On some days, in the end, all I need is a Margarita with a straw. Unfortunately, I can only afford to see the movie on most of those days. It has always been a mood lifter though, having beautifully crafted the non-normative inter-sectional human existence. I absolutely adore the protagonists ‘Laila’ and ‘Khanum’, but they couldn’t be together in the end. Alas!

Laila was guilty of being intimate with another person while she was in a committed partnership.

We live in a societal structure which has shaped our perspectives in a particular pattern, one which inhibits us to look at romance, love, sex beyond the stereotypical lenses. To look beyond, I wanted to understand Polyamory. I asked a couple of my coworkers if they can indulge in a romantic partnership with two people at the same time. They were apprehensive about the idea, with an argument of commitment and morality. “What if your partner has given consent, and to make it more interesting, imagine both of you are in love with the same person. How about a triple consensual romantic relationship?”, I added. They looked at me for a few seconds, smiled awkwardly, may be prayed for my psychological well-being secretly and left. I had scandalized them enough for the day.

But, they left me stuck with the question “Can we love two people at the same time?”, without any hierarchy, prioritization or bias.

Human beings have evolved with time, challenging biological configurations. In fact, we are biologically polygamous but the cohesive forces of religious and social beliefs and customs have influenced our way of living as well as our value system.

In the epic Mahabharata, after Draupadi’s Swayamvara, Arjuna and Bheema decide to play a joke with Kunti. When they’d reach their door, they’d call Kunti and tell her that they have returned with alms. Kunti, without even looking at them, would ask them to divide it among themselves. Now that they’d gotten a princess, it became a worrisome situation for them to divide her among five men. Kunti asked Yudhisthira for references and he cited the example of Jatila from Gautama clan who was married to 7 different sages at the same time. He also gave an example of Pracheti, the sister of demon Hiranyakshyap who was married to ten brothers at the same time. Krishna had 16,100 junior wives along with 8 major wives. Vasudeva, the father of Krishna, had 14 wives.

Hindu mythology has a lot of instances where polygamy was practiced. For a long time, this patriarchal practice in Indian families was not questioned until women voiced their opinion against inequality. Eventually, monogamy came to be considered ethical, moral and less threatening for sustenance of families.

But Polygamy is different from Polyamory.

Polyamory is the practice of, or desire for, intimate relationships with more than one partner, with the knowledge of all partners involved. It has been described as “Consensual, ethical, and responsible non-monogamy”. Being aware about polyamory doesn’t always mean that we understand how it actually works. In fact, even those who practice it, struggle with some of the assumptions around the meaning of “Poly.”

I’ve met people in consensual open relationships, and have read about Indian Polyamorous people. With the onset of experimentation and exploration of sexuality in urban spaces, Polyamory is about to come out of the closet.

Recently, in a small get together, here in Mumbai, I met Radhika, who is Married, Bisexual and Polyamorous. She used to feel that there is something wrong with her, that she can’t remain loyal to a single person. She felt deep love for multiple people at the same time but didn’t know the right word to describe this phenomenon. It’s only after getting married, when she met Rekha, her present girlfriend, she knew that there is nothing wrong with her but with the way society perceives polyamory. She expressed how often people think Polyamory to be only about sex.

Hyper-sexualizing polyamory is a way of saying that such relationships can’t be about love. It promotes the idea that a non-monogamous person is greedy and lacks values. Love and sex are two different entities which don’t necessarily have to converge. It is not a dilemma for Radhika to choose Rekha over her husband, or the other way round. She equally loves them both and is in a consensual relationship with them. But, annoyingly, people around her judge her morality and character, which is what pushes polyamory further into the closet.

Many people assume that Poly folks don’t feel jealous. They do. It is human, but it’s important to be able to rise above such toxic feelings, irrespective of one’s sexuality.
People have a perception that Polyamorists are commitment phobics, when most of them aren’t. They are not how they are because they’re afraid to settle down. In fact, they may also fall in love and commit to people to form a family, though structurally that may challenge the stereotypical hetero-normative institution of marriage.
Above all these, the most insensitive narrative around polyamory is, that they don’t get attached to people.

Such narratives not only dehumanize Polyamorists but also question their values. People who practice polyamory are often contained with the wealth of love, affection, and possibilities that multiple partners tend to bring to their life. The downside is that, more love can also mean more potential heartbreaks. It doesn’t matter how well you communicate, how good you are at meeting your partner’s needs and desires, or how strong you think your connection is, some things just aren’t meant to last. When a heart breaks, the ache is real.

All the myths around Polyamory, make it difficult for Polyamorists to express their desires and feelings. Maybe, the changing face of relationships will elicit romance beyond boundaries where people can freely look at love the way they want to.

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