Editor’s Note: This month, that is December 2020, FII’s #MoodOfTheMonth is Modern Love and Relationships, where we invite various articles to highlight how love has been fundamental in our lifeworlds and how these experiences and perceptions around love are shaped by our identities in a modern Indian context. If you’d like to share your article, email us at email@example.com.
Posted by Haimanti Mukhoti
Growing up is difficult. Especially for a “late-bloomer” like me, accepting and situating love in this phase of life has been cumbersome. It is an emotion which is predominantly a social construct where like every other cognitive faculties inside our mind, we tend to forget that this emotion too is a response to several social stimuli. The obligation that we unconsciously fall prey to in the tender ages of our childhood through several myths and legends and rhymes around us, make us susceptible to accept love and marriage to be the ultimate goal of social being.
The first institutional step towards worshipping “true love” as a highly unattainable hence, most desirable object unknowingly takes place when we were admitted to unisex school and college. In addition to the differentiation that breeds within our minds from our fellow species-mates, right from childhood into our youth, the desire to accommodate the “other” within ourselves grows to such a desperation that rejecting any person from the opposite gender with whom our thoughts match (provided the concerned person is heterosexual), as a pertinent candidate for being the ‘perfect’ partner, becomes absolutely unreasonable.
After jumping on him or her, after trying to validate our being through another person’s eye, we desperately try to modify that person in accordance to our needs, to fit into the category of “the best” life partner in the neighbourhood or friend circles. However, this would have been much easier if relationships were not constructed and subtly popularised as closeted spaces.
It’s not really about monogamous or polygamous relationships. Rather, it’s more about seeing the person as socially dead or numb from childhood so that we can possibly carve out of him or her an absolutely perfect being of our choices. However, this completely negates the agency of the person involved. But all these quarrels ultimately turn into an unimagined toxicity and eventually a heart-breaking break-up.
Bernard Shaw and our very own Manik Bandyopadhyay had seen this concept of love and marriage as part of a social essentiality and that can’t be truer in the canvas of modern love and relationships. Had it been the case, that right from our childhood, we were unconsciously obligated to find a “true best friend” in our life, perhaps the numerous dating sites would have platonic friendship sites as their replacement. A basic human emotion got so promoted down the ages, that in case we don’t find love within the first thirty years of our life, we are deemed to be the saddest and most unfortunate beings in the world.
So much so that, even we, the products of the 21st century even take years to happily acknowledge the blissful existence of a person who is peacefully single. Added to it are those Bollywood mainstream films like Kuch Kuch Hota Hai that can never see two persons of opposite genders as best friends without “falling in love”, further catalysing the efforts to grab any offer of a manufactured love at first sight with a person you vibe the most!
Next in line comes the marriage section. In a very elite social circle, the strong family close-knit attitude is declining. Partners are now more like friends but family bonds creep in even before you know it. If we read “Bibaho Diaries” against the grain, a Bengali movie which features two friendly romantic partners starting a new life together, we see how responsibilities towards the woman’s in-laws family gradually invade the space of the young couple.
That is kind of inevitable when you decide to get incorporated into a new family structure. Whatever be the modern construct, even if you and your partner chose to live separately, till date, the amount of social displacement and the amount of time a wife spends in her in-laws’ house is way greater than her partner’s.
In my dialogues with some of my close acquaintances, I have observed how unknowingly you get entangled in several obligations that come with marriage. Especially hazardous becomes the several social gatherings, where if you don’t have any maiden help, automatically the women gather in the kitchen to have their fun, a concept beautifully portrayed and resisted in the recent short film starring Shefali Shah named “Juice”.
Thus, oftentimes it seems better to keep friendships on the front-foot rather that the oft-celebrated romance-ships. Even if the case is such, where you commit yourself to someone, we can choose to live separately as we did before “officiating” the culmination of a choice as simple as deciding to share happiness and sorrow with a person you find best to be with. By doing that, we effectively break the very basis that perpetuates a patriarchal institution like family. If that is difficult, you can devote equal time to both of our in-law’s houses instead of incorporating and appropriating one self, that of the wife’s, by the other.
But, everything goes in vain; all of these thoughts face their irony when we ourselves fear to lose the battle to us, when we doubt on our own self and think, what if me in my thirties digress from all that I preached in my early 20s and what if all these thoughts were listed under the tag of wishful thinking.
For, during your late night broodings, society and its abstractly brute force hits you hard.
The opinions are completely personal and only relating to an individual experience of the writer having been brought up in a heteronormative society and in her being as a cis-gendered privileged womxn (or possibly of a womxn trying to get through the unresolved maze of her gender and sexual orientations) thriving in that framework.
Haimanti is currently pursuing Masters in History from University of Delhi. Her specific interest area lies in the field of literature, theatre and films and associating the historical processes that they reflect and sustain. You can find her on Instagram and Facebook.
Featured Image Source: Feminism In India