Poly movement arising in India
The concept of modern polyamory has been spreading in India. Here's a story out yesterday in DNA India ("Daily News & Analysis"), plus a few others.
Polyamory: When three is not a crowd
Ganesh Gamare / Thinkstock
By Pooja Bhula | Mumbai
As the buzz around polyamory gets louder and Valentine’s day gets closer, Pooja Bhula pieces together the whole picture of romance in committed, consensual, non-monogamous relationships
Movies, pop culture and some romantic literature have familiarised us with love triangles – the kind where love is mutual only between two. As sad as you may feel for the one left out and wonder why it's called a 'love' triangle at all when the third person gets none, you accept that, that's how it works....
But increasingly, researchers worldwide are suggesting that the future of love, and possibly even marriage, lies in polyamory, literally meaning 'many loves'. Some dictionaries call it the 'practice of engaging in multiple sexual relationships with the consent of all involved', but those in 'polys' short for polyamorous relationships, say it's not just about sex. They have a deep, emotional commitment to all partners.
Mumbai-based Richa Ruia*, who's in her second poly triad, narrates her story:
Two polys, her true story
We met through Twitter. *Soham and I had similar taste in movies, music, jokes...even our ideas of love matched. Back then, in 2014, I didn't even know the word polyamory, but we discussed things like feeling strongly about two people simultaneously, the genuineness of emotions, how sex would fit into it, whether it's right or wrong and society's perceptions. And then we agreed we'd date others too. Our interest in others needn't have to mean less interest in each other; sometimes other people just tap into different aspects of your personality.
A few months later, *Aditya and I fell in "love at first sight". He and Soham had common friends. A traditional relationships person, Aditya had to grapple with the reality that I wouldn't be exclusive. Initially, I tried pushing back, worried poly may be a negative experience for him. But he appreciated my honesty and genuineness enough to give it a shot, take the risk.
Though Aditya made peace with it, some of his friends were bent on proving that "Richa's only there for the sex". But these very friends had no qualms with Soham's short affair; he wasn't boycotted from parties like I was because "he's got that reputation anyway". Thankfully, others tried to understand and not be judgemental. I've long questioned the way people look at women, and also studied gender and culture...society is steeped in slut shaming, labels and stereotypes. Why would it spare me?
In September, I moved to London for my master's. ... But I still believed in the purity of emotions we'd all shared and also in poly, which I had arrived at organically in my search of a model that made sense for the person I am. ...
Is polyamory really the future?
Before we deal with that, let's ask whether it's for everyone. No it seems. Ten to 12 of clinical psychologist Nandita Sarma's clients, who visit her for varying reasons, are polyamourous. Based on their interactions, she says, "Polys require a lot of maturity as they involve a lot of emotion, stress and exploration. You not only deal with all partners' baggages, but also their ambitions, families, friends...everyone can't handle it."
Polyamory Facebook groups are widespread – from the Philippines and Venezuela to Switzerland and Australia. Spiritual counsellor Rohit Juneja, who started one called Polyamory India in 2017, also agrees that polys are not for everyone. "Most people merely want status quo in their relationships. Polyamory isn't for them. Nor for those who want to fall in love. It's for those who want to rise in love and seek a deep, unbreakable bond."
Married, separated, polyamory-experienced and now single, Juneja is equally open to monogamy. Having moved to San Diego years ago, he explains why polys have caught on like wildfire in the West. "Fifty per cent people cheat in long-term relationships. Some stopped to think: what's happening? Many feel attracted to others despite being in relationships. Poly allows you to share it with your partner (s), removing guilt from the equation. No one has to live a fake life."
That said, in Sarma's experience, people feel "confused" and jealous, which seems only natural as is the case in monogamous relationships. But many in polys experience 'compersion'. ...
With research observing benefits of polyamory, and reports forecasting it as the future of love, dating and even families, you hope openness and freedom will prevent breakups or reduce divorce rates. But it may, or may not.
"Polyamory can't resolve problems existing in a relationship, it would worsen matters," says Sarma....
...Won't this lead to unmarried partners feeling secondary? Juneja nods, "It's possible. That's why many follow relationship anarchy. But a certificate can't hold people together. You could be married today and divorced tomorrow. It's like having kids. To be fair, you must love them all equally."
The whole article (February 12, 2017).
The article goes on to plug 3 on a Bed, "India's first polyamoric film," and to list the names of several Indian Facebook groups:
Polyamory India (support group)
Polyamory India (study group)
LGBT Polyamory India.
