“Living-in” La Vida Loca!

Posted on April 18, 2010

Maria Thomas:

As any self-respecting newspaper addict will tell you, India has accomplished some spectacular legislative feats in the past few years. From the more recent laws regarding rights to education to the comprehensive Domestic Violence Act, updated to include live-in relationships alongside the more socially accepted marital ones. It is at this juncture that one must look at the notion of a live-in relationship, a relatively new phenomenon, borrowed happily from the west as usual, that is gaining popularity with the younger generations. Essentially, our swaying moral compass has allowed the entry of a new sort of tradition that is slowly hacking away at the foundations of our ‘Indian-ness’. Surprisingly, this is turning out to be quite a good thing.

Of course many will argue that this is a sacrilegious notion that has no place in a country like India. My question is, why not? Unfortunately, the world is not a simple place anymore and a simplistic arrangement of marriage has very small chances of succeeding. Indeed, you may choose to point out examples of your parents or grandparents who have all had successful arranged marriages but times have changed and the average Indian personality is not as accommodating as it once was. Today education is common, youths are well-versed in what is happening around the world and have strong opinions on all current events. So why should they be expected to leap into a marital relationship with no experience before-hand? What could possibly be wrong with testing the waters before making such a huge commitment?

The fear of live-in relationships comes from the ‘immorality’ that they project. As a nation that is still gradually coming to terms with sex and other ‘taboos’, we cannot digest such free acceptance of a concept that makes concrete the notion of sex before marriage. Naturally, the situation is not helped by our ‘supportive’ moral police who take the guise of patriots while thrashing people who are open to cultural revolution. As a populace, Indians love to talk about patriotism and it gives us great pleasure to be continuing Indian traditions, no matter how archaic and pointless they have become. This love for patriotism has allowed parties like the Shiv Sena and the MNS to become immensely popular. Varun Gandhi’s ‘Hindutva’ hate speech sent the masses into a state of delirious happiness because it embodied the a resistance to change that we just love to proliferate.

The hypocrisy is evident when we look around us as we are all for adapting to western customs that aren’t too wild. Thus, there is a Levis store in every corner of every major city to satisfy the craving for over-priced ‘branded’ jeans but the mention of the word sex in a conversation with adults is enough to cause much shame and embarrassment. This is an example of the warped evolution that is a result of our strange biases. The future looks oddly lopsided as we are sure to become a population with bizarre notions of right and wrong, based heavily on this current stage of progress, if we can even call it that.

It is thus heartening to see that, despite this climate of confusion, the government is taking notice of the changes that should be incorporated to minimise the chances of our culture becoming a twisted mess. The integration of live-in relationships in such a landmark piece of legislature, is an excellent way to ease society into new realms of acceptance. Naturally that acceptance will never come easy thanks to our stubborn mentalities but law is law and now any harassment that takes place in such a relationship cannot be ignored. What should ideally follow is a proliferation of such relationships as they can now no longer be side-lined as immoral. It is thus our responsibility as the youth to interpret the law positively and make good use of its provisions. Obviously, I don’t refer to a blind leap but rather to a steady evolution that will allow us to slowly weed away outdated and unhelpful traditions to make way for ones that truly match our changing lifestyles.

The writer is a correspondent of Youth Ki Awaaz.

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