Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Go ahead then, fall in love

Firstly, thanks to the few people who said they missed my scribbles. I have been travelling and I’m going to use that as a flimsy excuse for leaving the blog unattended for a long time. This vacation has been special and more educational for me in more ways than one, and emboldened by it, I’m going to dare to write about that complex human emotion, love.  Let me know what you think.

Saraswati Puja, which for all practical purposes has served as Valentine’s Day to those who celebrate it for ages. Saraswati, you see, is the goddess of the arts and education. So her worship is almost entirely the responsibility of students and young people, an excuse for them to dress up and look and feel grown up.
And which young person has ever looked and felt grown up and managed to not lose their heart to someone? 

We’ve all felt that stirring at some point in our lives. I hope for your sake, you have. For if you have not, you don’t know what you’ve missed  and I do feel a little sad for you. On the other hand, if you have, you probably have a treasure trove of memories that you can dwell on in lazy winter afternoons, and smile. Very widely.
 I know I do.

And then I wonder, how did it get so difficult for us to fall in love? And when did we make it so complicated?

I never tire of saying this: I have been very lucky growing up;my parents drilled in the importance of being a good person and to not trick, cheat or knowingly hurt others. Sir taught me that there is beauty in loving and in being loved. He also taught me the importance of evaluating others for what they really are. All basic stuff, all very hard to follow.

If that is too confusing, here’s a simple example. I learnt early on how to choose my friends extremely carefully and love people for what they mean to me. To not automatically seek good looking and rich studs with sexy smiles, for whoever looks at beauty after it has been around for three days?  I swear to god, even SRK got boring on the sets of KBC after the first 15 minutes.

In fact, for a long time in my teens I used to think this is so basic, such a no-brainer, it isn't even worth a mention. And then I moved out of my comfort zone and met new people and kept meeting newer people as life took me from one city to another. Let’s just say I realized how wrong I was.And how lucky I was to have grown up around the people I did.

Combine that realization with some dose of literature and I was tuned to rather fall for people who can actually keep me interested after the newness of that sexy smile wears off. 
It is always nice to learn from other people’s mistakes,even if they are fictitious. If you want to read about some over the top, mad love and be forewarned,  try Wuthering Heights. Or, The Return of the Native. Or Devdas. 

 I can tell you with no iota of doubt that that has not stunted my prospects anywhere, neither has it made me into a lonely soul with no one to turn to in moments of sadness.Quite the contrary. I have friends who have known me for years and love me to death, as I them. How many people can say that without a shred of doubt in their minds?

And no, not all of those bonds were formed in the innocence of childhood, some of them were formed when I was an adult and very much in the thick of all things worldly and blasé. 

So then, how did it really get so difficult for us to fall in love? In our world, Valentine’s Day is Big. I had to wait about 20 extra minutes at Trader Joes on V Day because of traffic : men and women  queuing up with bouquets of flowers. Mostly men, and roses, to be specific.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not at all an evil party pooper. In fact, I quite appreciate the bouquet and dinner and read poems of love at leisure. So, safe to say I am pretty mushy romantic myself. But what I do not still get is when did we start playing by rules so much that it took all the fun out of falling in love? Worst, and I really do think this is the worst of all, how did it get so difficult for people to accept that they love another person? Given it is the right person (one who is not taking advantage of you or is not misleading you. Hence the importance of knowing people for what they really are) , acceptance can bring much more than excitement. It can bring peace. 

My pet joke about the young society in the US is that the national pastime for urbanites here is not baseball anymore. It is “meeting people.” They even call it “networking”. “I go to the bar to network”.  Some people even go to the temple to network. No,seriously. Why can’t it just be called “meeting people because I have nothing in particular to do today in the evening”? It is perfectly fine and accept able and I have done it at times. But “networking”? 
 There are meet up groups and activities and book clubs and hang out groups and so many other ways of “meeting people”, it is quite overwhelming. Society at large joins forces here to make sure no one is ever alone. Only, that does not take care of them being lonely.
Two. Different. Things. I have seen “it” boys and girls in both parts of the world feel scarily lonely and vacant at times, despite all the noise around them. That Deepika Padukone character in Cocktail? Not entirely untrue, though I should really not get started on that movie.

