By Pradeep Baisakh
The new trend in the metro cities in India among the youth is to enjoy their singlehood to the fullest! With so many forms of distractions and new forms of enjoyment, the neo-liberal youth have declared their freedom from the traditional concept of marriage and bondage in a relationship. The young middle-class women with technical education and a lucrative job in hand posted in Delhi, Bangalore, Mumbai, Chennai, Hyderabad etc have defied the patriarchal compulsions of being a second-class citizen in an institution of marriage. The men are not behind. They also have enjoyed the charm of being single and ever willing to mingle!
I see this trend engulfing the twenty-first century youth particularly in the bigger cities where the youth is away from home in villages or small and medium towns or cities and away from the parents’ control and social compulsions. The situation is no different for the youth, who are born and brought up in metro cities. Both men and women have of late prefer to stay in a live-in relationship or just stay single with one or more than one partners having an arrangement of consensual sex relationship to meet the biological need. The fundamental motive: enjoy your single-hood until you get a loyal partner to settle down. Live-in relationship does not seem to be succeeding much in India with police reportedly receiving many complaints filed by women against the male partners owing to separation.
Away from the family, the social life is limited to attending night clubs with female-friends and male-friends or hosting a party at home in weekends with boozing and dancing to the bollywood tune “Sube hone na de, saath khone na de, ek dusreko hum sone na de, tu mera hero…!” (Not allow the morning to come, not lose the company, and not allow each other to sleep…you are my hero!”). The tune glorifies one-night stand with no further commitment.
I wish to discuss two reasons for this new trend. The trend has picked up among the women, which comes as an anti-thesis of the perennial male-domination and secondary treatment of women in the institution of marriage. The other being the redefinition of values. The new value system being pushed through mass media of ‘self expression’ has well caught the imagination of the youth and well designed to fulfill the fantasy of being in uncommitted relationships or at the most a relationship-in-probation. Both the super-educated and employed male and female are equal takers of the new trend.
It has its own impact on the individual and the families and society. The new generation youth, quick in adopting the new ‘liberal value system, is nevertheless passing through a visible state emotional turbulence. Brought up in an environment which witnessed fidelity in relationship and strength in the marital bondage, the mind always hankers for someone who values relationship – from an Indian understanding with a modification, and stays loyal to the partner throughout the life. Despite limitations, marriages in India have broadly worked well in terms of giving stability, social and emotional security to the couple.
In the atmosphere of mistrust in the immediate partner, exploration of a stable relationship goes unending. Adhoc-ism has been accepted as part of life. Caught up between the old and the new value, the youth goes through a state of confusion and helplessness. On one hand, it loves a life of ‘freedom’ characterized by no-compulsion for loyalty and on the other wishes to settle for a stable and emotionally well-embedded relationship. The overall ambience has become so where it’s immediate needs seem to be fulfilled with no guarantee for a future meaningful relationship. Life has become ‘here and now’!
Back in small and medium towns and villages, the parents who have made their lifetime investment on the education and career of their children, are religiously waiting for their child to take the next step in life after the settlement of his/her career – the marriage. Their eagerness to see their child happy in a secure social and emotional bondage and aspire to be grandparents continues. With the institution of arranged marriage gradually crumbling for the new educated generation, the parent’s pressure on the children seems to be waning. The constant career pursuit in an uncertain world and the difficulty in finding a partner who believes in equality of men-women relationship and whose loyalty is beyond doubt have left the youth and the parents in a lurch. The pressure on the parents from the relatives and neighbors on the constant questions of ‘when are your marrying your son/daughter’ often leave them helpless and red-faced.
Good or bad, the new value system has brought about a transition in Indian society, which has created more confusion than providing solution to the old order.
The author is a freelance journalist based in New Delhi . He can be contacted through e mail: firstname.lastname@example.org