“As we get older, it is said, we adhere to our “old ways of life”. Not really! It is all a matter of how we perceive life.
Now take the ancient concept of marriage.
It is said that the social concept of marriage between a man and woman has existed for ages and most of us (of the older generation, at least) are supposed to be comfortable with this ancient ritual. But how are we viewing the “next generation” of marriages? Let’s take a look:
“Aaji Sunti Ho? (Dear, do you hear?)”, I shouted at my wife from my study. Of course I knew that she could hear me. She was in the bathroom next to the study and even the exhaust fan had been turned off. It was only my way of addressing her to give her any news that I might have from the emails that I received every morning on my computer. This was more or less our daily morning routine. She took an early bath and I took an early look at my computer emails every morning at about 7 AM.
She was sprawled naked in her bathtub taking a leisurely bath, as she did every morning. She purposely left the bathroom door open so that she could hear me give her the “daily-news”.
“Yes, what’s new?” She too shouted, again as usual, from her liquid-soap sudsy bathtub.
“I just got an email from our Urmil in Atlanta that her daughter, Neelam, just gave a “scheduled” birth to a son on July 4th”, I said to her, lowering my voice to a conversation, now that I had her attention.
“What do you mean Neelam gave birth? . . .” my wife retorted, sort of really showing surprise, “. . . I thought Neelam was a lesbian and had “married” another woman in the Caribbean just last February?”
“Oh dear, no need to be surprised. Nai Nai reet chali duniya mai, sun tabiyat ghabrati hai! (New, new, mores’ are moving in the world, just thinking about them shakes the mind!)”, I said, philosophizing, as usual.
It was a bit surprising news at first, but it was not less surprising when we had first heard last February that Urmil’s daughter, Neelam, was going to be “married” to a “white” girl, Suzy, in a “Hindu” ceremony somewhere in the Caribbean. Our daughter, who was a friend of Neelam, had been invited, along with her husband, to the ceremony, and had actually gone to the “wedding”!.
It was a “Hindu” wedding, with a Hindu “priestess” (instead of a priest), with about 8 or 10 of Neelam’s friends, three of whom were married (to men!) and even their husbands were there. Also, there were Neelam’s parents, Urmil and her divorced husband, Gunvant Desai, who had come especially from India.
It seems that Neelam was 5 months “pregnant” when she was “married” to Suzy in February. She had got an “in-vitro” fertilization done at a doctor’s office, having “bought” the “sperm” from a sperm-bank.
We had known Urmil and Gunvant for nearly 25-30 years now. When we first met them, Gunvant worked in the aerospace industry and Urmil was a medical doctor in a local hospital. I really don’t remember how we had first met, but most probably, the proximity of our houses, the fact that they too had two kids of practically the same age as our kids, and with similar tastes and habits, had brought our two families together and we had become family friends. Over the years our relationship with them waxed and waned and was nearly broken when Urmil and Gunvant divorced after nearly 35 years of marriage. Their 2 daughters were in their early 20’s when they divorced and we heard that the divorce was due to Gunvant’s propensity to gamble that caused the divorce. Anyway, we kept in touch even after they divorced. Our contact was primarily with Urmil as she had kept their “old” house and Gunvant had just taken off for India. We heard from other common friends that Gunvant had joined a religious organization somewhere in some hill-station in the Himalayas and lived there as a “sanyasi” (one who has renounced the world), but we were rather skeptical about this as we did not know him as being too religious when we knew him!
Anyway, it was really Neelam’s friendship with our daughter that kept us, more or less, up-to-date of the happenings in Urmil and Gunvant Desai’s life.
Neelam was nearly 3 years older to our daughter, Geeta. They had first been in the same school when they were young and Neelam was very protective of Geeta. Later, they both were on the School and College debate and mock-trial teams and we knew right from their High School and College activities that they would both end up in the legal profession. We had always felt that Neelam was a “bit” strange and it was much later when both Neelam and Geeta had passed the California Bar Exams that Geeta mentioned to us that Neelam was a lesbian.
Mores, customs, and ideas are ever changing. When I was growing up in even a cosmopolitan city like Bombay in India in the early 1950’s, lesbian and gay relationships were not even mentioned. If such relationships existed, they were “hidden” and not even discussed in even “private” conversations. In fact, friendships between people of the same sex were encouraged, much more so amongst females than males. But there was no mention or insinuations of any sexual involvement between the friends. In fact, my parents vehemently objected to a “friendship” between one of my female siblings with another person of the opposite sex while they encouraged the friendship of another female sibling with another female, though the female friend had many male characteristics!
Anyway, those were the mores and times and that was what transpired! But to have a “lesbian” marriage in 2008 even in the USA was quite new! And then to top it off with a planned “birth” of a new baby-boy for the newly married “same-sex” couple was just too much!
But times and thoughts change! What was even unthinkable before is now not only becoming commonplace and acceptable, it is becoming the preferred format of companionship in society! And if one is to think logically about it, it is a far better form of companionship! No longer are there “fights” about the dominance of one sex over the other and/or the bickering of who’s job it is to do “this” or “that” or as society dictates! One is “free” to live as one pleases, do whatever one feels like doing and with whomever one pleases to do it with!
Times are a-changing, and we have to change with it. Change is the essence of life! So - if one wants to survive in this world - one has to change with the times! It is as applicable to the old as it is for the young! One has to go along with the “Nai, Nai
*Dr. Anand R. Bhatia has written for our publication for the past few years. Dr. Bhatia was born in Bombay and is an undergraduate engineer. He came to the USA in 1962 as a graduate student. He did his MBA and Doctorate in Business Administration from the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. He taught for 35+ years at California State University in San Bernardino. CA, and retired as an Emeritus Professor from there in 2005. Dr. Bhatia is married and has 2 grown married children. He has 2 grandchildren. He is very active with the local Indian Community in the "High Desert" area of Los Angeles and lives in Spring Valley Lake, a small community about 100 miles East of Los Angeles. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.