Copyright © R Raj Rao, 2012
A many-time novelist and an eminently engaging writer, R Raj Rao delights in shocking the reader’s expectations and bending rules, viewing events and peoples from a remarkably ‘strange’ vantage points. In his Crocodile Tears, when his more-than-a-decade-younger working class lover Ashutosh gets married to a woman in his absence, the middle-aged protagonist of the story has to rethink his involvement in Ashutosh’s life. What had seemingly started out as an unequal relationship with the protagonist holding the reigns as a sugar daddy with his younger ‘twink’ is reversed when Ashutosh, using tactics of emotional blackmail and withdrawal, forces the protagonist into becoming his own personal bank account. Far from being a simple tale of good and evil, however, what emerges is a sensitive and nuanced story charting out the protagonists jealousy of Ashutosh’s village-bred wife Ashwini and new-born son Aakash only to emerge as the real parent in the equation.
Taking an interest in Ashutosh’s son Aakash for his father’s sake, the protagonist dubbed by him as King Uncle after SRK plays the role of a superb father, from pampering ‘his’ child’s wishes to teaching him English so that he can overcome his biological parents poverty, so much so that he’s even elected onto the Parent Teacher Association’s board at Aakash’s school. While the protagonist finds that fatherhood suits him very well, he has to maintain the façade of being just a well-wisher to avoid the heinous allegation frequently levelled at gay men – that of being a pedophile.
Trust R Raj Rao to usher in even more complications though, being attuned to the vicissitudes of life. When her husband Ashutosh is revealed to be suffering from complications related to HIV that he contracts from sleeping with army men, it is his wife Ashwini who seemingly falls for King Uncle. Will he submit to the pressure of marriage to his lover’s wife after Ashutosh’s death for the sake of ‘their’ son? Read and find out.
About the Author:
R Raj Rao was born in Bombay. He earned a PhD in English from the University of Bombay in 1986 and received the Nehru Centenary British Fellowship for his post-doctoral research at the Centre for Caribbean Studies, University of Warwick, U.K. In 1996, Rao went to the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa. Rao has written two collections of poetry, Slide Show (Peepal Tree Press, 1992) and BomGay, which served as the basis for Riyad Wadia’s film Bomgay (1996) — said to be India’s first gay film. He has written a book of short stories, One Day I Locked My Flat in Soul City (Rupa & Co., 1995), and the novels Boyfriend (Penguin India, 2003) and Hostel Room 131 (Penguin India, 2010). His third novel, Lady Lolita’s Lover, and a new book of poems, For Hire, are forthcoming. Rao’s nonfiction includes Nissim Ezekiel: The Authorized Biography (Viking, 2000) and Whistling in the Dark: Twenty-One Queer interviews, co-edited with Dibyajyoti Sarma, (Sage, 2009). He also writes frequent scholarly papers, book reviews, feature articles and newspaper columns.
Rao has done readings all over the world and has been a Visiting Professor at Dresden University in Germany and at Concordia University in Montreal, Canada. His work has been critically discussed in numerous scholarly books including Hoshang Merchant’s Forbidden Sex/Forbidden Text: New India’s Gay Poets (Routledge India, 2009) and The Phobic and the Erotic (Seagull Books, 2007), edited by Brinda Bose and Subhabrata Bhattacharya. Rao is Professor and Head of the Department of English at the University of Pune, India, where he founded the Queer Studies Circle and offered one of the first courses on LGBT literature at the university level in India.