Of personal choices, judgemental society

Beating hypocrisy
Last Updated 18 August 2015, 18:30 IST

Live-in relationships are often associated with social stigma. Even though the youth in the country have grown to be outright open and ‘cool’ about sexual intimacy and staying with their partners, accepting it or even talking openly about it is something that they wouldn’t easily agree to.

With the recent raid at the hotels in Madh and Marve in Mumbai, where the police booked 13 couples for alleged indecent behaviour, one is compelled to sit back and ponder on what constitutes ‘indecent behaviour’?

A similar situation was portrayed in Neeraj Ghaywan’s Masaan. The movie begins with Devi (Richa Chadda) getting dressed to meet her friend, Piyush. They check-in at a hotel to spend some private time together, or what they call, to indulge in ‘indecent behaviour’. What followed was the police abruptly entering the room to catch the couple red-handed having sex (as if it were a crime) and, blackmailing the two about revealing their actions to the society.

As a result, Piyush commits suicide and Devi on the other hand is left with a life to be spent in fear of the police, who might release the video, if her father Vidyadhar Pathak (Sanjai Misra) doesn’t pay the bribe.

The scene clearly mirrors the Indian society, where pre and extra-marital sex is still a taboo, a socially unacceptable norm.We also have numerous Bollywood movies that
feature live-in relationships and the convenience of indulging in sex outside marriage. To start with, directors – in movies like Shuddh Desi Romance, Fashion, Salaam Namaste and Bachna Ae Haseeno to name a very few – have very openly showed how the youth doesn’t mind living-in with their partners, without much thought of getting married in future. Naturally, youngsters do tend to follow suit in their personal lives, but with utmost secrecy.

When Metrolife got in touch with some live-in couples in Delhi, only one out of 10 was ready to speak about their relationship. However, the ones in Mumbai and Bengaluru were comparatively more comfortable and open speaking about their relationship and their live-in partners.

Speaking about this demographic divide in the mindset and perspective of people,
Dr Vasantha Patri, chairperson of the Indian Institute of Counselling tells Metrolife, “In the southern parts of our country, states and cultures are more evolved and educated. Delhi on the other hand is still bound by a more uptight and rigid culture where hypocrisy is vastly prevalent.”

Well, the same behaviour was observed when a couple from Assam, living-in together for the past three years in Safdarjung Enclave, south Delhi, plainly tell Metrolife, “We are not a couple, we are cousins staying together.”

What prevents them from stating the truth about their relationship? Is it because they are shy, or is it because they scared of being judged by people? “Couples don’t accept because they don’t want to offend people they love,” says Dr Patri.

However, given the fear most people have about getting married, live-in
couples are more reluctant to speak about their relationship and the sexual intimacy they enjoy without following the social norms.

Dr Patri elaborates, “I don’t think that the concept of living-in is something new in our culture. If we go back in time, we have numerous instances where our rajas, and zamindars had mistresses and women called at their places, despite their being married. It would thus be prudish to call it new. It has been there traditionally, though only for the males.

Today, it is unacceptable because our society thinks that marriage is the only suitable condition for people to live together.”Meanwhile, Nishtha, a 25-year-old working professional, residing in Lajpat Nagar with her boyfriend, Sameer for almost an year, seems to be the only person ready to openly speak about her experiences.

“Initially, even the brokers weren’t ready to give us a house. He asked us to tell people that we are married, if we wanted him to find a good house. However, we eventually found an apartment without the landlord staying in the same building, where we could live peacefully,” says Nishtha.

 Herself and Sameer have had numerous instances of random people passing comments on them.

“Once I overheard a neighboure telling my landlord, ‘Aapne ek ladka aur ladki ko saath rehene ke liye apna ghar kaise de diya?’” she tells Metrolife.

Today, her parents are unaware of her live-in relationship. She is happy and comfortable staying with Sameer, who is two years younger to her.

“Luckily, my friends and my professional circle doesn’t care much about all these petty issues. Sameer and I like each other a lot, but never have we once discussed about marriage. That’s just not the point of concern for us right now,” she adds.

While the Supreme Court has also declared live-in relationships as legal, when will our society accept them with an open mind? The question remains unanswered.

(Published 18 August 2015, 14:30 IST)

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