By Sandhya Iyer
CALL it sticking to tradition, progressiveness or helplessness, the Indian diaspora in Singapore is as much divided in its opinion when it comes to a discussion on social ethics and moralities as those living in India.
Close on the heels of India's Supreme Court verdict clearing south India actress Kushboo of around 22 cases against her for her public comments regarding pre-marital sex and live-in relationships, tabla! spoke to some Indian Singaporeans and Indian expats here and got some interesting views on the issue.
Expat housewives Aruna Padidham and Anupama Chauhan welcomed the decision as a mark of progression.
They felt that one should move according to the times and there is nothing wrong with live-in relationships.
"It depends on how much belief the couple has in the institution of marriage. As long as the individuals use their freedom being fully aware of the consequences it is all right," says Mrs Padidham.
Mrs Chauhan added that Kushboo only voiced something which was already prevalent in society.
"True," says Singaporean businessman Thivagar Dorairajan, "there is no point in evading such discussions and pushing it under the carpet. In fact by discussing this openly within the family, it might help the individual make an informed decision and also leave open the channels for communication and consultation."
The case against Kushboo goes back to 2005 when, as part of a survey done by popular weekly magazine India Today, the film star stated that pre-marital sex should be allowed among girls as long as they adopt safe, protective methods. The issue had created quite a furore. The public condemned her opinion saying that this meant approval of such an action, thereby categorically encouraging such a trend among young maidens.
As local political parties in Tamil Nadu took up cudgels against her, all the cases registered in this connection were referred to a Supreme Court bench.
In the recent verdict quashing the cases the Supreme Court observed that the freedom to live together is a fundamental right and even went ahead to quote that a society which worships Radha and Krishna as a couple should not question such a relationship.
Mrs Manju Dalal, media professional and Singapore PR, however feels that when 20-somethings get into such a relationship and it doesn't work out, it can leave the young girls emotionally devastated. Radha and Krishna belonged to an altogether different era and shared pure, unconditional love.
They cannot be compared to the current generation which looks for fleeting relationships to satisfy their physical urge, she argues. According to her, approving such relationships would break the social fabric of Indian society which prides itself in the institution of marriage.
Singaporeans Sai Krishna and Jaro Kumaresan, however, feel that it is up to the individual to decide. Mr Krishna, the father of two girls, feels it is time we stop carrying the burden of age old customs. "One does not have a choice but to give in to such circumstances. I can only let my daughters know the consequences that can occur out of wedlock. Then it is up to them," admits the engineer.
Ms Kumaresan, who works as a customer services officer, stresses that the individual should be allowed to choose. "Such relationships provide flexibility. If couples do not feel they are compatible and have better options then why should they not go for it?" she asks. "One has to come out of the cocoon and have a broader vision towards such issues. It is a normal thing in many countries," she asserts.
Looks like the court verdict and Kushboo's stance that her remarks on pre-marital relationships were only to drive home the perils of having "unprotected sex" in the backdrop of massive efforts to prevent the spread of HIV/Aids have sure stirred up much debate among the Indian community.