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Sex is acceptable to our ‘sanskaari’ minds only inside a marriage, even if it is marital rape. Where, then, do consenting, new age couples go to find some private time and space?
We live in a country where ‘sanskaar’ says that marrying off children is perfectly acceptable, raping your adult wife is perfectly legal, but consensual sex between two unattached adults is a blasphemy.
I am positive that like me, many of you have toggled with the idea that is sex with your partner worth booking a hotel in India? You have, in all likelihood, gone through hotel reviews multiple times, views about traveling with a man who isn’t your relative or husband, reviews about places that don’t allow unmarried couples, and scanned documents required to check-in.
Check it out!
I mean, I have. During college, my boyfriend and I have had many adventures, from being chased away in the middle of a raid, to having to pretend that I was my own doppelganger when my father’s friend glimpsed me schmoozing with him.
Even after getting married, when my husband and I walked into a hotel the day after the wedding, with me dressed in a shimmery saree and carrying the glow of a newly wed bride; I have had the hotel staff look at me from top to bottom and then demand proof of our marriage.
Rina (name changed), a travel professional, recalls the early 2000s where she and her then boyfriend, were driven away twice out of a, not so cheap, resort due to a police raid, when they were in the middle of getting intimate.
Rashmi, a teacher, talks about the late nineties, when she was married, living with her in-laws. She and her husband would drive down to lonely roads and park their car in dark corners to have some much needed alone time. Often accosted by the cops or locals.
Forget about two decades ago, even now, Akanksha says that her parents expect her to be home by 6:30 pm. And Akanksha is a postgraduate working professional. When I asked her about how she manages to spend time with her boyfriend, she said, “It helps that we work in the same team. But outside of office it is every difficult to meet. Even if we do manage to meet on weekends, I am terrified of booking a hotel and spending the night. From hidden cameras to peeping Toms, I have read horror stories. So, until one of us gets an independent place, I doubt we can really enjoy our courtship.”
Absolutely! Her words remind me of a recent incident in Delhi, where an American woman had to lock herself in her room for two days to protect herself, as a gang of men banged into her door trying to lure her out.
Recently, getting back home on a Saturday night, I saw a bunch of policemen dragging a pleading man to their jeep. A young woman wearing a hijab followed him. Based on his pleading, I understood that they were in the park, after hours, there was no coercion from the man. The woman was with him willingly. Yet, he was roughly dragged, arguing, begging and pleading, and the woman kept repeating, “Main Abba ko bulati hun. Tum chup raho.” (I will call father, you be quiet.) All of this took perhaps a minute, and before I could respond, the jeep was off.
What was it that made the cops target a young couple enjoying this alone time? Why not accost the men who harass, assault, ‘eve tease’ women instead of going after consenting adults, who probably lived in a joint family and did not have enough money to book a hotel? And even if they did, just the religion they belong to, would ensure they go through excessive scrutiny from the hotels, the cops and from the self appointed custodians of our culture.
Nithin, an IT professional in Bangalore, says, “In metros like Mumbai and Bangalore, it is still a little better; especially for folks who are working and staying in their own accommodation, away from family. However, when my girl and I took our first outstation trip, I had read enough about the horrors young couples had to face. I mean, I was even ready to forge a marriage certificate, if that meant my girl wouldn’t have to go through the embarrassment of being questioned and stared at.”
Yes, metros are perhaps your best bet when it comes to love in India. People are slowly getting accustomed to the idea of women having male friends who will come and stay over, or vice versa. The idea of a live-in relationship is being executed more and more these days.
Yet, when Nithin went looking out for a house on rent, the restrictions posed on him were right from, ‘no cooking non-veg’ to ‘no playing loud music’; from ‘no friends allowed after 11pm’ to ‘no girls allowed’. I mean, he is a 31-year-old man, and yet it feels like he is back in a hostel. And when he said, “Fine. I accept your restrictions, would you then reduce the rent?” The answer was a firm, “Take it or leave it.”
Safal, a telecom professional from Kerela, echoes Nithin’s sentiments, “Metros are the best when it comes to this. Especially with all these couple friendly hotels and services like OYO, Luvstay and StayUncle. In my hometown, I wouldn’t even dare hold my girlfriend’s hand in public. The amount of naming and shaming that goes on in rural India and small towns is very discouraging for love.”
On one hand we have apps like Tinder and Hooked that are essentially the torchbearers of love and sex, and on the other hand we have a girl’s father chopping down his son–in–law in broad daylight, for daring to marry the woman he loves. I see this massive chasm developing between philosophies, from big city to small town, from caste consciousness to LGBT, from women travelling to the moon, yet not allowed entry in Sabrimala.
These are tumultuous times in our nation; even though the SC has openheartedly accepted love between same sex couples, the society, even those in metros have a long way to go in accepting that love.
According to Saritha Rai from Bloomberg, “Technology is beginning to change practices, if not morals themselves. A startup app called Delta brings together gay singles, while Inclov handles match-making between the physically handicapped. Secondshaadi helps liaisons between the divorced and widowed, long shunned as inauspicious partners. New Delhi-based StayUncle’s tagline? ‘Couples need a room, not a judgment.’”
Love is easy to execute, if you have the money, live in a relatively safe place, and are surrounded by open-minded folks.
But what happens to those, who don’t have the money to book that hotel room in Oyo or StayUncle? Or those who live in a small town where there isn’t even a Café Coffee Day, to go out for a couple of hours with your girlfriend?
A recent incident, in Kolkatta metro, when a couple was kicked and punched for standing too close clearly brings to light our society’s collective frustration and angst. Angst at their happiness, at the audacity of young people displaying their love; because somehow, in that 65 year old uncle’s head, holding hands is an acute form of disrespect. Yet, their act of violence without provocation is avenging the ‘Izzat’ of our society?
Ah yes, I sound bitter and angry, but don’t let my words discourage you from falling in love.
In late 1970’s, a young, ambitious woman from UP, working for a bank, fell in love with her boss; a dashing, tall, dark and handsome, stranger who had come all the way from the ‘land of Dravidians’. Their clandestine affair continued through stolen moments in the movies, in the office, in her home surrounded by a family of seven; until she finally confessed to loving this man from a strange land.
After months of resistance from her family, threats of honour killing from her uncles and loads of stubbornness from her, they were finally married in a hush-hush ceremony, as her extended family searched the city for that Tamilian boy who dared fall in love with their ‘Aryan’ girl. From that unison, was born a beautiful, talented girl, ‘Me’. 😛
So yes, don’t be afraid to fall in love, because love always finds a way.
Image source: a still from the movie Manmarziyaan
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