The Burden of Honor Monday, Mar 3 2008 

The burden of honor is more on the shoulders of women than men in India.

A man can err and it’s tolerated, but not so in the case of a woman. Her conduct is always scrutinized and no digression is tolerated or goes unpunished.

She’s required to conduct herself in accordance with all sorts of beliefs and practices regarding honor. If an unfortunate incident that could cast doubt on her honor occurs, the blame will never go. She’ll bear it all her life and suffer.

The great Indian epic Ramayana was created to tell the story of the most heroic, virtuous and perfect man, a man who protects Dharma (righteousness) under all circumstances, and therefore worthy of respect and adoration by all.

Rama, the hero of Ramayana, faces all sorts of trying situations and emerges victorious. His wife Sita willingly follows his footsteps and endures more. The demon king Ravana abducts Sita and carries her away. Rama kills him in a fierce battle and rescues her.

Rama returns to Ayodhya, the capital of his kingdom, to begin his reign with Sita as queen beside him.

But, for Sita it’s the beginning of another ordeal!

She undergoes an ordeal of fire to prove her chastity. Still the people of Ayodhya remain unconvinced and continue to doubt her. They wondered, “How can a woman who’d been in the custody of her abductor for months be chaste and pure? How can Rama, the protector of Dharma accept her?”

In the end Rama abandons her in the forest so that his subjects no longer doubt and question their king’s sense of righteousness!

Bastards No Longer! Wednesday, Feb 27 2008 

Live-in relationship is becoming common in India today. Economic boom, job opportunities for women and the lure of urban life have contributed to it.

Parents who have accepted ‘working woman’ status for their daughters and reluctantly let them go and live in a city alone and away from family are a worried lot today.

Indian society, which stigmatizes even love marriage, is grappling with the phenomenon of live-in relationship and searching for ways to deal with it.

But what surprises me most is the courage of these couples to prefer live-in relationship to marriage and face their parents and society firmly.

In a recent landmark judgment the Supreme Court of India has given legal protection to live-in relationship and legitimacy to children born of it. The court has said that such a relationship between a man and a woman is not a state of “concubinage”.

The ruling gives legitimacy to and upholds the property rights of children born of couples who have lived together for long. The court frowns upon inference of bastardy.

It’s a remarkable judgment and I hope it’ll encourage live-in couples to have children. They don’t have to fear the stigma of their children being bastards: They are legitimate in the eyes of law, at least.

But the Supreme Court cannot force societal acceptance of live-in couples and their children through its ruling. Ours is not an enlightened society. Custom and tradition have strong hold on it and most people feel safe following them.