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Dilli badal gayi

On Valentine’s Day, we take a look at how Delhi and its approach to love and sex has changed over the past decade..

entertainment Updated: Feb 14, 2011 00:09 IST

Love is to ... marry!
Delhi sure takes its love seriously. 24-year-old Teena Verma knew she wanted to marry her boyfriend Amit Kapoor the day they started dating two years ago. It’s not just her; 63.6% of the overall respondents of the Hindustan Times Youth Survey say they intend to marry their current partners. “In the West, people date a lot of people before they feel they should settle down, but here it is not like that. If I am committed to someone, I am committed for marriage too,” says Saakshi Saagar, 23, an MPhil student. “Society is no longer so conservative that youngsters latch on to the first person they find, out of desperation. Today, if they’re in a public relationship, it’s with someone they actually want to marry,” says Meher Kodlikeri, a TV producer.

Delhi boys want ‘family’ girls
It’s no longer looks or money, or even religion. For the Capital’s grooms, family is the most important criterion. The trend is clearly visible on online matrimonial sites, too. “Earlier, people were focussed on caste and community. Today, family is the key, in terms of socio-economic background as well,” says Gourav Rakshit, business head, Shaadi.com. “There’s Rs 500-600 crore riding on matrimonial sites, of which around 40% is from people with specific preferences. Many want to marry in similar backgrounds,” says Sanjeev Pahwa, CEO, Strikeone Advertising, which runs specialised matrimony portals like bposhaadi.com, govtshaadi.com. Guess today, love really is all about loving your family.

A lot more open to same-sex love
In 2009, the High Court of Delhi amended section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, decriminalising homosexuality. Ever since, the pink rupee has grown from strength to strength, with dedicated shops, special nights at popular clubs, and the colourful Gay Pride Parade, which is attended by hundreds of members of the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) community and their supporters. “Six to seven years ago, life was very different for a gay person in Delhi, but today, there is so much happening for the community,” says Mohnish Malhotra, a gay rights activist.

Delhi’s becoming broadminded
As per a survey conducted by the National Institute of Health and Family Welfare in 2001, only 33% of the working population of the Capital was cool with pre-marital sex then. According to the HT Youth survey 2011, 65.7% see no harm in sex before marriage. That’s not all; 48.8% men say they do not expect their wives to be virgins. A clear upgrade from 2006, when a magazine survey found that 63% men wanted virgin brides.

Talking about this shift in attitude, Dr Deepak Raheja of the Hope Foundation says, “Exposure to the West, where virginity is not a big deal, adds to the permissiveness of society. A few years back, a wife was expected to be a virgin, but men are a lot more practical today.”

But with this permissiveness also comes a casual attitude towards sex, with a lot more people becoming sexually active before 18. The youngest caller to a TARSHI helpline, an NGO dealing with sexual issues, was 12. “Incomplete but instant access to information, internet and SMS are all contributing factors to this attitude,” says Prabha Nagaraja of TARSHI.

In the recent past, Delhi schools have introduced sex education in younger classrooms. Dr Raheja says more and more school students are experimenting with sex. “These days, teenagers don’t associate sex with commitment. For them, it means instant gratification. I have had adolescents coming to me with queries and issues where they want to get sexually involved in just a
week of relationship.”

Happily unmarried
Neha, 27, and Nishant, 28, (name changed on request) have been living together in Indira Vihar, North Delhi, for a year. She is studying by correspondence, while he is working for an MNC. They are from different parts of India, and their parents have no clue about their relationship.

“Our landlord knows that we are not married, but it was never an issue,” says Neha, adding that she was surprised by how hassle-free their house-hunting process was.

“Our friends know, our siblings know, but our parents will never approve, so whenever any of them come visiting, one of us goes and stays with friends,” explains Nishant. He adds that at such times, they go crazy trying to clean the house so that every trace of the other person is gone.

Neha says people like the milkman and the local grocer sometimes make her uncomfortable with insinuations, but by and large, no one sits in moral judgement. “We are practically married, but this is just about the two of us. If we marry, both families will come into the picture and we’re not sure if we want that yet,” she says.

Fidelity in love? Not always
For all that love and commitment, Delhi also had among the highest figures of people who cheated on their partners. Also, according to a recent survey by Outlook Magazine, 40.6% people said Delhi is the best place for flings and one-night stands. For Professor Harijit Singh, School of Social Sciences, JNU, the media is responsible. “TV, movies and literature have made ‘cheating’ a very casual concept. Today, our value system is undergoing a change, there are no more taboos.” “It wasn’t like this a decade ago. In big cities, people are maladjusted and too busy to communicate,” says Dr Rachna Singh, a lifestyle management expert at Artemis Health Institute.

Marriage is forever, but there’s always divorce
They may believe in love, but unfortunately, Delhi is equally sceptical about happily-ever-afters! In fact, 54.6% of the Capital believes that divorce is perfectly acceptable. According to reports, the divorce rate has doubled since 2001. The reasons cited by couples are lack of compatibility and extra-marital affairs.

“Temperamental differences are the main cause of discontent among young couples,” says Aman Sareen, an advocate at the Delhi High Court. Sareen explains that a few years the court had done away with a necessary one-year separation period before a divorce in favour of a quicker divorce. “But, the old clause is back, let’s see if the rate goes down,” he says.

“Families are less rigid, and divorce is no longer a taboo.” says Dr Samir Parekh, chief of department of mental health at Max Healthcare hospital. Saanya Sharma, 26 (name changed on request), who is tying the knot later this year, says, “If there are problems, we can call the marriage off and no one will judge us. Divorce is perfectly acceptable now.”