The concept of live-in relationships has always been a touchy topic in India and continues to be looked down upon in society.
Can the love between two people be validated only through marriage? Does the decision to not marry yet live together nullify their affection by any standards?
Well, Illias K P and Shamika Mone don’t think so. Hailing from two different states and entirely different backgrounds, a shared passion for organic farming brought their destinies together.
And repeated crossing of paths owing to agrarian conventions across the country further ensured that this acquaintance developed into a long friendship.
“Right from childhood, I was on the rebellious side and had planned on never marrying. Until I met Shamika, even falling in love was not on the cards. She’s been such a special person in my life that even if our relationship didn’t work out, I hoped we would always remain friends. But we were meant to be. Even as our friendship transitioned to love and the decision to spend our lives together cemented, we had made up our minds not to marry, and it wasn’t to prove anything,” the Kerala-based organic farmer tells The Better India.
However, the concept of live-in relationships has always been a touchy topic in India and continues to be looked down upon in society. Character assassination is the first route that follows. Illias admits though that has been the case in general, they have managed to do rather well.
“Not many people know that we are in a live-in relationship. Strangely enough, the common assumption is that we are married, and we haven’t bothered to refute the assumption. Our families and friends in the organic farming circles know about us, and we didn’t face any opposition. Shamika’s mother was a bit sceptical initially, but after seeing how good we were for each other, her qualms dissolved too,” recalls Illias.
A matter of constant worry for the couple, however, is when the system makes it mandatory to produce a marriage certificate for every legal provision.
“At present, there is not one provision that accommodates unmarried partners. But we have accepted this reality, and if the need comes, we are willing to get married as well,” he adds.
Funnily enough, Illias shares that they haven’t faced as many problems in India, but it’s a challenge for Shamika when she travels abroad for international organic farming conventions.
“The fact that she is unmarried has led to visa cancellations on more than two occasions. I believe it is because of the fear that an unmarried person might settle down by marrying someone local, and the authorities don’t take live-in relationships into consideration. We haven’t faced such difficulties in our own country!” laughs Illias.
It has been a few years since Illias and Shamika have walked down this unconventional path.
“We’ve definitely had it better, thanks to the support of our families and friends. I’m pretty sure that many couples had it much worse. Even in our case, we have to often deliberate if we should tell anyone about us without being judged or subjugated. Just to avoid such treatment, we often let people think that we’re married and don’t correct them when asked. I think there’s a long way to go before society will finally be okay about two consenting adults choosing to live together,” he concludes.
Presently, Illias is one of the joint secretaries of Kerala Jaiva Karshaka Samithi (KJKS), an international award-winning non-government organisation that has been functioning as a forum for organic farmers in the state for over two decades. Shamika is the Research Director of Organic Farming Association of India (OFAI), the country’s biggest network of organic farmers. Together, they also run an organic store in Kerala that sells produce from farmers across the country.
This story is part of The Stereotypeface Project, an initiative by The Better India that challenges 26 stereotypes, which continue to exist even today. We are showcasing these stereotypes through all the letters of the English language alphabet.
Stereotypes exist everywhere — they are passed down over generations. Instead of embracing and celebrating what makes us unique, we stand divided because of them!
We’ve unconsciously learned to stereotype, now let’s consciously #EndTheStereotype.
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(Edited by Shruti Singhal)