I’ve always had a hard time controlling curiosity and boring bores me to death, so I’ve tried a couple of these meet up/hang out things.
One of them is actually a nice idea: you meet backpackers travelling across the world with buckets full of stories there. Creep alert: there are some, but basic common sense will keep you safe. They also arrange subsidized off-Broadway theatre shows that an outsider like me would never have known of otherwise and also accounted for my first Thanksgiving dinner. Then there are burlesques and naked bike rides and scrabble nights and other things. I can’t/don’t attend most of their events because there is bread and butter to be earned, and because I like my bread and butter to go with some wine, work has to be dealt with.  
I dumped the other group after two meetings. It mostly consisted of young, single people my age with reasonably stable jobs and a choice of three broad conversation openers. “So, what are you doing xxxday?",  “Are you looking for a light”, “Are you Indian?" I told you, boring bores me to death.  I made one friend from these events. Just one.

The few other interesting people I know are not from mass organized events, nor from playing date-poker in my head with all guards up.

I’m a lousy poker player anyway.

I wonder how many have actually met people that they would like to know for life, or for any considerable time, from these places, when you are desperately trying to stick to the rule book in your head? Except for some instances, you are so prone to be judged and scrutinized for so many small and otherwise inconsequential things, it is a miracle people still manage to talk and get each other’s numbers. If they do, that is.

I have been asked so many times why I have gone out with people who are not Adonis lookalikes (“you have better options!”) that it is embarrassing, really. For one, it bothers me to think that there are people who think I could and would choose my company only on the basis of what they wear and how they look. And for the other, I feel sad for those who think like that or do it themselves, and then howl about how they have no real friends or love.
I read recently in an otherwise smartly written column in a magazine that men get exactly one chance at a joke before they lose the woman of their dreams.
Witty men rule my world, but one chance, really? And what do women get?
The same if not worse, if the urban landscape in this country is anything to go by.
It is amazing exactly how critical men, who themselves are not Prince Charmings by any stretch of wild imagination, can be. “I would ask her to dance if she had thinner arms.”

I overheard this, gulped my drink, looked at my reflection and wondered how many people were marking me off right then.

 I get that we are all busy. I get that there are too many creeps out there, both women and men, for us to not have some internal checks in place. I also get the concept of “leagues”. Somewhat. But if rules, that too, those that don’t really make much sense, is what steer us so much, maybe it is time for us to stop crying about “where are the right people we want to fall in love with”?

For you know what? He was right there, but it was a bad day,and he blew his one-time chance at making you laugh. She was just off her gym routine.


Pratik said...

excellent. you have hit the nail on its head. sadly these rubbish rules are getting into the head of young people in our country, too. everybody is so busy being 'cool' and finding a 'cool' boyfriend/girlfriend that they have forgotten what is love and how important it is to find a good person to lose your heart to

Nivi said...

Thanks for commenting, Pratik da. And may I add I was expecting you to be one of the first few people to do so? I'm glad you liked the post. I wish more people would just try and be honest and more accepting of love. It is sad that most young (and old) people today don't see the fun and joy of it, they are so busy playing by the rules.

Maha said...

Once again, its just beautiful :)

Like any overwhelming feeling... it starts with denial, fear, being vulnerable and then a moment of epiphany. Its a trip....(the biggest of all if you ask me) I wish everyone experiences this once in their lifetime.

amithpr.wordpress.com said...

You write well. Has anyone not told you that? all this is wonderful but will you ever start another blog for the concise world? ;-) And hope all is well with the men in your life?

Nivi said...

Thanks for your comments, Maha and Amith. What is the concise world?
And does my blog suggest things are amiss? I was hoping quite otherwise!

Nivi said...

Not sure if I'm self cannibalising this space, but I've been thinking a bit about this post and have been reading up a bit, when I came up against this "Take pleasure in loving, but do not expect that anybody is obliged to reciprocate that love".
And to that I had to add, if and when we do get lucky enough to find that person,,m would think it is worth everything to set ego aside and fight tooth and nail to keep them in our lives.

Neena Majumdar said...

Seriously, the pure innocence and chance of falling in love, loving someone beyond exterior beauty is so rare both in developed and developing societies these days. There is most often if not always a checklist that one must comply with to go to the next level. This is sad.

