Loving in a culture where all love outside marriage is forbidden is taxing. Read our Editor’s take on it.

Love is the common language spoken across the world. Stories of love have existed in every society that ever told stories. When we remember how fundamental romantic attachment is to human beings, how common and natural, our society’s desire to stop people from loving, it seems toxic and selfish. Our parents don’t accept the fact that we could or would want to experience dating, companionship, or love. Most of us aren’t “allowed” to date, not that it means we don’t. We don’t tell our parents about our love life and significant others, caught in the fear that they may never approve. We don’t seek love advice from them, introduce them to our significant others, or share the details of our whereabouts with them with honesty. And if, by chance, our love strays from the hetero-normative narrative of love between a female and a male, the discomfort and fear of acceptance increases manifold.

For most Indian kids, love begins with lies. “I am going to meet Neha,” we say as we dash to the farthest end of our street for a sneaky ice- cream, and walk with someone who is certainly not Neha. These cloak and dagger games can be exciting initially but, as we grow up, we realise they are something far more sinister. Most families hold different beliefs regarding dating and love. Some might want their children to keep away from relationships “to keep them focused on academics” while others have far more rigid ideas about the same, like believing love and sexual experiences are reserved within the institution of marriage. It is in these households where young adults who are actively dating are, at best, at the risk of parental disapproval and, at worst, of losing their freedom, agency, as well as independence.  The punishment of love in India without parents’ approval can range from having one’s phone taken away, to being made to quit the pursuit of education and, in extreme cases, to honour killings as well. Our culture has intertwined love with marriage, with controlling ideas about monogamy, togetherness, and “purity”. The impact on women has been undeniably worse since the “punishment” for loving has been known to be far more unforgiving on them than on men.

We don’t grow up with the right ideals of love.  We live in a country where a common experience of all our peers is telling their first big lie to their parents with regard to someone they were dating. We couldn’t talk to our parents openly, or ask them questions about love, sex, relationships, boundaries, consent, and respect  because we could never anticipate if it would be met with disapproval or punishment. We hid under our blankets sneakily texting our 9th grade crush, or sneaked out for study sessions with our boyfriend/girlfriend, and came to college and talked to our parents about everything in detail, except the person we loved.

Love, in itself, is capable of inciting fear. We invest our time and energy into someone who could one day casually walk up to us, say that it isn’t working out, and walk away, leaving us to deal with the walls crumbling around. But aside from the natural insecurity, in families, cultures, and communities where love is taboo, people are more likely to confuse love with and abuse. After all, they were never taught the difference between the two.

The approval of our parents is important. Running home after a star in our notebooks, or winning a match, a debate, a rangoli competition, and hearing them say, “I am proud of you, beta” is immensely precious for many of us, and nothing really beats that, not when we were ten and not now as well. It is sad therefore, that our parents don’t say it enough, and sadder perhaps that the approval they reserve for academic and extracurricular achievements, isn’t extended to forming  beliefs systems which make us healthy, happy, fully-functioning human beings. Our parents will not tell us they are proud of us for breaking away from a toxic partner. Most of us would never have our parents sit down next to us, and comfort us with a cup of chai and a heart-to-heart conversation about heartbreak, like they did after every bad result, lost match, public failure.

I wish, like all the kahaaniyan (stories) our parents told to put us to sleep when we were children, the ones that taught us how to be brave, how to be kind, how to have compassion, also told us how to love, how to be respected and respectful in love, when to stay and when to leave, when to hold on and when to let go. Perhaps, we would have been kinder to ourselves and those we have loved, then. For Indian parents, who claim to do everything for the well-being of their children, do one more thing – give them the freedom to love, whomever they want and however they want.

Kinjal Pandey

[email protected]

Q. Hi Sex Amma, I’ve been with my girlfriend for 10 months now and we’ve barely hit third base. I understand that she wants to take it slow and I don’t want to pressurize her, but of late, the frequency is decreasing!

A: Oh my dear uttapam, Amma knows the plague that infests the minds of men in this country. Hitting the third base in a cricket crazy nation is all that men want, ignoring the weather and pitch conditions, thus getting out on the very first ball or eventually getting forced to play defensive.

Amma appreciates the fact that you understand that your macchhi wants to take it slow. The decreasing frequency suggests that the macchhi is either feeling guilty or has gotten scared due to the misunderstandings and taboo that accompany sex in our beloved nation. In any case, the solution is: communication.

You need to sit her down in an environment where she can speak to you about anything. And, if it’s a biological reason, then be a strong fisherman, be there for your macchhi and support her through the tough time. Build a strong bridge of communication and trust, and Amma guarantees you’ll start scoring again, singles and doubles at first, of course. Don’t lose your patience, else you’ll misjudge the ball and will be ‘caught’ out.

Do you have a question you’d like Sex Amma to answer?
Ask her anonymously!


With the whole campus shifting its focus to the global scenario: international internships, foreign exchange programmes, internships with MNCs et al doing the rounds, a rural fellowship programme is quick to turn a few heads and raise a curious eye.

Poultry and pastures are perhaps the first thing that would come to ones mind when asked to define the term ‘rural’. However,a rural fellowship and the projects associated with it venture much deeper. Rural fellowships give you a chance to explore as well as study rural India in actuality. Also, the fellows are given an opportunity to work on the various issues directly concerning the particular region assigned to them. These projects generally address a range of issues  from microfinance, education, health and sanitation to child labour and agriculture .

What makes this programme so unique from is that one gets a first hand experience: instead of working on the issue from the comfort of your air conditioned room like any other ordinary work, you will the get the opportunity to reside with your host NGO in the village itself and work and live with the people, like the people, and study the problems of rural economy upfront.

iVolunteer India, in partnership with Sir Ratan Tata’s Trust, selects up to 20 students every year to go for a youth fellowship programme for six weeks to villages across the  country. The primary aim of all the fellows is to help make a difference in rural India by virtue of their talent and education.  As part of this year’s recently held fellowship programme, students from all over the varsity including colleges like Kirori mal college, Sri Venkateswara College St. Stephens. ,worked on  a variety of projects such as child rights in Dehradun ,microfinance and livelihood, Shubhangi Shukla from Miranda House is still helping to promote art as a subject in the region of Kumaon where they children have never seen a set of crayons in their life. States Udisha Saklani, a second year student of St. Stephens who worked in on a water and sanitation project in Uttarakhand, “This exposure should be mandatory for every student, as it helps you both on a personal and professional level and sensitizes you towards bigger, more real issues that apparently sixty percent of our economy suffers from. This fellowship helped me become aware of the same.” Deepti Khera, a mass communication student from Mumbai worked in the village of Kolwan, Pune with autistic and schizophrenic people. “It was a life changing experience. I initially felt odd living with the special friends 24/7. I was also hit by an autistic person. But I realized how much more sensitive these special people are than us. “, she says. The fellowship also further inspired her to get into rural reporting. Also, her experience helped her gain admission in one of the top five mass communication institutes of India. Thus, one cannot deny that a rural fellowship does wonders for your CV., especially if seeking a scholarship in universities abroad.

For those dynamic ones ready to sample India for what it really is, rural fellowships are an excellent avenue providing a zing to your resume and an opportunity to do something meaningful with your time.