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It’s mapped on the body

It’s mapped on the body
Love. In theory and practice. Let’s call Ira Trivedi’s India in Love that because the book, written about ‘Marriage and Sexuality in the 21st Century’ takes the reader on a documented tour of sorts through the entire gamut of all possible ‘relationships’ one can possibly have in this era.

Dr Kothari, India’s first sexologist, explains India’s ‘love-sex’ problem in one easy sentence. ‘Indian sexual problems are between the two ears and not between the two legs.’ And I could not agree more.

Inadvertently, as a woman in this century, am sufficiently aware of the dynamics of relationships, platonic and otherwise. Either I, myself or those around me have been a part of almost all the tropes Trivedi picks for her book, dividing it neatly into two sections: I- Sex & Sexuality and II - Love & Marriage. The author makes a brilliant divide, by default perhaps, when she separates sex from love in her contents list. In our country, as much as one would want to connect love and sex and make meaningful intercourse (because how CAN you give your body to someone you do not love!), reality is a that more often than not, love and sex in India are dichotomies, forever at odds.

As Trivedi constructs and deconstructs sexuality, homosexuality, prostitution, open-relationships, relationships, marriages, divorces and even sexual violence, a dark truth dawns. There is a social deadlock in this country that doesn’t allow easy influx of ideas (not just those of love and sex). Even if it does, the acceptance is grudging, difficult, subject to ferocious criticism and sometimes violence and only allowed to make a little place in everyday if it survives the scrutiny of the courts (kangaroos and the big guys). Let me try putting it a tad simply.

We have been taught and brought up in a certain way. With rules and social regulations handed down with an iron hand from parents, grandparents and a plethora of (interfering) relatives. No sex before marriage, it is best to be a virgin wife, never go against your husband, do not marry below your caste and out of your religion, homosexuality is cardinal sin...one gets the drift? Sadly the odds are stacked against the women but Trivedi’s concern is not a feminist one.

What India in Love makes very clear is that this new generation,
une generation perdue
- a generation lost, has taken a few bold steps towards sexual liberation. But for every two forward, the country with its archaic mindset and rules, we have been pushed back by one. And mind you, this problem is not unique to India, there are others across the world; but our focus is India for now.

So while on one hand, youngsters have started having relationships, have started living-in with their partners and have often picked love-marriages over arranged ones; the horrors of rape, honour killing and dowry deaths chase them relentlessly. It is a deadlock that will take decades to break, alternately, this might be a burden that lasts forever. But
India in Love
is a good start.

The flipside to a sexual liberation, as Trivedi accounts in the book, is the stark rise in abortions in the country and mostly in very young, unmarried girls; disturbing MMS clips featuring teenagers, kids (as young as 12-13) requiring psychiatric help for relationships gone sour and more. At 12, my biggest concern was my 100 meters sprint timing. At 12, my grandmother was already married.

Belonging to the same une generation perdue, as Trivedi. I understand her angst. But this is where we are told by those older than us that we are looking at a country and her sexual ‘issues’ from a point of privilege. Neither Trivedi, nor I will be tried by Khap Panchayats and hunted down, nor will our families ostracize us (explicitly) for relationships before marriage. We are a part of that India that has taken the tentative steps forward breaking some age-old stereotypes. There will be more, but the costs are high and not all of the country is equipped, mentally or otherwise, to take on the opposition called history and  ethos. The debate rages. And what we can simply do till then is get a tad wiser. And for that - pick up India in Love.
Jhinuk Sen

Jhinuk Sen

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