● A long feature article ran last month in Outlook India, a leading newsmagazine: Nimble Feet And Open Hearts (Jan. 2, 2017):
Somak Biswas and, in motion, Prachi Singh (Photo: Narendra Bisht)
By Stuti Agarwal
Seated in a quaint little coffee house in the heart of south Delhi, Prachi Singh and Somak Biswas could, in some ways, pass for just another dating, doting couple, one of many that seem to have taken up permanent residence on the lounge chairs of coffee bars. And yet, in the dull winter light that frames their steaming cups of coffee, it’s easy to see that there’s an indefinable, inexplicable spark to their relationship. Perhaps it’s just the way they lean into each other as they bantered. ... So, what’s their secret?
Well, says a smiling Somak, it’s an “open secret”. The fact is he and she are in an “open relationship”.
The concept of polyamory — loosely, of a relationship where three (or more!) partners isn’t a crowd — isn’t easy to grasp. But the way Somak disassembles it, it begins to make sense. Sort of. His words could almost make for a First Law of Polyamory. “I believe we are capable of loving more than one person at a time,” he says. “Every person fills a different space, and to try making one person fit all the boxes has its problems.”
...“The new understanding is that one person cannot bring everything to a relationship,” claims relationship counsellor Sanjoy Mukherjee.... “An open relationship is an understanding between two people who are equal, devoid of any hypocrisy and are making their own rules,” says social scientist Shiv Visvanathan. People are increasingly looking to experiment and break the shackles of what is perceived as normalcy, he reasons.
...But experimenting is, by definition, an act that accepts risks — and the new adherents of polyamory in India would gladly go for emotional risks they can be responsible for. “Like every relationship, open ones too have teething problems,” says Sudha Mehta, who has been in an open relationship, with one partner, for five years. And unlike with traditional one-on-one relationships, this has no set rules. “We make our own rules,” says Sudhir Rao, who is in an early-stage open relationship. In fact, this is what many people in open relationships find liberating: everything from start to finish is an experiment. “When I came to Delhi from Lucknow, I wanted to try out everything, including this new, simpler understanding of relationships,” says Prachi....
...Most often, there is only one rule: honesty. “The foundation is great friendship and a shared camaraderie, so we share everything,” believes Sudhir. He candidly admits to dropping his partner [off] to other guys, or picking her up late at night from their houses....
Of course, couples in open relationships make up the rules as they go along. And those rules vary from couple to couple.
...They aren’t the first ones to do it. Older instances of open marriages are not entirely unknown — such as the celebrated one involving Kuchipudi dancers Raja, Radha and Kaushalya Reddy. “I fell in love with my brother-in-law and proposed to him,” reminisces Kaushalya. Her sister Radha agreed, but laid down one condition: “You can marry him, but not dance with him.” It was perhaps their own ‘open relationship’ rule, but it’s one that Kaushalya has lingering regrets over. “My sister got married to Rajaji when they were very young,” she says. “They ran away together to build a career in dance, so I can never share the understanding they have, but I get infinite love from both.”
...Yet, the lessons from the Sandstone Retreat experiment [in 1960s California] still hold. The first trouble is how widely misunderstood the idea appears to be. “Our friends called us horny and judge us for it even after years,” says Sudha. Prachi and Somak face the same stereotyping. Ironically, almost everyone in an open relationship tends not to tell their families of their arrangement. ... And just as the Gay Talese parable showed, open relationships are not immune to notions of jealousy. “I fear every time he becomes more emotionally connected with someone other than me,” adds Sudha.
...As with any relationship, existential questions abound. But they meet the questions with cheerful defiance.... Hours into the conversation with Prachi and Somak, the concept of an open relationship still seems other-worldly. But then, it fell in place in a flash. As Prachi explained her encounters with other people, she lamented the difficulty in finding girls who are “open”. I mention that a bisexual friend of mine was having much the same trouble. “You should hook these two up then,” interjected Somak. And I did, right there. That open-hearted nimbleness, in a nutshell, was what open relationships are about.
● Two good articles recently appeared on a popular health-information site:
Dos and don’ts of polyamorous relationships (Jan. 20, 2017)
Polyamorous relationships – it’s not all about sex (Jan. 20, 2017)
● There have been more. Here are all my posts tagged "India/South Asia" (including this one; scroll down). I'm sure it's very incomplete.
Labels: India/South Asia