Chocolate and Other Writings on Male Homoeroticism

Chocolate and Other Writings on Male Homoeroticism

Book Pages: 152 Illustrations: 1 illustration Published: February 2009

Author: Pandey Bechan Sharma

Translator: Ruth Vanita

Asian Studies > South Asia, Gender and Sexuality > LGBTQ Studies, Postcolonial and Colonial Studies

This volume makes available for the first time in English the work of a significant Indian nationalist author, Pandey Bechan Sharma, better known in India as “Ugra,” meaning “extreme.” His book Chocolate, a 1927 collection of eight stories, was the first work of Hindi fiction to focus on male same-sex relations, and its publication sparked India’s first public debates about homosexuality. Many prominent figures, including Gandhi, weighed in on the debates, which lasted into the 1950s. This edition, translated and with an introduction by Ruth Vanita, includes the full text of Chocolate along with an excerpt from Ugra’s novel Letters of Some Beautiful Ones (also published in 1927). In her introduction, Vanita situates Ugra and his writings in relation to Indian nationalist struggles and Hindi literary movements and feuds, and she analyzes the controversies that surrounded Chocolate. Those outraged by its titillating portrayal of homosexuality labeled the collection obscene. On the other side, although no one explicitly defended homosexuality in public, some justified Ugra’s work by arguing that it was the artist’s job to educate through provocation.

The stories depict male homoeroticism in quotidian situations: a man brings a lover to his disapproving friend’s house; a good-looking young man becomes the object of desire at his school. The love never ends well, but the depictions are not always unsympathetic. Although Ugra claimed that the stories were aimed at suppressing homosexuality by exposing it, Vanita highlights the ambivalence of his characterizations. Cosmopolitan, educated, and hedonistic, the Hindu and Muslim men he portrayed quote Hindi and Urdu poetry to express their love, and they justify same-sex desire by drawing on literature, philosophy, and world history. Vanita’s introduction includes anecdotal evidence that Chocolate was enthusiastically received by India’s homosexual communities.


“Vanita’s introduction and translated stories will be useful to anyone interested in same-sex love and the intersections of homophobia and nationalism in India. [S]he provides a valuable interpretation of the stories and Ugra’s ambivalent stance on homosexuality. The stories could be read alone, but Vanita’s contextualization is critical for understanding the debate around homosexuality in India and thus the significance of Chocolate.” — Lisa I. Knight, International Journal of Hindu Studies

“A resplendent translation of an underground classic on a subject—homosexual desire – that still remains largely confined to the closet in India. Ruth Vanita has done an admirable service to Indian literature by giving this important work of Hindi fiction another life through her translation and a luminous introduction that brings out the ambiguities of the text and the ambivalences of its path-breaking author. A rare book that will delight and enlighten the common as well as the scholarly reader.” — Krishna Baldev Vaid, Hindi novelist

“This book is an extraordinarily valuable resource on sexuality. Ruth Vanita’s translations of ‘Ugra’ are fluid and comfortable (no small feat when one is translating from colloquial Hindi); her introduction is well researched, thoroughly documented, and written in lovely style; and her arguments are subtle and replete with enough material to introduce South Asia to a novice and to keep the attention of a reader well versed in the region.” — Geeta Patel, author of Lyrical Movements, Historical Hauntings: On Gender, Colonialism, and Desire in Miraji’s Urdu Poetry


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Pandey Bechan Sharma (1900–1967) was a nationalist writer who edited and wrote for many Indian newspapers, was the author of several novels and short story collections, and was dubbed a founder of the genre of ghaslet (inflammatory literature). He lived in Benares, Calcutta, Bombay (where he wrote film scripts), and Delhi. Ruth Vanita is Professor of Liberal Studies at the University of Montana. Her books include Gandhi’s Tiger and Sita’s Smile: Essays on Gender, Sexuality, and Culture; Love’s Rite: Same-Sex Marriage in India and the West; and (with Saleem Kidwai) Same-Sex Love in India: Readings from Literature and History.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments ix

Note on This Translation xi

Introduction xv

Original Prefatory Materials 1

Chocolate 11

Kept Boy 19

We Are In Love with Lucknow 30

Waist Curved Like a She-Cobra 37

Discussing Chocolate 47

O Beautiful Young Man 52

Dissolute Love 58

In Prison 67

From Letters of Some Beautiful Ones 73
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Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-4382-0 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-4361-5
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