Culture & Life · Fiction

A Conversation on Open Relationships

(At a restaurant in Boston, eavesdropping a conversation between students Joanne (English) and Mohan (Indian), who got to know each other through a mutual friend some days back. Soft laughter heard.)

M: Has any guy talked to you about boobs on a first date?

J: What?! (Thinks a bit) Not really.

M: Boobs just enamor me. Everything about them! You know it intrigued me a lot when I first learned that having large breasts could cause back pain. My thinking had never gone beyond ‘jaw pain’!

J: You’re insane.

M: And don’t you think the bra-hook is the most manhandled piece of hinge ever produced?.

J: (Laughs lightly) Probably.
Anyway I like the phrase “radical rationals” you used for people like us. I was glad to finally meet someone that is not emotionally hung up on the fairy tale of platonic romance that dominates society.

M: Well, as much as I believe in free and open relationships, I also respect folks sailing the committed seas. Some of my best friends are doing that.

J: (Disapprovingly) Yeah right. Many of my friends are married. They are really not as happy as they thought they would be.

M: Marriage is indeed something I feel unsure about. I guess love and libido come naturally, but marriage is what people created to sort of regulate those natural instincts.

J: Mmmm quite like religion. Devotion and spirituality are natural, but we created religion to artificially discipline those feelings. Because the wimpy “society” always tends to freak out if things do not follow a set pattern!

M: That said, I do have huge respect for people who can stay happy and passionate inside a marriage.

J: But you just said you are unsure of marriage.

M: Well I don’t believe in being rigid! It makes sense to have philosophical flexibility. People are way too diverse, and I always try to absorb that diversity in my thinking.

J: I think I agree to that. Most people firmly believe that not having an intimate partner is a terrible idea. But I hate it when they consider marriage as the only solution, or as a compulsory activity that everyone must do. I just hate the constant social insistence on marriage!

M: Yeah. Also the social restrictions that come with it. So many marriages break because of extramarital affairs. That’s absurd. I mean, why should it be uniformly disastrous if you happen to like someone other than your husband or wife. We have a dynamic brain, and we have hormones. That is bound to happen, especially when one keeps meeting new people all the time.

J: I would actually brand most so-called extramarital affairs as simply intra-marital aberrations, you know. Temporary infatuations. Folks do get over them sooner or later if they share great chemistry with their spouses. If people gave spouses a bit of a leeway, this extra-marital sorrow might well turn into just a temporary annoyance.

M: Careful, careful. You’ll be crucified for saying that!

J: Whatever. I read somewhere that ‘infanticide is the driver of monogamy’; that many male animals, and early human males too I guess, started staying with the females just so that they could protect the offspring and make sure their genes were perpetuated. More evidence that the concept of marriage is opportunistic and circumstantial! And perhaps “male egoistic” too!

M: Wow I didn’t know that. And what do you think about loyalty?

J: Hah! An artificial “virtue” born of cultural pressures and portrayals, and nourished by silly fiction and movies and songs.

M: Well I would say how we look at loyalty is plain bullshit. People are hardly loyal to their own selves, and they talk of being loyal to partners and spouses.

J: (After a pause of a few seconds) I think we need more honesty than loyalty. While loyalty can be artificial, honesty cannot. People created the concept of loyalty just to sugarcoat the underlying vices of envy and jealousy.

M: That is so bang on! Reminds me of a line from the film Nymphomaniac: “Love is nothing but lust mixed with jealousy.”
I read an article in fact about several Indian artists who were openly polygamous, even women. I’ll send you the link.

J: Cool.

M: Do you know Ravi Shankar the great sitarist? He has fathered two really talented modern musicians, Anoushka Shankar and Norah Jones. Both – hold your breath – were born to different women – women to whom he wasn’t even married!

J: Wow.

M: There’s more. When Anoushka was born he was 61 and her mother was just 27.

J: Well, think of all the great music the world would have missed had they had gone by society’s conventional concepts of love and relationships!

M: India is a mind-boggling place. On the outside it looks like a deeply conservative society, but a close scrutiny unravels the lust and libido flowing freely and fairly openly everywhere.

J: I read the other day about some communities there which practise polyandry. A tradition that arose, said the article, because of unique economic and geographic conditions in those areas.

M: I have heard about that. And it’s mostly brothers who share a wife. I mean, think of that happening in “civilized” societies, you know. Fucking your own sister-in-law at night! Oh… who by the way also happens to be your own wife!!

J: I know. And that’s I guess where the beauty of the world lies. In the presence of a crazy variety of people who are each living out their lives in their own ways. Without harming others.

M: Exactly. But that’s also what gives heartburn to fanatics and extremists and even so many ordinary folks. They just cannot tolerate offshoots. They want everyone to be like them and to think like them.

J: Hmm. That’s never gonna happen though. I believe the force of Life is way too powerful.

M: Hmm. (Pauses slightly) You know what, we’re getting too intense.

J: (Laughs) I know. Yeah let’s just do some small talk.

M: About big boobies, maybe?

J: Shut up, boobomaniac.

(Some silence in the conversation.)

M: Well you know that folks back in India highly admire fairness, right? – the dermatological variety, I mean. It will be very exciting for me to brag back home that I dated a white woman.

J: Slow down, slow down. It’s just a first meeting. We have a saying in England: One should not unhook bras in the air! (Laughs aloud.)
Okay listen. I say, we meet up again tomorrow evening. Does that work?

M: I’d love that! I just hope your boyfriend won’t mind my meeting you again.

J: Oh he’s ridiculously easy-going. Although some of his office-mates gossip that he lives in with a whore named Joanne.

M: That sucks.

J: I know. But i’m optimistic. As long as everyone is minding their own business peacefully, I believe society should welcome all kinds of freaks!

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