I’ve debated it in school Interact Club sessions. In college, with friends over cups of coffee. Even in German class, as effectively or brokenly as is possible in a foreign language. Needless to say, marriage and the “why”s and “why not”s of it are a hot topic of discussion amongst most of the youth today. Marriage as an institution seems to automatically imply normalcy and a happy, complete family. And this picture of a happy family has become so popular in today’s fast-track world that we have forgotten the time when such a concept didn’t even exist. It’s not just India where the family is given so much importance. It’s always the topic of discussion even in the world media. It is important, for instance, for the presidential candidate in a country like USA or France, to present the picture of a smooth personal life in order to be the perfect candidate for office. A little friction, and the talk begins. A cute family portrait of the brand Brangelina bandwagon can make it to the front of a newspaper. But let’s not forget that they’re not married, because they don’t feel the need to be.
Many feel the scenario in India is changing. That Indians are mimicking the West in opting for live-in relationships, rather than marriage. Not only is this assumption way off the mark, since in most cases, a live-in relationship is usually to test compatibility rather than an option to forego a marriage altogether; but it’s also a trend that has touched a tiny minority of the affluent, urban populace. Whatever the statistics be, however, we cannot deny the fact that it remains, in our society, a form of taboo.
There are reasons aplenty for marriage to be encouraged. In the rural areas, for instance, women are uneducated and therefore unable to live independently. The absence of a means to earn naturally leaves them no option than being dependent, either on their parents or husband; mostly the latter. Another reason is starting a family. Since live-ins are easy to walk out of, in many situations, women were left to bring up a child by themselves. While not impossible and often attempted by many single parents for various reasons, it definitely is better for children to grow up in the presence of both parents.
Philosophers as early as Simone de Beauvoir in her book “Second Sex” have commented on how marriage becomes a raw deal for women more than men. It is no different in India. Since time immemorial, marriage for the bride has been synonymous with severance from family, loss of name and identity, adjustment to a new home and family, a rich dowry (something that hasn’t changed till today) and more often than not, sorrow. Even the depiction of brides has always been with a tear-streaked face.
This being said, my aim is not to vilify the institution of marriage. In my opinion, there is no one side to anything. There is nothing wrong in marrying. There is nothing wrong in not marrying. At the end of the day, though, it is a decision that must be taken by the person concerned, and not one enforced on him/ her by the family or society or religion. For people who are commitment phobic, living in first to test a relationship before taking a step like marriage, is a better option.
Love is an idealistic thing, and you do need to work to keep it going. A major way to misconstrue the whole concept of living in was in cases when people tried it merely to have an easy way out and walk out of a relationship whenever they wished to. However, with the recent law in place, people will have to think maturely and decide whether they’re ready for a relationship or not. Live-ins should not be synonymous with an easy break should the need arise, for the whole point of testing a relationship is to give it time to work.
Finally, compromise is the key word in any relationship, be it one that bears the legality and stamp of a “society-approved” marriage certificate or not. The only difference is in the mind.