Sahithya Jagannathan, model/actor/columnist/TV presenter, has recently created change by openly talking about being in a live-in relationship with her partner, Cary Edwards, and has given birth to twin babies. When asked why she wasn’t very comfortable with the idea of marriage she said that for her marriage always sounded like a binding.
Sahithya who is now both a model and a journalist completed her degree in Journalism side-by-side because she had a passion for writing. She was introduced to Cary Edwards, her partner, through a job interview for a writer for a magazine. He was the editor of a new magazine that was starting in Chennai and they were looking for freelance writers. His neighbour was her classmate in college and she was the one who suggested her for the position.
When speaking about her love story with Cary, she said, “I became a freelance writer for the magazine and that is how we met. We spent a lot of time together and we had a common group of friends with whom we hung out with. With time we realized that we had a lot of similar values and we agreed on a lot of things. But, in my mind, he was friendship material. After almost a year of friendship, he told me that he liked me and I said that I needed time. With regard to a live-in relationship, I have wanted to be in one since I was 16. He also wanted to be in one. After about a year and a half, we both really expected the other person to bring up marriage based on our past experiences, but to our surprise that never happened.” They started looking for flats after this decision and moved in.
As a part of society, we are generally tuned to think that marriage is always safer and secure in terms of legalities and even general social norms. However, Sahithya believes that there are many advantages to a Live-in relationship over marriage. The very fact that marital rape is not a criminal offence in India itself is a reason good enough to not get married. “I find it abhorrent that if a woman does not feel like having sex when she is married, her husband can force himself on her and it’s not a crime. With a Live-in relationship, my consent is of hundred percent importance,” she said.
Sahithya is now a mother of twins. The first thing that might stop someone from entering into a live-relationship is the effect or toll it may take on children when the bond is not legal. However, in India, as long as one can prove biological lineage, it doesn’t affect ones children in any way in terms of inheritance or asset separation. Thanks to the Supreme Court ruling, if a live-in couple has paper trail for living together for more than 2 years, then their relationship is recognised and they get almost the same cover as any other married couple.
Sahithya believes that Tamil Cinema’s portrayal of Live-In relationships is flawed because it is always about two consenting adults living together for a sexual relationship. While that might be true for some, she says that it is not true in all cases.
When we make some decisions about how we want to live our lives, the first thing that might get affected is our careers. It is worse for women because no matter what they do to try and fit into society’s norms, they’re always judged. Talking about whether her career got affected because of this decision, Sahithya said, “I have had some clients who come from conservative backgrounds and have conservative values, who think I’m too progressive or whatever and have lost them on the way. However, I am lucky and privileged that I have enough and more clients, to whom my work speaks more than my personal choices and they understand that my personal choices are my own and have no reflection on my ability to work.”
The law of the land legalises and accepts many different kinds of relationships today, be it Homosexual relationships or Live-in relationships. Yet, most of us find it very difficult to accept the choices made by people. Even if we try hard not to judge a person, internally we are questioning their decision. What someone like Sahithya has to say with her choices is that no matter what decisions an individual makes for themselves, don’t judge them or criticise them for it. Support them if possible, if not, at least don’t hate on them. The changing society in India needs many more like Sahithya, to create change and fight against the constrained ideas and stereotypes that exist in people’s minds.