“Mother mother, answer my call, would I get a handsome suitor too, quite like me doll?”
“Oh, my poor child! It is tradition, and no reason that is beyond all, get yourself a boyfriend all you like, your marriage will still be arranged, I know it’s God’s will, holy lol!”
From the inflated chimerical notion of one love for life to the inchoate casual dating scene, it seems our dating culture mirrors the country in its diversity. But the prevailing norm suggests that relationships, not just in teenage but even in the twenties, are not received with an open mind. From Gupta aunty’s gentle reprove, Sharma uncle’s wrath to Bansal aunty’s gossip (Gupta, Sharma, and Bansal are all common Indian surnames), a relationship in India manages to garner one concocted fable over another, countless scornful “relationship” speculations and unending echoes of gossips reverberating from a sea of lies. Many thus believe in keeping an affair (it is what it is, not a relationship) private, not privy to the knowledge of their parents; their hush-hush surreptitious affair blooms with the equally increasing apprehension of their parents finding out. As hard as it is to believe, it takes just a couple of “whispers” to fan the flames that would set a family name’s reputation ablaze, and the parents’ tempers flare with equal rage.
Welcome to “Papa ko pata nhi chalna chahiye” (dad must not find out) dating culture in India, where the needs are subjugated to the semblance of values and values are dictated largely by tradition. Everyone is part of a large and sacrosanct scheme, flouting the tenets of which is blasphemous.
India has laws safeguarding the freedom of women, something that at times morphs into moral policing that hunts down couples with its own code of conduct. And the society and police don’t make idle threats, they’ll bloody well call your parents if need be.
Even though the society somehow seems to relent with its draconian mindset in the present times, relationships in India are still viewed with a sense of haughty mockery and those who choose to continue anyway are labeled as purposeless strays who shall later lament their misspent youth. After all your parents’ hard-earned money cannot be squandered off at your frivolous pastimes. You have to enter a certain age and have a career, and thereafter these “limiting caps” can be revised; thereafter you should be brimming with lust and romantic feelings for a partner your parents will arrange. So pucker up, winnow down, accept these norms or else be branded as an ignorant deviant who couldn’t care less about driving his family name through the dirt. It is the way it is as more than 88% of the marriages are arranged, and the preference even for the youth stands at a staggering 75%.
Let us try to look into why is that the things are the way they are. There seems to be an overwhelming dependence on academics to bag a job and make a living. The fierce competition conjures a distorted sense of reality, especially for the parents, one that suggests that relationships are merely distractions. The teenage students and even the college going students are heavily dependent on their parents. Most Indians find little value in working odd jobs to pay college fees. Since they are not self-reliant, their decisions are in subjugation to their parents’. For countless other cultural reasons, people accept their parent’s decision with humble obedience, India is a culture that reveres the elderly and the values they purport to preach.
A teenager’s decisions are sometimes consensual, and mostly forced upon, like say opting for a vocation or applying for college, or choosing a stream. Thus, Parents are the “all knowing” authority and their discretion trumps all. So resign your control over your personal life. That is just how it is, they know everything and they know it best, whether it is putting you up in the marriage market with a price tag or deciding your career. And because they never approve of relationships, most are behind their parents’ back.The need to focus on career goals coupled with a distressing dearth of autonomy promulgates an erroneous notion of relationship that skews towards the “very bad” scale of the moral compass and it bears consequences for their sexual tendencies as well.
Sex and all that comes with it too seems to be mired in confusion. Sex is taboo. Promiscuity is an abhorrent and contemptible crime and you will be punished in unspeakable ways (worse if you are a woman). Sexual compatibility is unheard of and if you talk about it, you are just brainwashed by the western culture. Sex education is as insignificant as a whisper in a windstorm and the parents and schools alike, deem it just as important. The children are thus bombarded with complete hokum they surf on the internet, and they start developing execrably insidious notions about the same.
The young boys and men thus think of sex as a forbidden fruit and women alternate between apathetic nonchalance and feeling abashed of their urges, and the average age of losing virginity, 22.8, is quite a testament to it, other statistics. Add to it the inflated sense of romance, where love comes much before liking and compatibility don’t matter. The idea of jumping from one woman to the other (or the other way around) is aberrant and contemptible. You are not “true of heart” if you aren’t a “one woman man”, so dating is pretty much left futile and dating culture non-existent. Things are tougher still for a woman who has had a sexual experience prior to her marriage, as 63% want their partners to be virgins, a broken seal loses its flavor? 61%, on the other hand, believe that pre-marital sex is not a taboo. Hypocritical much? Check out The interesting choice of pre-marital sex.
The lack of autonomy devolves into a very inchoate understanding of consent, mainly because even in today’s modern age, society demands strictures on men and women along with strict adherence and conformity to expected norms. Things are changing, slowly but just so, they definitely are. The millennials are much open-minded and the digital age has had its influence. But from where we are now, it basically is a downward spiral that circles from lust to infatuation to lust to love to dejection and eventually into feigning apathy.
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