding hands, between any two people is an indicator of loyalty, trust and affection. A child does it whenever he's scared, you probably do it even now if you're crossing the road with someone, so why the hue and cry when two adult men do it?
It is imperative to understand that the act of two men holding hands in no way is an indicator of their sexual orientation. Holding hands in a way is maybe the simplest way to portray the highest form of non-sexual intimacy between two people. It is a display of platonic love if you will.
The practice is more common in India than the West, as Dolman pointed out. "Wherever I looked, men were holding hands and you just don't see that in London." He says. This is one of the few times when the cultural dynamics in India help drive home this argument. While in the West, due to the rampant homophobia, this type of physical contact could make many uncomfortable, it's entirely the opposite in India, with holding hands just being one of the gestures to display affection amongst close friends.
The pictures from the project are a treat to see, with them for once actually holding a mirror on how to show your love to the western world, rather than the other way around. It also depicts how easy and natural can it be to portray your care and love for a person. For once, in their own little way Indian men are showing the world how to love.