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June 20, 1997


            Pramod's illustration

It is this essential loneliness, I suspect, that is responsible for the phenomenon of cyber-relationships.

And it is not a trend, I suspect, that can be ignored any longer. For, not only is it spreading faster than AIDS, it is also finding increasing social, and even medical, acceptance. A week or so after the cyber-wedding I attended, I learnt that the immigration authorities in Australia had accepted a Net marriage as grounds for citizenship. As I understood the case, the couple had met on the Net, been a cyber-couple for two years, finally got married in cyberspace and, subsequently, one of the partners had moved to Australia, citing the marriage as grounds for the move.

While researching this story, I also came across an instance where a real-time husband, on learning that his wife was simultaneously engaged in an intense Net relationship, had lost it completely. Fights, acrimony, bitterness. On his part, demands that she give up her Net relationship. On her part, an insistence that she would much rather see him in hell first.

He went to a divorce lawyer. Who suggested counselling. The couple ended up consulting a leading marriage counsellor. Who, after hearing them out, told the husband that no one human being could, in this day and age, fully satisfy the emotional needs of another. That outside relationships -- even in or, rather, especially, in cyberspace -- could be healthy and fulfilling if all parties had their heads screwed on right. And that the relationship his wife was in could actually strengthen their real-time marriage.

Today, the husband and wife are back together. And though, in a private chat, he confessed to me that, at times, it is all he can do to bite back his jealousy, to swallow the bile and keep the peace, he has been making every effort to let his wife have time for her Net relationship, that when she is chatting with her cyber-lover he makes it a point to give her the privacy she needs and that, increasingly, he is seeing signs of their marriage slowly climbing back onto its feet.

One thing is for certain sure. The cyber-relationship is here to stay. Which realisation, in turn, led me to spend hours in chat rooms this last fortnight -- talking to the bride, the groom, to various others who are involved in various forms of relationships on the Net, in a bid to understand what this whole thing was about.

Illustration: Pramod                                                                More

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