Love is probably one of the most complex and endearing emotions! Love has been driving us since time immemorial. What haven’t we done for love? We have been silly, we have been brave, we have embarrassed ourselves, we have been petty, we have been generous, we have given it our all. No matter how badly we break our hearts, no matter how badly it hurts we manage to pick ourselves up. For, it is great to be in love, even if the subject of our love may not love us back with as much ardour.
Falling in love! The first sight, the touch, the melody or that sound that stirs our emotion. When Romeo set eyes on Juliet or Ranjha on Heer, great love stories were made. Radha was drawn by the melody of Krishna’s flute. One image that made quite an impression on me is that of a young horse rider on a tempestuous night who seeks refuge in an old temple, encounters a beautiful maiden Tilottama there and loses his heart to her. This has been beautifully portrayed in the opening chapter of Durgeshnandini, an acclaimed Bengali historical romance by Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay. While reading the novel as a teenager I wanted to be Tillomatta, to be loved and won over by the protagonist Jagat Singh.
The trepidation of falling in love has been so lyrically depicted by Rabindranath Tagore:
With the slightest touch and a few words / I sense the spring in my heart.
The addiction of Palash and Champa/ Leaves me reeling with the colors and tune of the spring.
Whatever comes close to my mind intermittently/ Paints the corners of it with dreams.
Swells the tune of anxiety whenever they drift far away/ I am left reeling all day with their sweet sounds like anklet rings.
From old temples and gardens, love moved to college campuses. In fifties and sixties, co-ed colleges helped cupid in scripting many a tales of love. The love stories then often started in a formal note as boys and girls rarely interacted with each other in those days. “During our college days girls would enter the class with the professor and would leave as soon as the professor walked out. We would address them as Miss,” recounts my dad. Yet so many of his friends married their college sweethearts.
Soon the magic of love melted away the formality and the stiffness. Love blossomed in college campuses and canteens. Office romance flourished. In college I would love to hang out in the canteen over coffee and samosas to be with the boy I fancied or just witness other love stories around me. Hanging out in the library together, walking hand in hand under starlit sky are some memories I will cherish forever. Though it’s those moments that matter now, the person seems to have faded in the background.
The bittersweet pangs of love! The wait for a letter or one brief phone call. Long distance calls were expensive then and telephone was kept in the drawing room ensuring that there was no privacy. Though the digital age away did away with letters and brought people closer in one sense, the pangs of love remain, or seem to have become more complicated.
Love sauntered from colleges to high schools, wandered around theatres, clubs and pubs, sometimes surprised us in lifts or corridors. One fine day, love decided to take the digital route. From college canteen and office parties dating moved online. Tinder, Bumble, Hinge and the rest brought the world to love’s feet. You could fall in love with anyone now, sitting in any corner of the world. Love letters gave way to chatting apps. At one time there were occasional tales of pen pals falling in love. Now there are so many tales of online love, many ending in heart breaks. Paradoxically enough, the digital world that brough us closer has also driven us apart. The endless chats and smart emojis come at the cost of real conversation. The digital persona often masks the real person creating a split.
Sometimes I say too much
Sometimes I say too less
Sometimes I am too verbose
Sometimes I am at a loss of words
I never know what’s the right way to tell you ‘I love you so much’
I love you so much, sometimes it scares me
Sometimes it gives me strength
Sometimes it fills me with unbridled passion and happiness
Sometimes it makes me miserable
Loving you, wanting you, the fear of losing you…
Sometimes I am convinced things will work out for the best
And we will walk hand in hand into the ‘happily ever after’, wherever that elusive land is…
Urmi was looking out of her bedroom window, sipping coffee. This was her favourite part of the day when the fading daylight brushes past night, soft darkness envelopes the world. Today being a Saturday, she had the luxury of enjoying the enigmatic twilight hours. Urmi hadn’t switched on the lights yet, she was enjoying the soft kiss of semi-darkness. In the quiet of the evening, her mind kept wandering back to her breakfast with Manju masi and her alarm on learning that Urmi has turned 42 this year. “And you are still single? Who will marry you now, some sad divorcee? What about children?”, Urmi was amused by her exclamation. Manju masi kept shaking her head as if Urmi has been hit by some grave misfortune. “You are pretty enough, why couldn’t you find a husband,” she said again pouring Urmi her second cup of tea. “I am happy on my own Manju masi,” said Urmi smiling trying to put an end to the discussion. Next Manju masi would try to pair her with all the single men in 40s she could think of, and Urmi dreaded that. She knew it was futile trying to tell her that she wasn’t looking for a husband, it’s smarter to change the topic.
She took out the saree that her mom had sent for Manju Masi as her birthday gift, Dhakai jamdani purchased from the weavers. Urmi’s mom and Manu masi grew up together, they were best of friends. While her mom got married soon after college, Manju Masi having suddenly lost her dad was burdened with the responsibility of her family. She took up a job in a school for the sake of her younger siblings. Once they grew up and got married, Manju Masi was left all alone. She was almost 40 by then, too late for her to get married in those days. A few decades back 40s was almost the end of all good things in life, definitely the end of love and romance. Urmi’s mom had always stayed in touch with Manju Masi, she often lamented the fact that her selfish siblings didn’t bother to help her find a husband.
