I am hiding in the bathroom, franticly typing a message to my boyfriend, and then waiting for his reply, with my phone on silent mode. As soon as his message appears on the screen and I read it, I have to delete the entire chat. I blow him a goodnight kiss with an emoji culminating our conversation because anytime now, my parents would start wondering why was I taking so long. This is what being in a secretive relationship under lockdown looks like. And while many may think of the secretive part as adventurous, or rebellious, the coronavirus lockdown has made it taxing and exhausting. I have no clue how long can I keep my relationship hidden from my parents under the same roof.

Recently, Tiruvallur police spotted a couple who had sneaked out of their homes defying the lockdown rules to spend some time together, via drone surveillance.

While the couple quickly covered their faces and drove away, on realising that they were under surveillance, the Tiruvallur police have revealed, “We have noted the bike’s number. We will track them down the errant couple and take legal action on them.”

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Many will find this news hilarious. But I can sympathise with the couple. It is not easy for couples to find a space where they can spend time with each other. Most youngsters are in romances which they know their families will disapprove of. This is why couples in India have to carry on with their relationships covertly, hidden from the public eye. A public romance will either bring you shame or harassment. And the situation has only gotten worse with the lockdown.

We are a country where romance is only looked up to when it is on screen. Especially for young women, love relationships only bring them criticism, outrage, questions on their character, increased restrictions, and shame. It is this fear of extreme and unnecessary humiliation that makes them hide their relationship from everyone they know. Especially parents. How many girls today can walk up to their parents and say that they have a boyfriend? I know I can’t. And that is why I am leading a double life. My parents do not know a very important and intimate part of my life. but this has more consequences for me than them.

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The first consequence of hiding a relationship from your parents is that it becomes meaningless. You don’t get to do what you came into a relationship for. You avoid going out together to parties, lunch, or coffee. You can’t talk on call much. You can’t message much. And if you message each other, you have to delete all your chats. The same goes for the photos. You need a degree in coding to ensure that no one can track your photos with your bae in your phone, but you. You can’t save their contact with the name you want. It has to be the name of a girl so that no one doubts. I think I can carry out a covert mission, now that I am well versed in preserving a secretive relationship in an Indian household under lockdown.

Couples wouldn’t have to break lockdowns or hide in bathrooms with their phone to carry on a relationship, if Indian parents were more accepting of love and if our society learned to mind its own business.

Eventually, the relationship now seems more like a burden these days, because I have just no escape from my parents’ vigilance. There is more irritation than excitement. It’s clear, you can’t enjoy anything if there are so many restrictions. It’s like on Diwali you aren’t allowed to light diyas and dress up, you just have to cook for the guests. How would it feel? All worthless. No fun. And no excitement. So much effort for nothing. The day will eventually lose importance in your life. The same goes here.

The constant hide and seek with my parents is also affecting my mental health. I know how much I love the person in my life. But hiding it from my parents leaves me gutted. I feel like an imposter, who is conning them. I know they’ll be disappointed with me if this relationship ever comes to light. Is love worth so much stress and guilt, I wonder now? And while my boyfriend is very understanding of the situation, I know things aren’t the same for boys and girls. If his parents find out about us, perhaps they’ll scold him. But at the end of the day, they’ll accept that their child is a grown-up adult now. For girls like me on the other hand, the consequences are much worse. The dignity of the entire family rests on my shoulders, and frankly parents never think their daughters to be old enough to be in a relationship ever.

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Being in love comes naturally to every person, so why do Indian parents live in such a denial about it? Couples wouldn’t have to break lockdowns or hide in bathrooms with their phone to carry on a relationship, if Indian parents were more accepting of love and if our society learned to mind its own business. But as of now it seems, we will find a cure faster for coronavirus than for our conservative mindset. Once the lockdown is over, people in my situation will have some respite. But that won’t be permanent, would it?

The views expressed are the author’s own.

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