BOOK REVIEW: SUNDAY HERALD/INDIA IN LOVE by IRA TRIVEDI



                                                        



                                               Wedding and bedding

A close look at how young India is doing in suchlike matters



India in Love...Marriage and Sexuality in the 21st Century
By Ira Trivedi/Aleph Book Company/Rs 595/Pages 416




                                            


Don’t be thrown by the self-important title of the book. Ira Trivedi has chronicled the wooing/ wedding/ bedding patterns of India in systematic fashion and the result is a highly readable book. Even as I have to state that I’m not sure if any radical or new light has been thrown on suchlike matters, the reader comes away with a clear picture of how matters stand.  

The usual suspects show up here, from Dr Prakash Kothari  to Sudhir Kakar to Ashok Row Kavi. What they say corroborates Trivedi’s first-hand observations. Which basically,  is boiled down to the fact that women continue to be sexual capital in India.

Here and there, dismal stats jump out at the reader in an informing but not overwhelming manner. The  adult product market is pegged at Rs 1,377 crore; 70 per cent of gay men still get married; 90 % of sex workers` (2.5 million and counting) daughters become sex workers; however, 80% of prostitutes surveyed entered the profession of their own volition; women and children get raped every 20 minutes in India; there are a whopping 20 million who are logged onto matrimonial websites; three out of five Indians would still pay dowry; in 2010, 8,391 dowry deaths were reported and revealingly, 94% of Indians say they are happy in their marriage but would not marry the same person if given a second chance.

Here and there, again, awkward sentence constructs show up but it is the authentic voice of Trivedi, so does not take anything away from the narrative.  A man is described as being well-oiled (and no, he isn’t in bed); elsewhere we meet someone of silky refinement. People toss back glasses instead of drinks, they get `somewhat of a shock`; I unsuccessfully probe him, the author says, in unwittingly  suggestive fashion, and this reviewer winced every time that quaint term `love cum arranged marriage ` cropped up, which it did a couple of times. To offset that, there are immediate- impact sentences like `a richly caparisoned lady;`  girls are described with complexions as fair as fresh milk.

Trivedi explains the lasting relevance of the apt term nibhana in the context of relationships, mainly marriage. Marriage, she says,  is at the end of the day, a matter of staying the course, of adapting, of living not only for yourself but for your family. This is increasingly clashing with the carefully nurtured sense of individuality found in most young people today. And that is the crux of the book.

In about 500 interviews across the country, Trivedi talks to IT professionals, pop singers, prostitutes, pimps, farmers, dilettantes, wannabes, an orthodox Qazi, sex toyshop owners, NGOs, sex clinic `doctors,`  brides and grooms at a mass wedding, marriage brokers, swingers, even a group of Love Commandos. The topics covered include voyeurism, homosexuality, sexual abuse, love marriages, open marriages, living together, conflicted sexuality in the Northeast, blue films, rape and violence, khaps, divorce and adultery, a way over- the- top Big Fat Indian Wedding …and that `lollapalooza of a woman, Savita bhabhi. . The underbelly is laid bare even as those who break with meaningless traditions are given their voice.

I find the juxtaposition of concepts in the title interesting because the author goes on to prove in quite a few instances that sexuality is not a corollary to  marriage.  However, Trivedi is anything but overtly judgmental; in fact, she is candid about her own journey on the same road, which works to the advantage of the book, making it a readable mix of anecdotal and researched  material.   Even as the multifold wrappings of hypocrisy come off the charpai, convention, tradition and old taboos still rule the roost in many areas.

It’s not quite an academic study, but not a titillating ride, either. The topic has been deconstructed with deceptive ease, tackled without any squeamishness, and with quite a bit of empathy. There is no leavening humor but the reader won’t miss it, some of the case histories carry unintended humour. The swingers club section has the reader smiling ruefully at concepts that haven’t quite taken off,  so come off seeming tawdry as hell. Under `Drinking habits` in a matrimonial ad, the usual statement, of course,  is a virtuous: Non-consumer.

As Anjali Gopalan of Naz Foundation succinctly puts it to Trivedi: we are in transition, a state of flux, a state of molten confusion.  So.  Is there a sexual revolution underway? Well let’s put it this way: picture abhi baki hain.


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