Alternative Lives: On Coupling and Uncoupling
I am, I say. I will be, I know it.
“I try to look around me. I’ve said it so many times. I am now open to a lifelong relationship. Don’t worry, I’ll soon be in a balanced life. I know that time will never come again and I have to think about the future of my personal life as well as my career. God! So much pressure. Ok go ahead and look for options. I will make a choice.
These are some of the answers that aging adults, who have abandoned personal ties for professional life paths, here and on the coasts beyond, trotted out to their parents. It’s the new breed of homo sapiens. Our offspring.
Fiercely independent, gender neutral and cool as cucumbers. They tread new paths, create where there is none, the world is their fairway, no lair they call their own. To be comfortable in any place, have guys you hang out with in different longitudes, who you call when you do and when you can. And yet they work hard. Sail harder. Choose partners who understand or abstain if they don’t understand.
I saw it in my own sons, I see it in my nephews and nieces. They leave when they need to. Not that they don’t care, but because they have to go their own way. They’ll be there when you need them, a “dozen” phone call away. With excuses for not answering but taking the time when they can.
This is the new brand of go-getters. They’ve had pains and heartaches, relationships and loneliness, friends with and without benefits, companions and support systems, who give them a hand when they need it, let them be when they need it. is so necessary. Give space. Yet be there.
I am envious of this generation. They are our future and they govern their today on their own terms. You won’t hear anything that’s going on. They keep secrets in inaccessible chests. No cracking passwords or keys at all. Mom is the word for these guardians. They are strong and careful.
This generation is in no hurry to get married. Ranked columns are full, matchmaker fees have reached seven figures, and the hunt is taking place on seven continents and islands, because Punjabi is everywhere, just like potato and onion.
The other day, while watching a series on Indian matchmaking, I was stunned by this idea of aging single adults on the threshold of 40s. Anxious that their productive life of raising babies is ending and therefore in a strange dilemma. Do I marry any of the biographical data I get from the aunt, or do I keep searching the parched pastures of Tinder and Bumble?
THE LATER, THE BETTER
The race to find a match on foreign shores is certainly the first choice among most Ambarsari go-getters. This search for suitable partners also results in a lower end in the age spectrum beyond the late thirties. The consequence is the adoption of innovative technologies. The desperation to freeze sperm and eggs, or even find living partners, and the advent of surrogacy for those past childbearing age. It’s a new era for sure and things beyond perception are happening. Ask Priyanka and Jonas.
As a society, we are still prudish about these things. But change is on the anvil. Children are certainly getting married much later these days, if at all. They want to empower themselves and ensure their employability. This is true for both genders and since they are activated independently, family pressures are distant, weak and easily eliminated. In this quest lies the desire to ensure the meeting of minds, moving in and maintaining all the options. They don’t take “Chance pe Dance”. They may be thinking in a more mature way than we ever have as a passing generation.
My nephew visited us recently with his lovely partner. I had an interesting conversation with them and found the level of honesty shared between the two refreshing even for my archaic mindset. Just as the thought of live relationships has been frowned upon for eons, it has been on two different levels. The upper echelons of society never really cared, and neither did the slum dwellers. Established norms of social etiquette are mostly framed for mid-walkers. On the other hand, young people have thought about it quite differently from the generation minus one of any contemporary era, and this is not a new phenomenon for society. Remember Amrita Pritam who was famous for her deep love and yet the duo did not cement their bond.
However, in this quest also hides a concern. What if you want kids or have one by accident? I asked this question to my nephew. He said he and his partner talked about it. Besides whether they were willing to raise an illegitimate child (by today’s societal norm and definition), the definitive answer was that we would talk about this situation when the time came. Fair enough, I guess.
Habits, preferences, our social environment, even our tolerances change. In this age of flexibility, neutrality, and gender fluidity, there’s a lot going on. A recognition of the tendencies with which one is born is accepted and not frowned upon. They may still be taboo though in open social display.
THE RAINBOW GENERATION
A discussion among friends the other day about how these relationships were handled sensitively in the movie Cobalt Blue brought to mind a child who converted to the opposite sex through extensive surgery. Imagine being a woman in a man’s body. How claustrophobic it must be. Fortunately in the case of this city child, the parents were understanding and she is now a woman through and through. She is accepted by society, parties and happy for once in her life.
LGBTQ is a fact of life. Like it or not, alternate lives have descended upon us and are likely to remain. When one makes an honest effort to understand the current situation, further revelations begin to flow. Let independent children living alone have no qualms about such relationships, which can fall like skeletons from the closets over time, if fellowship goes to the next level. But we see that staggered choices are becoming the norm. Perhaps taking the western dating route, where you enter into a relationship with another one step at a time, leading to a move-in situation that may or may not last, and then some sort of partnership of appropriate life open to parents interactivity.And finally, the thought of marriage.
But that’s one end of the spectrum. There’s that other end of those business communities that start looking for matches for their pretty girls when they hit puberty and make sure they’re married between 18 and 21. Their responsibility thus done and dusted off, the parents then sit down and wait for the grandchildren while still in their fifties. Power to them too. Who are we to judge?
Nevertheless, in this slow-moving frontier town full of heritage and culture, deep histories and value systems, the old order is changing, slowly moving towards the rapidly changing world around us. But there is no rush to catch up because the values of a balanced existence far outweigh the discordant lifestyle of the metropolis. But we come out of our closed mindsets, come out of the closets, be much less judgmental and embrace change. That’s more than enough for now. Maybe even forever.
(The writer is an Amritsar-based historian, philanthropist and environmentalist who loves all things Amritsari)