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India: The Advent Of Live-In Relationships – OpEd

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By Abhishek Kumar

India, a landmass full of contrasts. It offers the symptoms of the simplest way of living along with an equally complex one. The most rustic way of doing things as well as the most evolved one. A cup of ‘rice wine’ to Italian cappuccino, a bowl of ‘sevaiyan’ (Indian dessert) to Chinese noodles, a length of ‘saree’(a long and wide and decent piece of female outfit) to the length less bikinis, everything has been offered, adopted, accepted and rejected, from, to and by the country. The ever ending connection of the peninsula with the rest of the world has made it a blend of diversified ingredients. Since inception, there has been import and export of material goods and ideas from this landmass with the others.

India
India

Being the largest democratic set-up, there always stands a group of people, for and against these intruding ingredients. One such import which again brought the different social groups armed up on their line of controls was the idea of ‘live-in relationship.’
Unlike the advent of social networking, McDonald’s, shopping malls and techno gadgets, this concept trying to penetrate to the hick level, was level-two of westernization.

Going by the definition, it says a live-in relation means “a living arrangement in which an unmarried couple lives together in a long-term relationship that resembles a marriage.”

Now, the loaded words of this definition have a direct bearing with the level of indulgence and conformity of the society where the relationship is breeding.

A survey shows, the metropolis and the cities with higher thresholds have higher percentage of people engaged in live-in relations as compared to the rustic ones. These landmasses characterized with a deeply congested and complicated lifestyle, result in a social detachment among the inhibitors. These cities, being generally a job hub or a study hub, enable a large immigration towards it. The immigrants generally bachelors do get enough opportunity to interact and get indulged with the connecting line of the city to the rest of the world.

Now the western connectivity, enough inter-sexual interactional opportunity, the socially un-bothered society and the famous mentality of “ do what you think and think what you do, because those who bother don’t matter and those who matter don’t bother” present a perfect breeding ground for this intruder.

On the other hand, the higher class of people, living in their artificially amended world, where everything is as glittery as gold, reading page-3 as their front page always find themselves thrown up to some glimmery party almost every night. Being in India they do have transformed their thinking and living in a fully westernized cosmopolitan way. They being completely moulded in a different world show a general acceptance to this relationship. This may be the reason why the second level of survey shows that within the metropolis, the percentage live-in partners within the higher class are more than the middle class.

In the recent hue and cry regarding this matter, The Honorable Supreme Court of India came up with its version of definition-

(1) The couple must hold themselves out to society as being akin to spouses
(2) They must be of legal age to marry
(3) They must be otherwise qualified to enter into a legal marriage including being unmarried
(4) They must have voluntarily cohabited and held themselves out to the world as being akin to spouses for a significant period of time.

Only then, the relationship will be defined as live in relation and hence the woman will be entitled to get the maintenance from her male partner.”No doubt because of this view many women who have had live-in relationship would be excluded from the benefit of the provisions the protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act 2005, which talks about relationship in the nature of marriage,” the Supreme Court added.

Well, these definitions and points made by the honorable Supreme Court was just the annexure of the verdict.

The core behind which the statement of the Supreme Court lies is that if the boy, the girl, the ‘parents’ and the ‘society’ are in agreement that the couple can get involved in such a relation, then and only then the government will give its mandate over it.
It’s hard to believe that live-in partners living in Mumbai or Kolkata must have informed about their relationship to their parents and relatives living in a small town like Patna or Patiala. There will be a total disagreement regarding this relation in a socially bothered and integrated Indian middle class society.

The Supreme Court is fully aware that the live-in relationship breeding inside Indian middle class is not the same as the western counterparts are practicing. It’s the Indian version of it. We may call it “quasi live in relation.” The couples are ‘living in’ but in the shelter of being unacknowledged by the society; or ‘living in’ but in the environment of an unbothered society.

Furthermore, the court has even added that “If a man has a keep whom he maintains financially, and uses mainly for sexual purpose and as a servant, it would not be a relationship in the nature of marriage.” This further strengthens the stand of the essentiality of getting a social mandate over the relation before releasing an official approval over it.

Moreover, a transition period between two contrasting phases is always full of contradictions and complications, and that’s the bandwidth where this relation lies. Getting an average social mandate over this relation seems to be dim now. And if asked from a couple of 30 that “will he be happy to see his kids maintaining a live-in relationship in future?”, I personally don’t think he or she will agree. So the chances of getting it a social approval even dims. Of course this is not guaranteed that our minds wont change. Change being a constant phenomenon still keeps the spark igniting with a hope to get it a social acceptance.

The ancient yarn of our Indian social fabric- Brahmacharya, Grahasta, Vanaprastha and Sanyasa seem to be capsizing and intermixing with each other. The bluster faced by our traditional cultural practices may land us somewhere in a better place or may be the worst one, but one thing is for sure, that that place will be a ‘different’ one.

Abhishek Kumar
IAS aspirant, Patna Bihar, India

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