Live in Relationship

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Status check: Live-in relationships

Oct 18, 2012, 12.00AM IST

Nona Walia, TNN

Tags: Test drive | taboo | pooja bhatt | Pooja Bedi | journey | Freida Pinto | dev patel | Brad Pitt | Angelina Jolie | Abhay Deol

They may have started off as a bold alternative to the institution of marriage, but live-ins these days are mostly a test drive for couples before they tie the knot. Nona Walia finds out why.

The poster-couple for live-in relationships, Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt, has triggered the 'wedding' debate, by flashing identical £500,000 diamond-encrusted wedding bands on their

(Status check: Live-in relationships )

fingers recently. Rumours are rife that after seven years of togetherness and six kids, they have finally decided to walk down the aisle. Once known to be fierce advocators of livein relationships, the couple's U-turn has surprised many fans, especially the ones who believe live-in relationships are a form of permanent co-existence rather than a stopgap arrangement before marriage. Times may have changed, but marriage still seems to be the Holy Grail for couples, even for liberal ones like Jolie-Pitt.

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"Why just Brangelina? Even gay couples want to get married. I think it's because marriage is seen as the ultimate commitment. You literally vow to be together, usually before witnesses, presumably with divine benediction and hopefully for life," says Jhoomur Bose, author of Confessionally Yours. She lives in with her partner and has a daughter.

Director-producer Mahesh Bhatt's mother was in a live-in relationship with his father at a time when society had no tolerance for it. He says, "My mother even told my daughter ( Pooja Bhatt) that she need not be married to have children." But he does agree that marriage is hard to resist even for the most liberal-minded. "The institution of marriage has succeeded in selling the notion of impossible love, and a normal life that everyone craves. Our society believes that marriage ties you to your soulmate for many lifetimes, and that's a thought tough to resist, whether one's a celebrity or not," he says.

Last year, social researchers Maureen Baker and Vivienne Elizabeth from New Zealand interviewed long-term, live-in couples to find out if they really wanted to get married, only to discover that they did — the two main reasons were (i) children and (ii) the joy of going public with the relationship.

Dentist Neelima Khanna, 25, has been living in Gurgaon with her partner, Karan, 30, for the last three years. She says, "I don't see myself living in permanently. I'd be lying if I said I don't think about getting married in a few years."

In conservative Indian society, live-ins hardly get approval even now. Recently, in the television serial, Balika Vadhu, when writer Purnendu Shekhar showed the protagonist Jagya living together with Gauri, the cast was inundated with hate mails. Says Shekhar, "I learnt a big lesson — that living together is still a big taboo and marriage is sacred. There are couples who live together even in India, but wear mangalsutra and sindoor for societal acceptance."

Author Shobhaa De believes an apt way to describe live-in relationships in India would be "a test-drive period before marriage. It has to do with greater social acceptability, both from the family and the community".

Actress Freida Pinto moved in with her boyfriend and fellow actor Dev Patel a while ago, in Los Angeles. Abroad, it may be a little easier to find acceptance as a live-in couple, but as the Pitt-Jolie case proves, marriage is ultimately on everyone's mind. Actor Pooja Bedi says, "Marriage means commitment of a...
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