August in India has for the last 70 years always been associated with Freedom and Independence. The colours are all around us, there are flags being sold everywhere and even restaurants are putting up buffets with the flag’s colours. It has become quite a day of celebration and soon we will probably have street parties and community fireworks like the Americans do on their fourth of July holiday with family picnics, city level parades and all the other razzmatazz.
This year in India is a little different with the actions on August 5th around Ladakh, Jammu and Kashmir and how it is polarizing the nation, with disbelief and shock on one side at the sudden and abrupt turn of events with the terms of engagement changing literally overnight, and on another side, people rejoicing on how they would now get to marry certain people and what not. It would be the rare person in India who has not been thinking about what these actions mean for them and the country.
For me, it also set me thinking on how love and freedom work. Specifically, what freedoms does one get when you agree to be in a relationship, and what freedoms does one willingly forego? Are relationships in general, and marriages in particular, an agreement with many stated contractual terms and as many unstated terms and conditions?
Certainly, love and relationships are built on a certain kind of give and take.
People typically pledge to have a loyalty in the relationship, to the exclusion of their individual freedom to have similar loyalties to others. They pledge to be with each other in sickness and in health, for richer or poorer and so on, giving away the freedom to walk away when things are inconvenient or uncomfortable, with the promise that there is a mutuality in this. The freedoms given away are not for nothing, and one expects them to be respected and if all goes well, life is good. People make all sorts of decisions. Some forego property, careers, best friends and what not for the sake of love. Others give away citizenships. Many let go of their freedom to travel alone or hike in groups to travel only with each other.
Then again, there are situations like in a Confessions post that went viral a couple of months ago about two people who fell in love and married, and when they had a child, the mother quit work to stay home with the understanding that the mother was free to get back to work after a couple of years, but the father, having gotten used to having someone home, conspired to find ways to keep that freedom away from the mother, including trying to force a second pregnancy without the consent of this person, and certainly without any indication of their intention.
In contexts like this, would we still say it is love, when one partner snatches away the freedoms of a beloved without their full and informed consent?
As written for The New Indian Express
Ajanta, Mahesh and other InnerSight counsellors and guest contributors are happy to share their thoughts here.