If you study books on sexuality and love, which is a topic, rarely if at all, written about in India, Ira Trivedi’s “India In Love: Marriage and Sexuality in the 21st Century” must rank amongst the best. Meticulous research backed by anecdotal data and personal narratives of ordinary Indians, people who could well be someone we know, make for some highly educative as well as interesting reading. The book, published by Aleph Book Company in 2014 is, I believe, something every educated Indian should read. It clears so many cobwebs in our minds and lays to rest myths that have made any talk about sex and sexuality virtually taboo in our traditional society. A blurb in Mid-day puts it so well, ” Trivedi charged into India’s bedroom and pulled the covers right off. No more secrets.”
Ira Trivedi who has a BA from Wellesley College and an MBA from Columbia University has the advantage of having been exposed to both Indian as well as Western cultures. She has herself experienced the tugs and pressures of societal demands to ” toe the line” as it were when it comes to marriage.
Her book is divided into two parts, the first about sexuality and the second about love and marriage. In a nutshell, Trivedi suggests that in earlier times invariably marriage took place first ( usually arranged based on considerations of caste and economics) which was followed by sex (usually for the first time) which then over time blossomed into love ( if the couple was lucky). In today’s age, the radical shift, especially amongst the youth, seems to have resulted in a change in the sequence of events to begin with love, sex (or vice versa) and then may be marriage. Trivedi is quick to add that her work is primarily about urban India. She writes in her introduction, “It will seek to provide a cutting-edge incisive evaluation of how marriage, sexuality and love work in contemporary, urban India.”
I must emphasize Trivedi has the talent to express her self beautifully and even what might appear to some to be a boring subject has been captured in very readable prose. For example, “Like a shy, but eager newly-wed bride, the country is slowly shedding her chastity belt.” The figures emanating from her research are huge. For example, in the 18-24 age bracket, an estimated 75 % in urban areas have had premarital sex and the figure is sky rocketing. There are many more facts and figures which will make you sit up and think.
In the course of the book, you come across Prayag, Sree, Stephanie, Shammi, and so many other people who shared their stories with the author in their own words.
As an author, Trivedi is responsive to feedback from readers as I discovered for myself when I wrote in and pointed out a factual error which was acknowledged within minutes.
Trivedi ends her introduction with these prophetic words, “We are never going back to the India of our past. The sexual revolution has begun, it is gaining pace, and nothing can stop it.”