“I need to believe that something extraordinary is possible”
Alicia Nash in ‘A Beautiful Mind’
A quarter century ago, I fell in love with someone. My legs would go all wobbly and my mouth would go dry whenever I saw her. With a little help from a dear friend, I somehow managed to meet her a few times. I think we had a burger and coffee on the one best date I ever went out on, riding a borrowed Vespa scooter.
In time, I proposed. Families came into the picture. They condoned some basic incompatibilities in our best interest and promised to fix that with prayers. She was orthodox and reserved; me a jukebox of expressions and emotions. Some of my exuberance spilled out at the wrong place, wrong time. She saw the writing on the wall. We were not made for each other, she decreed.
I still remember her pursed lips, tearful eyes and defiant stance, arms folded firmly across her chest, as she waited for my bus to leave the city. “You hurt me. This won’t work” were the only words she spoke in those few minutes (felt like eternity) as I desperately tried to hold up falling bridges. Soon, the bus pulled out of its stand and my six-month long affair fell apart like a house of cards.
We never saw each other again. All that we carried from the relationship were a couple of photographs taken through my Ricoh automatic, and two, maybe three letters. These were either returned post haste or burnt over my Zippo lighter’s soft naphtha flame. Heartbreak? Hell yes. For weeks, I felt like a worthless pile of tissue.
But the guiding principles were simple. There were just two of them actually (both not my copyright).
“You never ever hurt those whom you love“
“If you love something, set it free. If it comes back to you, it’s yours. If it doesn’t, it was never meant to be“
So when I read about jilted lovers murdering their estranged partners, a sickening dose of which is splashed in every newspaper in the country today, I wonder what went wrong with society. What is this rage and lust that knows no bounds? What emboldens us to invoke the death sentence just because someone isn’t interested in us anymore? What about all the passion and sentiments you once shared? Where did it all go? Is this love? Can it ever be, if it ends up on the cold, sharp edge of a knife or stops a raging bullet?
As compared to my collection of two photographs and three letters, couples today have GBs of selfies and lovelorn messages, not in their hearts, but on their phones. We often start to figure out people through their online profile, status updates and social media posts. Little realising it costs nothing to share any number of them, free and bountiful, with the rush of dopamine that it brings.
Are our relationships today founded on titillation and gratification? Are we propelled by ideas and concepts borrowed from other countries that don’t entirely belong here? When smartphones with quad-core processors and 12MP cameras seep into a population that doesn’t even have access to toilets, primary healthcare or quality education, what effect will it have on those minds? How much self-regulation can you reasonably expect? And when well-meaning parents or elders try to intervene, we are up in arms crying millennial-bashing and human rights violation. To be sure, is there something at all called absolute freedom? What about responsibilities that come with that freedom?
My daily run on Mumbai’s Juhu Beach reveals to me shades of a society increasingly busy window-dressing their lives with little intellectual or moral depth. I have to sidestep many selfie-seekers and ‘couples’ who endlessly & unabashedly fill their phones with photos. How many of those hearts are filled with filth worse than what the monsoon washes ashore is society’s best kept secret. A sea of people out there, yet something very intrinsically pure is missing. Beautiful moments slip by as people smile for the camera. A cache of photos, a jumble of wires & chargers, and the eternal greed for more. That’s become our life. Maybe it’s just me.
If it’s not on camera, Instagram or WhatsApp then it’s as if something is missing in our lives today. Make no mistake. I am not calling out the younger generation. It very much includes the middle aged folks. Smartphone is the new underwear, holding dark secrets nobody wants to share.
Slowly the same debt of pictures and messages becomes a plug that when pulled could scuttle your ship of fantasy. The same narrative plays out time and again. First, an urgent, often misplaced sense of intimacy, then a barrage of photos and messages, and very soon you realise you are dealing with a completely different person, disguised in photoshop and emoticons. Sometimes I wonder if we are becoming a world full of overgrown babies, guilelessly pursuing selfish agenda, living in ever-shrinking cocoons padded with earphones and music while society tumbles into anarchy.
How else do you explain a young man viciously murdering his 22-year old lover in a public space and then holding her in a tight embrace for twenty minutes as onlookers walked past. Or a young man slitting his unrequited lover’s neck on a crowded railway station in front of hundreds of onlookers? Or a woman biting off her husband’s genitals when caught in a compromising position with her lover. Or a serving defence officer who stabbed his colleague’s wife and then ran her over with his car when she refused to continue their illicit relationship? Or any number of horrific cases that have become so common, we don’t even lift an eyebrow anymore.
After 21 years of marriage, I am just about figuring out how love & marriages work. Love is a journey of discovery. It takes years to understand, let alone truly love a person. Lust is fleeting, ephemeral, rising and passing like an orgasm. Marriage is yet more difficult. It’s simply hard work. Husbands have much to do to earn their place in their wives’ hearts. Nurse them when they’re sick, suffer with them their PMS, wash the panties when they’re soaked in blood, make tea when they want to sleep-in, respond to their midnight cravings, and so much more. There ain’t no band-aid fixes you can order through Swiggy or Amazon.
Don’t believe? Ask your parents or grandparents. Our forefathers have done this for centuries. True, there were many troubled marriages in their time too, kept under wraps just to save ‘family pride’. But yet, there was a depth arguably missing from many relationships today.
My parents who are hitting their nineties have loved – and fought – for over sixty years. Their marriage isn’t perfect. Far from it. But even after the most bitter disagreements, they still retire to the same bedroom and share the same bed (maybe with their backs turned away from each other). Six decades later, they are still thick as thieves. One generation down, I have a choice of three ‘neutral corners’ in my home (read rooms) to retire to after every argument. Some I know have had ‘rebound’ affairs or flirted just to prove a point.
Then again, who are our role models? People want Hrithik Roshan’s body, Chris Evans’ attitude, Amitabh Bachchan’s baritone and Trump’s wealth, all rolled into one homo sapien. Since these are not available even in pre-historic museums, they ‘settle’. Soon, winds of dissatisfaction blow their sails onto the reefs of a failed marriage. That we euphemistically call ‘modern society’.
In our blind rush to be someone to somebody, maybe we forgot something. Relationships need time. And space. What you can’t see, touch or feel, ain’t real. It’s quite likely that many of us and our progeny are living in a semi-schizophrenic condition, drifting ever so slowly from reality.
Reminds me how nobel laureate John Nash’s wife (Academy award winning performance by Jennifer Connelly as Alicia and Russel Crowe as John Nash) draws his hand to her warm bosom, looks into his eyes and says “you want to know what’s real? This is real. This”. (watch the movie ‘A Beautiful Mind’ or jump to the goosebumps scene from 1h:44 min onwards here).
Such a beautiful example of love that transcends sheer pleasures of the flesh. Don’t we all need more such stories in the world today?
Ask yourself again before you swipe right or dive headlong into another relationship from that virtual precipice: “Is this for real? Is this lust? or is it love?”
©KP Sanjeev Kumar, 2018. All rights reserved. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Views are personal. Please don’t copy paste. It discourages struggling writers. Please share the link as received.