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Tilak Rishi, born in India, has been working as a career corporate executive, after doing his MBA. Passionately pursuing his hobby for writing, he also remained a regular contributor to newspapers in India and the U.S. Many true happenings and characters he came across in life, including interaction with former president Bill Clinton, inspired Paradise Lost and Found, his first novel. A family saga, it starts from Kashmir, when this paradise on earth is lost for the tourists who thronged in thousands every year to enjoy its scenic splendor. Terrorists have turned it into one of the most dangerous places in the world. The family is not only a witness to the loss of this paradise, but also to another tragedy of much bigger magnitude. In the aftermath of the partition of India, along with millions uprooted from their homes in Pakistan, the family leaves behind all that it has in Lahore. Starting from a scratch on the difficult path to progress, it still has many joyful moments when along the way it makes a difference in many a life. The survival-to-success story climaxes in California where the family finds the paradise that was lost in Kashmir.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Live-in v/s Marriage

My grand father married my grand mother without knowing her, seeing her in person, or even in a photograph. The family priest, or was it the family barber, who brought a proposal from bride's parents, the boy's parents approved it, and they married and lived happily thereafter. My father was shown my mother's photograph before their marriage, not to get his approval but only to let him know how his would-be-wife looks. They too lived a very happy married life as long as they lived. My elder brothers were given the opportunity to give their approval for marriage after seeing their would be wives in person, but in the presence of family members from both sides. By the time my turn came, the parents had become more liberal to let me marry the girl of my choice. Still they liked to see the girl, know her family and, in fact, take the marriage proposal themselves to the girls parents. Then came our son's time, when love marriage became the norm, though parents' blessings before or after the marriage was still considered a must for an auspicious beginning to a new life, or as a gesture to show respect to them. That was it, no more modernization of the wedding wows, at least not amongst the traditional Indian families. Live-ins were unheard of in earlier times, accept in the context of a random filthy rich cohabiting with a concubine for extra-marital flick.

In India, live-in couples are still comparatively rare, confined mainly to celebrities in the movie world. Though people enjoy watching films like Pyaar Mein Twist and Salaam Namaste, which are quite open about live-in relationships, Indian culture still considers the concept sacrilegious. Yet, the trend seems to have caught on. And it is more prevalent among people going abroad for studies or work. These young men and women who are away from home without any family or local guardians are forced into such arrangements by circumstances. Apart from emotional support, they get to pool up finances for accommodation. They are not hesitant as the country encourages an open culture and there is no family to question them on the issue. In this context there was an eye-opening anecdote in my neighborhood in the U.S. An Indian woman in her early Thirties was living-in with her American boy friend for quite sometime. Suddenly the couple split. Reason, the woman's parents were to visit her on vacation, and she did not want to shock them with her live-in relationship.. My wife and I came to know the parents while on our walks in the nearby park. Their only topic of talk was their daughter - “We are very concerned for her remaining single for the sake of her career; our only purpose of paying her this visit is to put pressure on her to get married and to present her with several suitable matches from India to chose from, but she has no time to even look at their photographs; she works very hard, working till wee hours at her work”, and so on. Poor parents, they remained worried for their daughter's wedding till their departure, not knowing she would be reunited with her live-in boy friend as soon as their flight took off. In another case, the live-in American girl friend of an Indian boy was keen to see his country. He informed his family that he would be bringing with him a female colleague on the trip, to seek their approval of her as a match for him. Unexpectedly for him, the family was overexcited in not only giving their instant approval but also in insisting on their marrying during that very trip. The couple was in a fix, they were not ready for the commitment, and somehow saved themselves from the situation by making several excuses, short of revealing their true relationship. The couple continued their live-in relationship after returning to enjoy it while it lasts. Poor Indian youth abroad, they have not only to bear the brunt of cultural explosion, but also have to keep it hidden from their families back home.

Live-in came into their lives in the West as an arrangement of convenience vis-a-vis commitment in married life. Most men opt for live-in to avoid marital responsibilities and obligations in divorce related settlements if the marriage fails. On the other hand, women enter live-in relationships to trust and hope it may lead towards settled life in eventual marriage. If disappointment comes, they will be the first to walk away. Live-in is never meant to be life long, it either ends into a happy marriage or a sad split for the couple. At best live-in relationship is just a match practice before a match. It can never replace the real match, the system of marriage in the society.

Results from research by eminent professionals pronounce married men and women derive satisfaction from their spouse's happiness unlike those people who live together without marriage; a married person is significantly happier in life if his/ her partner is leading a cheerful life; there is no sign of such an effect on couples who are cohabiting; the institution of marriage induces the habit of sharing among spouses who not only share their material belongings; they also try to be part of every aspect of each other's life through smooth and rough times. The concept of risk sharing between individuals in a non-marital relationship was found to be almost negligible. The level of commitment in a live-in relationship tends to be less because when you are married, your family is also involved. A common reason for wanting to get married is security. Sooner or later, those in live-in relation learn that married life is blissful. Not that married couples don't have tough conversations every now and then, but it doesn't feel like marriage itself is hard.




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