Tuesday, April 27, 2010

A Rhetorical Retort

The Supreme Court of India recently threw out petitions seeking legal prohibitions on the "immorality" involved in pre-marital sex and live-in relationships. While the honorable Court refused to delve into the moral aspects and summarily discarded with the petitions on legal grounds, an article in The Hindu - the mouthpiece of the Indian intelligentsia argued how such a legal judgment could serve to encourage the misguided youth from trying more such "experiments".

I took it upon myself to argue (as is my wont) back. Here is a copy of the article I sent as an entry to the newspaper:

Aligning the alien

I count myself as one of the youth of today. And though I am not an aggressive proponent for pre-marital sex or live-in relationships, I was shaken enough to write this response.

The author has clearly misunderstood the raison d’etre of live-in relationships. They are not quite the seed of convenience as much as cynicism. In fact, it may well be countered that marriage is the epitome of convenience. It suits the families, who get together and control the future of their young; the prospective groom, who chooses his bride with careful scrutiny and seeks payment for the efforts; the bride, who is promised all the comforts and security while she can help propagate the progeny of her hard-at-work husband. It works great for the rest of the society too as they have a gala event with customary lunches and parties to boot. It seems not a coincidence that the phrase ‘marriage of convenience’ was coined so.

Marriage is not a perfect system. Neither are live-in relationships. Both can cause anguish and pain with moments of happiness. Both need a lot of effort to be put in. To trivialize live-in relationships – a reality in today’s India – will alienate more than align the youth to society’s views as the author puts them. The hesitation to take the “plunge” - a lexical faux pas - is not as unfathomable as we are led to believe. While I don’t pretend to have personal experience to draw on, I can certainly take a shot at painting a probable picture.

In an expansively expanding economic frontier, youth of today increasingly find themselves torn off from homes and working in an alien city. Being humans, they crave care and companionship to combat loneliness; but not at the cost of their fledgling careers. Marriage brings with it pressures from society that become a burden for the ambitious. Relationships based on mutual trust, respect and support ensue. They might not always finish in ‘happily ever after’, but such endings are rather limited to the silver screen or children’s fables; certainly by no means ensured by marriage. With the ever increasing rate of divorces and unhappy marriages, can you blame a touch of cynicism sneaking in?

On the question of pre-marital sex, I find the article to be entirely misleading. Maybe I missed something in my biology class, but in what sense can sex between consenting adults be termed “extremely dangerous”? Assuming the use of standard conventions for protection, one can rule out the possibility of sexually transmitted diseases. Unwanted pregnancies are avoidable and I hope I do not need to remind the readers of the multiple options available.

On a purely dialectical basis, the Indian society’s view-point on pre-marital sex can be argued as a little hypocritical. If the matching of castes and horoscopes is so important to ensure the harmonious co-habitation of the couple, then why is sexual compatibility – a tangibly more critical element – ignored? Besides, the concept of treating sex as a dark shameful secret is historically puritanical and is rooted in the medieval cultures coming from the west. Many fa├žades on ancient Indian temples bear testimony to this theory.

It is not my intention to suggest pre-marital sex to all couples who are getting married, or give prescriptions of live-in relationships to depressed urban youth. There is a certain magic marriage and (sometimes blind) commitment brings in its wake. It’s the pinnacle of human relationship, based on faith and mutual trust that continues to cast its spell on youth across the world. Deviation from this tread path does not bother me. But my soul shudders at the society which seeks ‘endorsement’ from the self appointed guardians for every deviant opinion or lifestyle.

I grant every society has certain rules, certain practices unique to it - together with its guardians who vigorously protect them and the rebels who zealously revolt against them. The co-habitation of these two groups is essential for the health and growth of society. Through the ages, decadence set in when the balance was disturbed. A mature and strong society recognizes a dissenting voice as a possible carrier of change to be nurtured, not a harbinger of doom to demonize.

The article was not selected for publication. The one that was, was a fitting enough reply but not quite hard-hitting as I would like.

Another interesting retort to read: What NOT to do on Valentine's Day
And an article on youth issues: Gandhigiri is irrelevant for GenNext


  1. A live-in relationship may not necessarily grow out of a sense of cynicism towards the institution of marriage however, it is easier to get out of one than marriage is, and I believe that's the stage live-ins are at, in India today.

    They are a precursor to marriage and a way of testing the waters before taking the plunge. Nothing wrong with that I might add. Those who would like to have a live-in are scared of the commitment involved in a marriage and still would like to take their relationship to the 'next level'.

    The wriggle-room that a live-in gives them is the 'just right' Goldilocks Zone for the couple, at that stage of their lives. So, yes there is a certain amount of comfort and convenience a live-in provides.

  2. Probably your best work in years ;)
    The author of the article in hindu seems out of touch with reality.
    Although I don't think 'Live-in' culture has much to do with cynism.

  3. @ Deba and Kanishk.. Perhaps I let my own cynicism influence the article a bit ;)

    The context in which the author of the article in The Hindu used 'convenience' (and I picked it up from there), it suggested more of a facile, futile quick-fix solution than imply utility and logical sense - and as you have read, I go on to present a case for these two parameters.

    The distinction in the context could, perhaps, have been clearer in the post.

  4. Very Nice Article. You have Penned a matured ideology.