Sukanya Randhawa said...

I think there is a good reason why love is so rare, esp among young people. It requires that rare balance of letting go & maturity to let it evolve. Its incomplete without surrender and remains unfulfilled without adequate nourishment. So many thin lines to tread upon and of course the slackening interest in all things not-so-perfect...is it just love that remains ever so elusive ?

Nivi said...

Thanks, Neena and Sukanya. I know exactly what both of you are saying. But that is why I was wondering, why and when did we complicate things so much? And I see no one chose to talk about the fighting tooth and nail to keep it when we find it bit...

Payaswini said...

Congratulations! Your post moved me enough to at least spend some more time on your blog and leave a comment.

Let me start with an anecdote

Me: Mamma, did you love dad when you married him? (my parents had an arranged marriage)
Mamma: No, I didn't know him enough to love him. But the little that I knew about him, I respected him a lot. And then I learnt to love him.
Me: Ok; so first it was respect, then love.
Mamma: yes; for both of us, as far as I can tell.

The reason I opened with this little conversation is because I find it difficult to find men who respect women today. For some reason, for me, love emanates from there. That someone not only accepts me for who I am but appreciates it as well. That is selfless. Love is selfish.

Now, coming to your point on since when has it become so difficult to fall in love? I think, and I can be entirely wrong, it’s because the social fabric has changed. Expectations have changed. So let’s break it down- what is being in love? Spending time together, doing stuff that you like, compromising on things for someone because you want to see/make them happy, being there for each other etc etc

Now all of this requires time, energy and effort….and it can’t be one sided. And I think we can agree on at least one thing- women of our mom’s generation or our grandmother’s generation were more giving and unconditional than women today. And that’s where the problem (for the lack of a better word) starts.

Today most professional, career-oriented women (I gather that that is the target group of your piece above) believe, and rightly so, that they are no less than a guy…so the compromises that I alluded to above seem unfair and one-sided. And I am not saying men are entirely wrong here. While we want men who accept us with our ambitions, I don’t know any girl who would be okay marrying a guy who says he wants to take a lighter job and he is okay taking care of the family and kids. (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/18/booming/he-hasnt-had-it-all-either.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1& )
Not sure how many of us in India would be okay with this; yes, I say India, because ‘what the society will say’ continues to affects us; though in varying degrees. Similarly, while men today want educated, ambitious girls, they can’t seem to wrap their minds around the fact that with that, they will need to make concessions on the domestic front. They are in a relationship with a human being; not superwoman.

So you can’t look at love in isolation. It comes with all these thing- compromises, fairness in a relationship, equality, respect, acceptance etc. So while we want to cling to the idea of love, we are not ready to settle just there! And which is why the hesitation to fall in love, the fear of getting hurt…because while love is a cookie, it also comes with calories! And who wants calories; metaphorically and literally speaking :)

Yours Incoherently,

Nivi said...

Thank you so much for the comment, Payaswini. And more so for taking time out to read it all in the first place. I read and reread your post, and am still not sure I am in total agreement. When I once asked my grandmother how her how women in her days put up with all that they had to, she said "because they had to. They did not want to, most did not do it all out of love, but out of necessity. There was no financial independence, society would run you over if you did not stick to the rules. Not everyone is bold enough or honest enough to challenge rules." So, I'm not sure it is all about that entire generation being more loving or selfless. And that mention of honesty in challenging rules is something I'll remember all my life. It's not just about courage. The rest? Well, I agree to the rest. As we become more complicated as men and women, our relationships do too. But that still does not stop me from wondering: do we really HAVE to make it all so complex? And I know no one will answer this, but how much courage or honesty do we need to fight for someone we really love? So why do we not do it?

Shameek M said...

Dear Nivedita Di ,

I completely agree with what you said in your post , the importance of knowing people for what they really are , helps in finding the right person , and that acceptance can bring much more than excitement - it brings peace , it brings happiness. It is indeed a beautiful and happy feeling... :)

With regards ,

Bollywood Begum said...

Excellent Posst. You have it exactly right. Nice to see a fellow blogger on twitter.


where the mind is without fear and the head is held high..

where the mind is without fear and the head is held high..