Lately, I am being invited with some persistence to Shashi Tharoor’s wedding. First, news channels stole the invitation card even before the ex-minister sent it and then flashed it on my television screen, telling me to be at Tharoor’s ancestral house in Elavanchery, Palakkad on 22 August for the nuptials. And just yesterday, there was the Mumbai tabloid MidDay with the card on its front page and a headline shouting ‘Shaadi Mein Zaroor Aana’. It is difficult to refuse in the face of such earnest solicitations, and yet I am not going. I am convinced that he must not marry.
For long, I have vacillated on what my considered opinion should be on Tharoor marrying. It is true that the institution itself is becoming an outdated one the world over. But then, there’s also the fact that marriage means a legal obligation, a subtle form of coercion to stay together. On the 13th of this month, I finally took sides and what made me commit was the Supreme Court. It held in a judgment that if a man and woman have lived over a long period together, then “…there is a presumption of marriage between them…”
Live-in relationships, therefore, have the sanction of law. But it has come without the burden of the partner’s deeds. If Rabri Devi’s savings account shows Rs 1,000 crore overnight, then Lalu is automatically suspect. If Tharoor was married to Sunanda Pushkar when her links to the Kochi IPL team became known, his goose would have been a lot more cooked. Whereas now a large majority thinks that he was wronged, there would have been little presumption of innocence. A live-in relationship is companionship with less responsibility and that is good for most men and especially politicians.
Marriage also puts the relationship on a different moral plane. Cheating on a live-in partner is a crime many degrees lower than cheating on your husband or wife. And finally, while the Supreme Court judgment also covers rights over property of a live-in partner who has died, the case for splitting up the silver after a break-up is still ambiguous. If one can steal, cheat and cough up zilch on parting, why marry? Not that Tharoor will do any of this, but it is good advice every man worth his salt should heed.