Evolving Modern Marriages in India
Ye Moh Moh ke dhaage, meri ungliyoon se jhanke…….
The best part I liked about Shillong was that as a woman I could sense ‘freedom’ in the air. I did not feel any local strangers, especially of the opposite gender staring or lynching at me. Even if it was evident that I was an outsider, my gender didn’t provoke others while I was walking alone on unfamiliar, secluded roads of villages near the Laitkor Peak.
When I shared the same feeling with a few local friends, they smiled and said “Yes, welcome to one of the few surviving matrilineal cultures of the world!” I had heard about Matriarchy, as practiced in parts of Kerala and some other states of India, so I was curious to know what it was that was so liberating in this tradition of the local tribes of Meghalaya. I came to know that in some tribes of Meghalaya, there is a unique balance between the sexes due to matrilineal practices which still govern major social institutions such as marriages, property disbursal in families and transfer of power looms.
Although marriages are decided by elders, women choose their bridegrooms, their heirs and every other important thing at home. Men leave their houses after marriage and settle down at their wives’ house. But this does not mean they dominate the complete society. While men are ruling most of the public bodies, women hold power at home. And both men and women consensually decide everything that matters in their life. This is so liberating as a woman in contrast to what happens to other Indian women after marriage!
According to the Indian scriptures, the sole purpose of marriage in India was: Prajanan (procreation) through ratri krida (sexual pleasures at night). Marriages were consummated with many political and religious aims in mind in royal families. In case of common people, the most important aspect governing marriages was procreation and material gains. A woman was seen instrumental in enhancing the economic status of her husband’s family through the dowry or gifts she bought. The other sole aim of her existence being: giving birth to multiple male children. If she failed to do so, the husband would not mind getting another younger and more fertile woman as wife.Marital sex was never given any more importance than a ritual to be done at night for procreation in an Indian marriage. Sexual pleasures were seen only as a means to further increase your clan and achieve spiritual atonement. It was not to be used or propagated as a means to explore, establish or understand your own or your partner’s personality/ fidelity. Wives had accepted this definition of marriage and were able to suppress their sexual needs and desires.
In spite of the fact that Polygamy was a very well-known and accepted fact in Indian society in pre-Independence era, there was always a definite difference between the treatments given to the two kinds of married women: the Gharwali (wife) and Baharwali (the other woman) or the Susheelas and the Sheilas. Every Indian man wanted an ideal Indian wife who would be depicted as one good at fulfilling household duties such as procreation and taking care of the husband and children. But when it came to sexual fantasies, the neighbour’s wife, fondly known as Bhabhiji would feature in every husband’s dreams. Ever wondered what made Bhabhiji Ghar Pe Hai such a popular family drama on primetime Indian TV?
There were some rules to be followed such as marriages within the same caste, creed or community were not encouraged in some communities while inter-caste marriages were banned in some others. Generally marriages or the Grihasta Ashram phase of Indian life was seen to be just a means to achieve higher spiritual goals in life. There were many relaxing rules in certain communities where one could marry your own maternal uncle/ paternal aunt’s son.
And imagine so much of hue and cry was created over the Mother of Dragons Daenarys falling in love with her own nephew when none of them knew about Jon’s roots in the popular Game of Thrones. Also, look at the most diplomatic character Little Finger and his love interests: Lady Catlyn, her sister and her daughter Sansa who was nearly a kid in front of him! And whom he plots and gets married to the dwarf and Ramsay Bolton!
While I was preparing my 08 years old daughter for her Hindi exam, she asked me to answer one of her tricky question. ‘Give me one word to define a man with five wives?” I knew she was testing whether I had seen this new teaser of an Indian sitcom. “Shriman Panchal” I said. “Now you tell me it’s opposite” I demanded. “Shrimati Panchali.” And I know her real name too, Draupadi” she told me hastily before telling me more about this comedy show, “Do you know this Mr Panchal has five wives who specialize in five different things, ek Sundar( beautiful), ek Susheela (Pious), ek Sheila(hot), ek Khansama(cook), ek Agyakari(obedient) and so on. Imagine if papa had 05 wives you would not have to worry about the kitchen, somebody else could manage……hahaha.” And she escaped……If only Maryada Purushottam Ram had followed his father’s example in Matrimony, maybe every Indian too could enjoy this luxury of Polygamy in marriage.
