Wednesday, April 21, 2010


More women are now opting for live-in relationships thanks to financial independence and judicial backing. If Lord Krishna and Radha could live together why can't lesser mortals? You may find that argument unusual but that's actually the observation of the Supreme Court when the question of whether live-in relationships are immoral came up. But will the apex court's comment wipe off the stigma and prejudices attached to co-habitation?

Aayush Malhotra and Sakshi Kapoor's love story smacks of a Bollywood romance, starting with a ragging session in college where Malhotra was a senior student and Kapoor at the receiving end. But it was all in fun and both grew closer during their term in college and the relationship continued long after they bagged their degrees. Their careers brought them both to Gurgaon where they decided to live in. Malhotra owned an apartment in Gurgaon so Kapoor just had to move in - that spared them the ordeal of house-hunting. They were also lucky they had their way with their respective families. As for legal acceptance - that never really bothered them. Living together is about individual choice and not legal acceptability, they say. It's compatibility that counts," says Malhotra, who runs a construction business. With call centre executive Kapoor's erratic working hours playing spoilsport, they get to catch up only on weekends. "Except for living together, our lives haven't changed much. Both of us spend long hours at work, eat out lot, and are penniless by the end of the month," laughs Malhotra. The couple is, however, non- committal about marriage: "It's too early to think about and we haven't discussed it yet." But yes, they aren't entirely oblivious to the attitude of society - it does put them off. "The notion that the couples have a lot of fun and it's all about sex. One should understand that it's a mutual decision taken by two adults despite society's rigid, moralistic stand. We took the step aware of the consequences," says Malhotra.


For many like Kapoor and Malhotra, living is a convenient arrangement. Childhood friends Sumit Srivastava, software engineer, and Smita Pandey, media professional, decided to stay together after both them moved to Delhi for work. Both had different working hours and saw very little each other. "It was as good as living in different cities so we decided to live in to spend quality time together. It was a well thought-out decision. We didn't rush into it," says Pandey. Now four years into it, Pandey feels life has changed for the better. "In a romantic relationship, you never fully understand your partner. I have seen friends parting ways after a love marriage. In a live-in relationship, one gets to know the partner's merits and demerits. The pressure is less compared to that in a marriage and if it doesn't work, one is free to move out," says Pandey, who feels that cohabitation makes couples more responsible. Weekends, for instance, are for finishing household work. Cleaning up, cooking, doing the laundry, everything is a joint effort. Sumit has become more responsible. I never thought he would change so drastically," laughs Pandey. She feels that legal cover would certainly bring more social acceptability to such relationships in the long run. "If anything, it will make house-hunting smoother... but it's high time society woke up to such trends," says Pandey. Getting a house on rent was a nightmare for Pandey and Srivastava. "People treat you like an anti-social and we attract half-smiles and smirks from people," says Srivastava.


Being IIT aluminis and drawing fat salaries wasn't enough for Nisha Menon and Amit Kapoor (name changed) to get a house on rent. After a whirlwind affair as students at IIT Kharagpur, Menon shifted to Delhi from Pune to join Kapoor as distance was taking a toll on their relationship. "We had to lie that we were married. Our first landlord demanded a marriage certificate and we bought some time from him citing technical reasons," says Kapoor. Menon, a consultant with an MNC has been staying with Kapoor, creative head of a production company, for the last two years. The couple will the knot next week, but Menon avers that a live-in relationship is the best test to gauge compatibility. The couple also had to put up with some tricky situations when Menon's parents landed in Delhi to visit their daughter. "Every time her parents visited, I would have to pack my bags and sleep in my office. Recently, at my cousin's wedding, all my relatives wanted to know where I lived. It was tough avoiding their questions," laughs Kapoor.


Are we seeing more youngsters choosing live-in arrangements? Social scientists and psychologists say there is a rise in the number of live-in relationships, thanks to growing financial independence among women and the impact of urban lifestyle. "We see many youngsters opting for live-in relationships. There is a gradual shift in societal attitude towards such relationships, though not a drastic one and it's catalysed by legal acceptance among other factors," says sociologist Shiv Viswanathan.

His view is backed by psychologist and lifestyle expert Dr Rachna Singh. "We do see a significant rise certainly... I would say women, asserting their financial independence, has a major role in it. There's a shift in mindset also. Couples often opt for cohabitation as it's a convenient arrangement. Many use it as a litmus test to check out compatibility before marriage," says Singh. She adds that Bollywood movies such as Salaam Namaste and Wake Up Sid is also responsible for giving a fresh perspective to live-in relationships.

But Singh also points out the flip side: "Sometimes, live-in relationships lack commitment as the couples don't work hard on it like in a marriage. So they break up for minor reasons. In marriages, it's much tougher to get a divorce."

However, Viplav Gaurav, assistant director with a production house and Meenakshi Singh, a public relations professional, don't quite agree with this view. "I feel the commitment level is the same as in a marriage. Besides, we share all expenses and household work equally," says Gaurav. Even though Gaurav's new job took him to Mumbai eight months back, their bond is still as strong as ever, the couple says.


In a recent observation, the Supreme Court had backed actor Khushboo's controversial comments on pre-marital sex and live-in relationships saying there was nothing illegal in such ties between adults. But does the legal acceptability change ground reality? Pinky Anand, counsel for actor Khushboo, says, "Civil society will definitely take notice of these observations." But Supreme Court lawyer Kamini Jaiswal feels no law will change the scenario unless society wakes up to change. "Law won't make a difference, mindsets have to change. Under the Domestic Violence Act, a woman in a live-in relationship can receive compensation if the relationship falls apart," she says.

However, Semanti Sinha Ray, who got married after a live-in for six years with her husband Amit Mehra, argues: "I don't understand why an adult needs permission to live with anyone, provided one is not unduly disturbing society. Living-in does not result in drunken orgies every night. More married couples create problems than live-in ones" argues Ray.

However, Sandhya Gokhale, who is in a live-in relationship for the past 13 years, believes that legal binding will prevent disadvantaged women from exploitation. "It will entitle them to property rights and compensation. It also kind of says that the current system of marriage doesn't work for women," says Gokhale, a Mumbai-based software consultant.


Do live-in relationships necessarily result in marriage? "Marriage is certainly at the back of their mind, so if it doesn't work it's mostly the women who feel shattered," says Singh. But Ray rules out any emotional compulsion to get married. "We lived together for six years. We knew we were made for each other when we met. Then our parents suggested that since we were in a permanent relationship, we should get married in case children came along and so we did. Our status hasn't changed except that we have an extra set of parents," says Ray, who runs a production company Amp Angels with her husband.

If some fall for parental pressure, others feel they need social acceptability. But there are couples who rebel against the institution of marriage and carry on with their live-in status. Gokhale and her partner Mihir Desai, a human rights lawyer, have no plans to get married after 13 years of co-habitation. "I am against the institution of marriage as it's based on unequal footing. Women are expected to don specific roles in a marriage. Most live-ins end up in marriage as conforming to social rule is easier than taking it on," she adds. That might be a debatable statement.


Getting a house on rent is the biggest hurdle so many have to lie about their relationship. But some landlords have wised up to the trend and demand to see the marriage cerificate.

Arrange for an alternative stay as your partner's parents or relatives may pay a visit sometimes.

Learn to deal with silly comments and knowing smiles.

Guess what. The Supreme Court's observation that living-in is not immoral was welcomed by many. The remark was made during a hearing on filmstar Khushboo's comments on premarital sex

Reproduced From Mail Today. Copyright 2010. MTNPL. All rights reserved.