Intimacy Undone: Marriage, Divorce and Family Law in India. Malavika Rajkotia. Hardback. ISBN: 978-93-86050-56-4. Speaking Tiger. 432 pp. ₹ 799. February 2017. New Delhi.
Sexual Behavior in the Human Male (1948) and Sexual Behavior in the Human Female (1953), together known as the Kinsey Reports opened up a space for the frank discussion of human sexuality in the US which went a long way in making obscenity charges against James Joyce and D.H. Lawrence seem childish now. The cultural work of Alfred Kinsey, Paul Gebhard, Wardell Pomeroy who jointly wrote the two books was to empirically validate what fiction writers like Henry Miller and Anaïs Nin already knew: sexual concerns permeate the entirety of human consciousness.
This is fair use without permission but fully linked citation of the excellent slide to be found at https://www.slideserve.com/damara/alfred-kinsey created by Madi, Janelle and April. Please see their presentation to understand the impact of the Kinsey Reports.
As Sigmund Freud has chronicled for all times to come; the libido if repressed will lead to various neuroses. In India, the Kinsey Reports generated the influential annual India Today reports (issues) on Indian intimacy.
This trend culminated in Ira Trivedi’s India in Love: Marriage and Sexuality in the 21ST Century (2014). It is within this discussion of sexuality and specifically, Indian sexuality, that we must analyse Intimacy Undone: Marriage Divorce and Family Law in India. Neither the Kinsey Reports nor the India Today surveys dealt with jurisprudence and that taboo topic: child abuse.
Child abuse has been called ‘soul murder’ (See Leonard Shengold‘s eponymous book, 1991) and apart from Pinki Virani who dealt with child abuse in her Bitter Chocolate: Child Sexual Abuse In India (2000), none before Malavika Rajkotia has dared to speak at length of ‘soul murder’ within the context of divorce for a popular audience. She has brought the empathy of a woman who sees the practice of law as Caritas in her documentation of child sexual abuse in Chapter 7, entitled Children (200-50). It is interesting to note that her footnotes show her range of learning. For instance, in Footnote 2 on page 200, she refers to Sudhir Kakar’s revolutionary work on Freudian childhood sexuality within an Indian context (She refers to Kakar’s now iconic The Inner World: A Psychoanalytic Study of Childhood and Society). This interdisciplinary approach redeems Rajkotia’s book from becoming a dry tome on jurisprudence. Just this Chapter on children itself is why every parent, not merely parents getting divorces, must buy this book. The next Chapter on ‘Privacy’ seems even more perceptive to this reviewer. We live in an ‘anonymous age’. We have hundreds of forums and Apps to connect with others anonymously. The urge to shed off the burden of being ourselves is so strong that we as a species will go to any lengths to be anonymous (the continued existence of the Ashley Madison website in spite of data breaches is a testimony to our need for anonymity qua privacy). Here is the beginning of Chapter 8, Privacy (251-65):
A few months ago, I got a call from a friend. She had accidentally picked up her husband’s cell phone and found inappropriate messages from some woman. ‘I wish I had not seen the phone,” she said sadly. She was also angry: “It’s my own husband’s phone! Why should I not see it?…
“What if he rifled through your private things?” I asked.
“I have nothing to hide,” she replied.
I began to say that was not the point, but stopped because I could not pinpoint the limit of privacy in a marriage. Of course there should be no secrets, and of course adultery is wrong, but something can be just yours alone — phone, computer, space? (251)
Rajkotia’s practicality is why I chose to finish reading this apparently intimidating book. It deals with topics which seem to be too vast in scope and targeted to a more focussed audience: sociologists, anthropologists and of course, lawyers and law students. But upon finishing the book, I find that Rajkotia has set a new level of across-the-boundaries scholarship; she brings a lucidity to legal writings heretofore not found in any work of such scope. She deconstructs divorce proceedings with eyes softened by the loss of humanity that the entire process imposes on families and communities. This reviewer is primarily a scholar of theodicy. Rajkotia’s book will be of importance to philosophers meditating on the Problem of Evil and separately, on the Problem of Empathy because divorce theologically springs from systemic culpability and divorces’ consequences are disastrous for the basic anthropological/theological/sociological unit: that is, the family. When families break, intimacy becomes purely a function of the sarx with no place for pneuma; then we need to reorient ourselves as a thinking community who are baffled with the one problem which endures, the Problem of Evil (See Nikolai Berdyaev for this ‘one problem which endures’).
Thus, Intimacy Undone while intended for specific audiences as mentioned above, should, in the final analysis, be read by not only philosophers but by both Semitic and Astika and Na-Astika theologians since intimacy is the foundation of God qua Ishvara’s redeeming work in the here and the now. The Dasein struggles to be intimate, to embrace the Absolute Other (vide Emmanuel Levinas) but as the book under review shows; our zeitgeist will not tolerate this intimacy much in the same way as Thomas Hardy showed that Hap (sic) would not allow anyone to be intimate and happy. Advanced students of literature need to study Rajkotia if they want to understand why marriages/relationships break up in contemporary Indian novels (See Seduction and Betrayal: Women and Literature by Elizabeth Hardwick to comprehend the full force and interdisciplinary nature of Rajkotia’s book).
Intimacy Undone should be bought by anyone who wants to be intimate, and who does not? Maybe, those who do not understand that intimacy is impossible in an existentially charged world do not seek intimacy? And I assume that my readers here have read Steppenwolf. After Steppenwolf, writing on intimacy done or undone is mildly put, an irony. And may I add, a Freudian joke.
Madi, Janelle, and April. Alfred Kinsey. PPT. SlideServe. Uploaded by Damara, accessed 19:21 Indian Standard Time from https://www.slideserve.com/damara/alfred-kinsey