As an eighteen year old individual existing in the melting pot that is Indian society, I have had the opportunity to be an objective observer of the changing face of societal customs: people are now more open to pre-marital relationships, sex is not the unmentionable word any longer and the concept of a live-in relationship is actually recognised by law. In this context, many young individuals often feel pressurised into entering into relationships to maintain status in school or college. I believe that the very concept of a relationship is a farce in India as it does not refer to a connection between individuals but rather to a convenient arrangement that sustains the reputations of the concerned parties.
I am of the firm belief that as a society we have skipped many steps in our quest to reach parity with western cultures. A few years ago the very utterance of the word ‘relationship’ would lead to mass cringing and then punishment; relationships were for married couples, the rest of the world would have to await the ‘pleasure’ of marriage to experience anything close to a real relationship. Yet now we can spot budding relationships at every turn: students who text each other late at night and twenty-somethings who populate park benches, disinterested in the public’s fascination with them. But are these relationships real? More often than not, they are far from it.
Perhaps the true hilarity of this situation, and hilarious it is, will come out through the following example: in my school, the distinguishing feature of a couple was that they sat together outside the canteen. And that was it. Yes, a few couples progressed past this and onto more eyebrow-raising territories, but for the most part, sitting together was the privilege of the couple alone. And all those couples would look upon us singles as if we were missing out on the greatest thing in the world when really our lives were no different from theirs! Tragically, the superiority of those ‘in a relationship’ is becoming de rigueur with no one stopping to question what it is that gives them the authority to be so snooty about their relationship status!
The youth today are rushing to get through life as though it is a checklist of achievements: popularity, check; girlfriend or boyfriend, check; sex before marriage, check. In essence, we are losing sight of reality by allowing ourselves to be misguided by what we see on our favourite television shows. It is actually a vicious cycle: we like the western TV shows for their progressive themes, we are then induced into applying those themes into our own lives; this makes us more interested in western shows and the cycle continues. Today’s relationships are not about individuals, they are about making a statement to conform to what the majority thinks is right; this is highly ironic and at the same time saddening.
I find it disturbing that we are so ready to grab onto anything ‘progressive’. In our haste to become Americanised we have skipped the vital process of understanding the culture we seek to adopt and have thus included it haphazardly in our lives. Thus, while you still can’t leave the house wearing a short skirt and a tank top without being eve-teased by fellow college-goers, you can have sex with your boyfriend at the age of sixteen and not be judged by your generation at all.
The irrational adoption of western culture is certainly causing problems: rape rates have sky-rocketed in recent years and our divorce rates are increasing at the same pace. The relationship issue does not fall on the heads of the youth alone; it is prevalent at all ages as we as a society just do not know how to deal with the rapid pace of change that we ourselves have instigated.
We are treading into murky waters by focussing too much attention on the notion of a relationship without looking into its health or its benefits. A relationship is made a requirement for happiness even though this is far from the truth. As a result, girls go through numerous boyfriends before college and boys have several ‘conquests’ to brag about. What one needs to appreciate is that today’s youth is tomorrow’s political, social and economic framework. We will soon be governed by individuals whose lifestyles are firmly rooted in the cultural confusion that has been created and this is not a happy thought. Evidently, awareness needs to be raised about the true nature of a relationship so that we have a chance at improving the quality of our youth and so we can divert their attention to more pressing and relevant issues.