But what is disheartening for feminists is that even in case of royals, incidents of Polyandrous marriages such as that of the Pandava brothers to Draupadi were sporadic and not so common. Also, it is very confusing to determine when we decided to stop Polygamy and follow Monogamy in India in the pre Independence era. Throughout Indian History and Mythology, one can find varieties of examples of marriages in the same time period. We find innumerable examples of polygamous as well as monogamous marriages and outside marriage relationships of royals coexisting in the great Indian epics: Ramayana and Mahabharat.
Interestingly enough, in Lord Krishna’s case, his love for Radha, supposedly a married woman of the village, is not criticized but worshipped by a sect of his disciples. While he married a large number of women, the status of his beloved is still given to Radha. Significantly, there is another such example of his another beloved disciple Meera, who is again a married woman, but in her case everyone knows that it is a spiritual relationship.
One more frustrating fact is that in the same country one finds that the institution of prostitution did also co-exist alongside the institution of marriage. Even when men were free to re-marry brides as young as their own daughters and as many times as they wanted, prostitution never died. In addition to the huge list of wives, the kings as well as the rich people of Indian society maintained a long list of concubines and royal artisans as their personal property.
Sporadically enough, ancient Indian literature does provide us with interesting examples of an extra-marital relationship alongside a happy married relationship as shown in the famous Sanskrit skit Mritchakatikam between a married man and a royal dancer cum prostitute. In this skit we find the wife of the royal singer finding her marital sex enhanced by her husband’s recent affair. Or maybe that’s what we see in its movie adaptation titled Utsav starring Rekha, Anuraddha Patel and Shekhar Suman. Even then it was a significant indicator of the fact that not every Indian was as controlled as Maryada Purushottam Ram and his brothers when it came to reviving their marital relationships with their spouses.
Coming back to post Independence era, the institution of marriage in India underwent a drastic change with the most infamous population-control project of the Indira Gandhi led government. The sole purpose of Indian Marriage, both Hindu and Muslim was under threat with this project. In addition to this, the judiciary too curtailed many practices related to Hindu marriages and as a result, a woman’s rights and status got prominence. While child marriages were banned; Separations, Widow Remarriages and Divorces became acceptable. Although still the woman’s say in sexual matters was always felt but never expressed within the confined walls of a home where generally a big joint family slept together. So a marriage actually meant end of all sexual pleasures for the woman. And a license for the man to successfully keep seeking his sexual pleasures inside and outside the house.Not to forget his interest in Bhabhiji!
Similarly, I observed some subtle yet here to stay changes taking place in a marital relationship between a man and a woman while roaming around in many Indian metro cities. Some of the popular ones would be the most often criticized wife swapping, living-in relationships and the same sex marriages. Remember the movie Rustom based on the famous Nanavati case. I wish Queen Seeta had an advocate like his to save her from the allegations made by the fisherman on her character. The way Rustom is shown to fight the case against the prosecution, sexual needs and desires looked as natural and basic as hunger and thirst.
But this is how it was actually treated by the British Pilots during the World Wars. As rumours have it, the young living pilots took upon themselves to look after the families of their colleagues who had left for war duties and eventually died in the wars. This care of the families included looking after their all needs, including physical, sexual and material. Did you ever wonder the otherwise criticized action of wife swapping could also become chivalrous at any time?
But what I found more interesting were the concepts of Open Marriages, Hotwifing and the most digitally viral practice of Swinging. Although I feel all these concepts and practices might be already existent even in Indian society since ages. But unfortunately, our social media as well as entertainment industry still doesn’t present these concepts in acceptable formats.
For instance, although a sitcom featuring neighbours liking each other’s wives like Bhabhiji is enjoyed by most Indian viewers; characters of a family drama like Modern Family where you find various types of marriages and characters: straight married couple, same sex couple and a hot young second wife of the head of the family would be hardly accepted as an ideal modern family. Whether we accept or not, Indian Marriages are changing and couples are trying to evolve for good or bad, only time will decide.
One has to accept that because of internet, improved means of communication and transportation, we have started to notice these changes in our vicinity. If you look in your own family, you would always find that one distant aunt who resembled the wife of Jolly LLB (Part II) who wouldn’t boast of being a good cook and would love doing things which were otherwise considered Taboo. Or an uncle like Rustom who accepted that his wife had sexual needs and desires which he had to fulfill as much as her other needs.
