“Why Don’t You Get Married Already?”

The meaning of family, marriage and love has changed.Is that a cause for concern or an opportunity to grow?

“I feel more prepared to have a kid than to get married,” one of my friends recently told me.“I might just adopt one somewhere down the line with a friend. Two boys raising a child.”

“Why do you want to raise a baby with a friend? If help is what you need, why don’t you look at community support?”I asked.

“No, it’ll be like a friendship thing–two single guys taking friendship to another level; revolting against the concept of marriage,” he responded.

This wasn’t the first time I had heard someone revolt against the concept of marriage. I have come across many people trying to find alternate systems that move beyond the conventional idea of matrimony and partners–from peers from my generation, to friends who have been married for a few decades, all present both positive and negative perspectives on marriage. However, this was the first time I had heard a single, straight guy tell me he wanted to raise a child with another heterosexual man. Though I had my doubts about the practicality of this proposition today, I was struck by the nonchalance with which such a subversive idea was expressed–Did he really feel more comfortable taking on the responsibility of a child, rather than sharing his life with another adult? Did he not worry about how his family or the society at large would react to such a thing?Was he so secure in his gender, and in his friendship, that he could fantasise about such a future with abandon?After all, in doing so, he was not only revolting against the idea of marriage, but also the conventional idea of love and companionship, that has been the driver of most modern matrimonies.

As it turns out, his inclination to abandon that system might not be unique.

The number of people to get a divorce or separate from their partners nearly doubled between 2001 and 2011, the latest Census of India figures showed. Similarly, the number of one-member households–households that comprise of people who have either chosen single hood, or have divorced or separated from their partners for various reasons, including migrating for work, grew by nearly 22lakh in number across the country in the same time period.All this while the growth in nuclear families showed a downward trend in the urban areas of the country.A report in Quartz India on this data concluded that the “Indian society might be beginning the third arc in the fragmentation of the family unit: from joint families to nuclear families to disparate set ups.”

Prior to the Industrial Revolution, he states, all needs of an individual were provided for by family and friends: “The family was also the welfare system, the health system, the education system, the construction industry, the trade union, the pension fund, the insurance company, the radio, the television, the newspapers, the bank and even the police.” However, as resources and powers of the state and the market increased, so did their intervention inmost of these activities. By providing for most needs, these institutions replaced the family and community, thus creating fractures in the bonds that kept individuals connected to them. This is not to say that previously the bonds with the community meant more love between individuals, Harari adds. It simply means that post the industrial revolution, children have grown up believing that the state or the market would provide for all their needs, and in order to be eligible for those provision, they have to become worthy–by becoming capable workers for the state or the market. One’s deeper affiliation for survival, therefore, is not so much to their family, as it is to the economic and/or administrative structure they are a part of, and in turn, to themselves.

Does that make us a loveless society? I think not.

On the contrary, this might have enhanced the meaning of love. Instead of presenting itself as a need for survival, love is now a choice, an exploration of what all companionship can be.In the age of shared economy, our attitude towards ownership and stability have naturally changed. A large portion of the youth now does not understand or feel comfortable being tied down by the proverbial ball and chain, and the current social system is such that breaking off from this tradition presents no real harm to the sanctity of society. Our economic or social systems will not collapse if people don’t circle around fire while promising to stay together till eternity, or by signing a piece of paper that legally compels them to do so. With increasing accessibility to knowledge and skills, today we can give birth and nurture in more fulfilling ways than one. We do not need to invest in another person anymore to secure the basic needs of our lives. Now, we stay with them because they add something else to our lives–pure emotional and moral support. We have moved beyond marriage, because we don’t feel the need for it anymore. This is not disenchantment with love and companionship, but rather a fresh appreciation of it

There are still many who continue to feel safe and secure in a marital setup.And that is also fine.We have simply arrived at a time where the option of choosing either lifestyles has become viable, and many are deflecting. Let us not be afraid of this change, or resist it for the sake of maintaining order in society. Beliefs are changing, as they always do, and we are only arriving at something better suited to the times and temperaments. The socio-economic structures have already changed. Let us not get left behind in the name of saving tradition. After all, as Aldous Huxley wrote in ‘Brave NewWorld’, “One believes things because one has been conditioned to believe them.” The question is, are we ready to reimagine our conception?

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