I did a live-in. There, I said it. But you won’t find out my name or hers. Because you know, society. Just know that we are now happily married and living together ‘legally’. Because in spite of the courts of the country and their rulings, living-in is still very much frowned upon, almost as much as pre-marital sex. And therein lies the problem. Acceptability. Or the lack thereof.
We met through friends. She lived in a campus hostel. I already had a steady job and a motorcycle. On my way back from work, I would stop by her hostel and give her a missed call. She would appear on her balcony, only for a moment, before disappearing inside again. A few minutes later she would appear downstairs, all smiles. We’d settle down in a nearby teashop for steaming hot cups of tea, bread pakoras and lots of conversation. This was our routine for months, during which our love grew and soon blossomed into a full-fledged relationship.
And then, like a lot of couples, we decided to move in together. And that was only the beginning of complications. I don’t mean issues in the relationship. Fights, arguments, differences…whether you live-in or you don’t, all of this will always be a part and parcel of your relationship. What I am talking about is beyond the two actually in the relationship.
If you are the child of a middle class Indian family you are probably used to talking to your parents several times in a day. Or at least once. Before the live-in, talking to them was no problem. But suddenly, there was this lump in the back of the throat every time our parents called.
“Yeah, I am alone.”
This single sentence stung every time. Simple lies compounded into much more complicated fabrications, till it was almost too much to bear.
There were days when we would brood and not know what
to do – the pain of lying was too great.
From keeping up cheerful facades to making up things, it was a grind that happened day after day after day. And it did not feel good. Occasional lies about being at home when you are actually out partying late at night or watching a movie are different. But this was a very different ballgame, one that hurt every time we played.
Why we lied, I really don’t know. In school, girls called home and my parents (who had a love marriage) didn’t blink. But after adolescence, the voice of a girl in the background after eight in the night often ticked them off. Perhaps this prevented me from opening up to them. She, on the other hand, had gone to a convent school and then a girls’ college. Her interaction with boys had been limited to neighbours, until her master’s. So, telling her parents was pretty much out of the question.
The deception wasn’t limited to this. If relatives visited, ensuring that my room looked ‘girl less’ or the plain fact that she had to be present at her hostel was enough to set panic bells ringing. Add to that, her classes and my erratic office schedule. High-speed movie-style motorcycling happened, to ensure that we were at the right place at the right time, especially when her local guardian was about to show up on her doorstep at really short notice. Every single time we wanted to own up, to give up the pretence. But there was this constant fear of how our parents would react.
Not that our live-in period wasn’t fun.
We had our share of absolutely great times, roaring fights and more.
We put together a beautiful home and spent a lot of time together
getting to know each other.
The fabric of a relationship that would last a lifetime started to be woven by the two who would share it. The house parties that we had back then with our friends are some that we hold closest to our hearts.
After two years, my parents pointed out that I had reached marriageable age and they would commence their ‘bride hunting’. Her parents, too, had found someone suitable. However, unlike many parents, both of ours asked us if there was someone we were interested in before they went ahead. We owned up to having someone in mind.
The conversations began. We came from vastly diverse communities, and cities which were hundreds of kilometres apart. We would sit in trepidation, relaying our fears and progress through calls and text messages. Thankfully, both sets of parents were willing to give love marriage a shot.
At the end of a few months, things finally fell into place. We got married, and funnily enough, went back to the same house where we had been living together. Legally this time, with the full consent of our parents.
It’s been almost three years since our marriage. We haven’t told our parents yet.
What worries us is not that they will know. After all the time that has gone by, we would like to think that it hardly matters. It is probably something to do with the ‘values’ and cultural appropriation that the middle class Indian kid is brought up with. Where respecting your parents and their wishes is ingrained. Where taking a stand for something that you want to do or believe in is almost blasphemy. Where falling in love and getting married to the person you are in love with may still be acceptable, but living in? Think again.
(As told to Mithun Mukherjee)