Monday, January 31, 2011

Live-in relations(The Hindu Open Page)

Where there is love, do labels matter?
Two friends were walking along the pavement in Lutyens Delhi. Nisreen (NIS) is happily married for over a year now to Jacob, while Soudabi (SOU) is ‘living in' with her boyfriend, Saran. Here is a conversation between them.
NIS: Look dear, you are living in society and not in a cocoon. You need to respect certain practices and rules and marriage is a supremely important institution. Marriages are made in heaven, my girl, and later sanctified on earth.
SOU: You know that I don't believe in such stuff. These statements are purely made to glorify the social institution of marriage. In fact, what is marriage? It is a social ceremony after which the couple settles down and lives according to the diktats of society. Sorry, in our case, we live our lives. It seems the Supreme Court has given the green light to live-in marriages. I am least concerned, but I think it will perhaps protect others belonging to conservative families from harassment.
NIS: Oh! Why do you want to be a reactionary? It seems that you ‘live-in' to prove a point.
SOU: No, that's not true. We are not ‘living in' to project our ideology or political leanings. We just slipped into this relation and we are very comfortable. It suits us perfectly both in economic terms and emotionally. It helps us to manage our hectic schedules, lifestyles and budgets in Delhi. Moreover, I feel there is more of an inbuilt commitment in ‘live-in' relations. You don't take your husband or wife for granted. After marriage, there can be a tendency to neglect your spouse; since whatever you do, he or she is not going away from you.
NIS: Sou, you are just rationalising. There is no commitment in ‘live-in' relations. People ‘live-in' because there are afraid of making commitments. This commitment is divine. The entire West looks up to our ethos and values which structure the family in India. These ‘live-in' relations are ephemeral and in many cases the girl gets estranged and deserted. Hey, I am not talking about you, dear.
SOU: That's wrong; ‘live-in' actually liberates the woman. Do you know that 45 per cent of married woman in India are subjected to domestic violence? Divorce is difficult and a taboo in India and women eventually suffer. They are enslaved within the walls of the patriarchal family.
NIS: Look, I told you that you are being political. Remember, ideology is just partial truth. It blinds you of the practicalities of life, dear. How do you propose to have a child?
SOU: Nis, we didn't deliberately decide to ‘live-in' and continue it forever. We just slipped into it and when we want to step out, we will marry, perhaps. I know the practical difficulties of bringing up a child without getting married.
NIS: But don't end up just as couples like the hippies. I strongly believe that when you ‘live-in' you forget to live your lives.
SOU: Hey, do you think that I am not enjoying my life? Nisreen, this whole concept of ‘marriage' and ‘live-in' are just labels. Beneath the labels, there are relationships. It is the strength of these relations that matter than the labels.
NIS: Yes, maybe that's true. I just want you to be happy, dear, and never regret later.
SOU: I promise you that. Now, give me a hug, dear.