To some extent, I feel what has changed the structure of Indian Marriages is the economic and social independence of a woman. The Indian woman has become educated and economically independent in 21 century. Thanks to Facebook, Wats App, Amazon, Myntra and in short: Google Baba. In the beginning, her struggle was oriented towards getting a social say in the familial matters. And once she could become legally as well as socially independent, she started to recognize and ascertain her physical as well as sexual needs and desires. As a result we find a surge in the cosmetics and fashion industry in India. Some credit can also be given to Ekta Kapoor and her otherwise regressive family dramas on Indian channels wherein there are different varieties of marital women characters shown.
Onset of digital revolution further helped the Indian woman to become an unknown face in the crowd and still explore her sexual desires even after marriage. In many cases she got support from her partner and as a result came the concepts of open marriage, where there is no pressure on both the spouses about procreation or leaving their professional ambitions. In such open marriages, the husband and wife were married and fulfilling all their familial duties but when it comes to pleasurable activities, there is no common factor ruling between them. While the wife enjoys her shopping and kitty-parties, the husband is engaged in his dandies and all-boys weekend parties. Both husband and wife do not rely or look forward to exploring their interests together. As a result, the sexual pleasure also becomes a routine task to be completed just as meals and rest at home. This way, the couple is not on the same graph when it comes to marital bliss, although they may appear to be happy on all accounts.
The more interesting concept I found was something already termed as Hotwifing in the European countries. Contrary to the Victorian concept of cuckoldry, the concept of Hotwifing refers to a couple who look forward to achieving marital bliss through the sexual pleasures of the wife. In other words, the husband is interested and feels elated in letting the wife please herself through some external help. There are definitely no emotional strings attached here like in case of adultery or immoral relationships outside marriage. In fact, the purpose of this activity is to please each other and move your own marriage to a higher step of marital bonhomie. One must not confuse a henpecked husband and a rather dominating wife with a Hotwife couple. A Husband with a Hotwife doesn’t let his ego come in between his relationship. Instead, for many such husbands release and exploration of sexuality of their empowered wife is highly exciting.
Majority of Hot wives are prominently engaged in white-collar professions in India. In such cases, the wives do enjoy authority in the workplace and to some extent, economic independence from their husbands. They enjoy watching Porn films together. They share their wildest fantasies together and may not hesitate in trying out their wildest ideas together.
One significant fact to be noted is that the husbands are not pervert / sexually dysfunctional or interested in something known as cuckoldry. Instead they look like any other average Indian married couple and they also fulfill all their familial duties. If you look at their lifestyle and religious beliefs, you may be surprised to find them to be very conventional.
In the coming years this paradigm shift in the choices of Indian marriages would look more natural and logical to those who find it obnoxious today.
The Internet has allowed Indians to discover that they are not alone in seeking sexual pleasures. Due to the ease of communication among people provided by the Internet, many Indian couples have started to opt for consensual co-marital sex. They find this ease and openness in thoughts as well as actions fosters their marital relationship. Many Indian couples are opting for single or sometimes no children keeping in mind their stressed professional lifestyle and aspirations. As a result, their lifestyle revolves mainly around seeking their own pleasures. In some cases, there are some single mothers and living-in couples too who are interested in exploring their own sexual pleasures. These people show their interest in the Swingers’ Clubs for the basic reason that they do not want any emotional strings to be attached to their primary relationships. You can call it something like a consensual One-Night pleasure thing wherein you swap your sexual partners for purely sexual pleasures. As a result, these Swingers again derive some novelty in their routine sexual activity.
You might have felt the line of my thought process in this article to be haphazard, chronologically jumping from one era to another and at times a little illogical. I know, that’s exactly what I have been feeling as an average Indian married woman. But the only part that would appeal to you would be the honesty in my submissions. I have expressed whatever I came across in my life in the same way as it happened to my marriage.
From young newly-wed wife to the status of next-door aunty to the final graduation to Shruti’s Mommy; I have also tried to explore my identity as a wife to my husband and as a partner in every crime he does. In my opinion what makes a journey worth sharing is the way we achieved a union of body and mind as seen and described through two ends of a compass by my favourite clan of Metaphysical Poets.
Pasand Aaye to share karo
Na pasand aye to taste change karo!!!!!