Dating does (and should) lead to marraige say teens
An intrinsic part of urban youth subculture in a conservative country like India today is dating. In fact, an overwhelming number of youngsters from various social backgrounds date, with or without permission from parents. And it isn’t even that clandestine anymore…dating has come out of the closet!
No to arranged marraiges
Interestingly, the majority of middle-class Indian youngsters who date seem to do it because they want to find a life partner as they do not trust the arranged marraige system. Most of them say they date simply to find the ‘right person to marry.’
Dating by itself, a concept imported from the west, is considered ‘totally normal’ and ‘absolutely necessary’, even by those youngsters who come from conservative families…as long as it’s not casual! As Anuradha Narayanan, a Tamil Iyengar put is, ‘It’s the only way of getting to know a boy,’ and it is ‘unfortunate that society disapproves of it.’ Srivatsa Gowda, a medical student, who dates regularly, feels more strongly about this. ‘How else will I find a partner of my choice?’ he asks. He feels that his traditional parents are likely to find him a homely bride, whereas he is looking for ‘intellectual type who is career-minded.’
Everyone wants to date
Those young people who did not date at all, admit that it is more due to a lack of opportunity rather than any aversion to dating. Anuradha for example regrets that ‘she has not met the right sort of person,’ while Vinod Sinnas, a shy final year engineering student says, ‘I have to feel very strongly about a girl before I can ask her out.’
Dating has consquences
In fact, most boys and girls seemed to take the business of dating very seriously indeed. ‘One has to be serious,’ says Ratna Isaac, a second year Arts student, ‘if you go out with a guy you are giving out messages that you are interested. If he gets the wrong impression, there could be some unpleasant consequences.’
A very mature statement, considering that this is coming from a 17-year old. She understands that while Indian society has started to turn a blind eye to dating…it frowns upon boys and girls meeting just to to have ‘fun.’
In fact, dating does appear to be a prelude to marriage for many youngsters. They look upon every girl as a prospective bride, even if it does not eventually work out. ‘I want to take a girl out because I want to get to know her from the point of veiw of marrying her, not just to hang out and have a good time,’ says Srivatsa.
For Maya Nagaraja, who is from a very conservative Kannadiga family, going on a date was a major decision. ‘I was terrified at first, but when I realised that he had good intentions, and wanted to marry me, I started meeting him.’
Then there’s Suniti, who comes from an Army background, and is westernised and well-to-do. She regularly hangs out with her best friend (a boy) in college. However, she has not gone out on a ‘date’ with him alone even once! ‘If I go out with him I am telling him that I am serious…and as he is serious I don’t want to take this step.’ Commitments, she says, scare her. Aditi, a final year Arts student says, ‘I get scared because boys seem to fall in love and want to marry you after just two dates!’
Some date to have a good time
Ofcourse there are youngsters who have a different viewpoint and a different reason for dating. ‘Look I don’t know whether I am going to marry the girl I am going steady with or not,’ says Ashirwad Sequeira, a second year student. In fact this is the second time he has been in a ‘steady’ relationship, the first one breaking up after two years. Ashirwad also comes from an affluent, westernised family and feels he is lucky that his family does not disapprove.
It’s usually a secret
On the other hand youngsters from conservative families (rich or middle-class) usually date without their parents’ knowledge. As Srivatsa says candidly, ‘There is no chance of bringing girls home as the parents are very orthodox.’ At the same time he sees nothing wrong with dating, even it means hiding it from his parents. For him, it is a question of finding the right partner.
At times those from conservative families only start dating once they leave home. Originally from Bangalore, Maya says she met her boyfriend while staying at a hostel in Mumbai, away from the watchful eyes of her mother. Today she has a steady relationship with him and they plan to marry after a few years. Maya’s hostel mate, Nirmala, who is from Dharwad, also goes out with boys but admits that the ‘parents haven’t a clue.’
Where do they go?
But where do these youngsters go, knowing that in Indian cities, cuddling couples are looked down upon? Well, it’s either cinema halls, restaurants, public places and perhaps parks. Ashirwad says he hates the idea of parks. But then, he can always bring his girl-friend home. Another college student, Rohit Dave, says he would never consider a public place. ‘One can always park somewhere,’ he says. He has access to a car but few youngsters have the luxury of hanging out in their own cars or in the privacy of their own home
Couples from middle class families have no choice to go to a public place and suffer the consequences. These kids have to not only dodge their parents, but cops too.
What about pre-marital sex?
But what of the physical aspect? Do the couples really beyond the kissing and petting? Well, some do, but pre-marital sex is still talked about in hushed tones. Girls do not want others to know if they sleep with their boyfriends. Tina, a young married working woman confessed that she slept with her present husband before they married as they had got ‘carried away’ and she became pregnant. Luckily for her, they had already planned to get married, so it was just a case of pre-poning the date.
Though pre-marital sex is not considered wrong or immoral, it is taken very seriously. Says young Ratna. ‘If you really love and trust a guy then it’s OK,’ she feels. ‘Only dumb girls get into trouble.’ Her mother, who is a doctor, gives her complete freedom. ‘Go ahead and do what you feel is right,’ she has told her children. ‘As long as your conscience is clear. If you make a mistake, you have to deal with it.’ However, the doctor admits that she has to face a lot of flak from other parents about these ideas but she is firm in her belief that her way of bringing up her kids is right. In fact she believes that her children have ‘turned out well,’ while it’s the kids from conservative families ‘who are far wilder.’
Wide social ramifications
In India however it is not only the physical aspect that youngsters have to worry about. They have to worry about caste, religion and the long-term consequences of their partnerships. Finally, when they present their future partners to their parents, the choice may not be approved.
But whether the older generation likes it or not, it is a fact that today young people are quite clear that neither the law, the society, nor their parents can stop them from dating. Arranged marraiges for them are the last resort.
Note: This article was published some years ago in The Times of India, Bangalore. Since then dating has become even more widespread in the cities. Casual relationships are also on the rise. And both boys and girls seem to be able to take the conseqences far better than their counterparts in small cities.
Related Reading:It is possible to arrange love
Why some people do not marry
Internet marraige bureaus offer hope to thousands
Research shows that Indian youngsters are traditional
Problems faced by single mothers
Why secretiveness about sex can be unhealthy
Beware of the regressive attitudes of some men
Indians have as much sex as the rest of the world!