As Urmi looked at Manju Masi she felt sorry for the lonely life that she has been leading for the last 30 years. She felt fortunate to be living in a time when she could script a bold new story in her 40s. While Manju Masi and her likes were termed as spinsters in their 40s (middle-aged single women with no prospect of marriage), Urmi, on the other hand, has never felt more desirable. Some years back, she did struggle with the fact that she was nearing 40 and her love life was going nowhere. The constant reminders from her mom and aunts that her biological clock was ticking didn’t really help. Finally, she told her mom firmly that she couldn’t get married just for the sake of getting married and having children was not be all and end all of a girl’s life. Liberated from the constant pressure of marriage and motherhood, she walked confidently into her 40s – happy, successful and brimming with confidence. The world has started embracing the change and lauding the new-found self-assurance of the 40s. Urmi learned to ignore those who didn’t, they didn’t really bother her.
“Look at me Urmi. Living alone for all these years has not been easy,” lamented Manju masi. Urmi wasn’t sure how to tell her she didn’t feel alone; she was quite happy and content with her life. Male attention has never been a problem for Urmi. When she was young, she has loved in earnest and broken her heart more than once. Love was more platonic then, holding hands, a few kisses at the most. Looking back, she sometimes wishes she was bolder then but those few stealthy kisses had their own charm. She remembers her first love that was meant to last forever. For when we are young, we believe in one true love and when that ends it hurts like hell. She has been hurt, lonely and sad. There were times when she would be gripped with fear and anxiety that she would probably be all alone for the rest of her life. In her quest for the perfect man, she made so many mistakes.
But the 40s were strangely liberating. They liberated her from the quest of marriage and motherhood. She was confident enough to pursue bold relationships, she could enjoy sex and intimacy without moral compunctions. She realized it was possible to have a beautiful relationship where marriage was not the prerequisite. With years, Urmi has gained the maturity and the poise to be in a relationship in her own terms without bothering about the societal norms. She has learned to love herself and value her space and privacy. She did feel lucky to have come across a man who complements her, be there for her while respecting each other’s space.
Relationships at each stage have their own set of challenges. In her 40s it was more about accepting each other and respecting each other for the way they are. Romance is more mature now, it’s more about enjoying the companionship, without unnecessarily fretting about the future. Surer of herself, Urmi knows she can deal with the future as it comes along.
Tanya got off the car and rushed towards the coffee shop. It was drizzling, winter rains, she was walking as fast as she could to avoid getting drenched. When she reached the covered porch she stopped, took a breath and tried to calm herself. “Maybe I should have cancelled this”, she thought. “It’ll take me ages to drive back in the rains, and all this for a Tinder date.” She ran her fingers through her hair and smoothed her jacket and started walking slowly towards the coffee shop.
Confident, happy and single Tanya logged on to Tinder sometime back, maybe out of curiosity, maybe out of loneliness, maybe it was a bit of both. She has been in love before, has broken her heart, she still believes in love and could be hopelessly romantic at times. Though her romantic quests didn’t go the way she had hoped, Tanya was a positive and a happy woman, doing well in her job, popular with her friends. She had pushed back all thoughts of love for a while and seemed to be doing a good job of it. Then, one Sunday afternoon, while flipping through TV channels to kill time, she was suddenly gripped by loneliness and boredom. Her friends, most of whom are married, were caught up with their family or in some other errand. “Maybe I should try Tinder,” she thought, “who knows maybe there are interesting men out there.”
She downloaded Tinder on a whim and started swiping right and left. To her surprise, she matched with every man she fancied, and all of whom seemed eager to meet her and take things forward. The initial response was overwhelming and exhilarating, ‘maybe I will meet someone nice here,’ she thought. She was not unattractive she knew, but the men out there made her feel like a beauty queen. Her optimism, however, was short lived, when most of her tinder matches seemed to be only interested in sex or one-night stands. Some of them were married as well, looking for ‘a true friend.’ “I was really naïve,” she thought “to think dating still meant coffee, good conversations and sweet romance. Holding hands and walking in the moonlit nights, like college times.”
As she was about to delete the Tinder app, the message notification blinked, “How about coffee on Monday?” asked an almost forgotten Tinder match, Abir. “Well one coffee shouldn’t hurt,” thought Tanya. “Fine, let’s meet at 7,” she wrote.
When Tanya stepped out of office that Monday evening it was drizzling, and she had a good mind to call off her Tinder date. “It’s too late for that now, it would be rude,” she thought, as she drove to meet Abir on a rainy December night.
As Tanya, walked towards the coffee shop, she found Abir waiting for her outside, he came forward and shook her hands warmly. By the time they sat down they were already talking, like they have known each other for a while. They talked endlessly for hours, till Tanya realized it was late and she had to get back home. Traffic was crazy on the way back, but she didn’t mind. There was something about Abir that was so different from the all the men who cross her path, on Tinder or otherwise. He was sweet, charming, polite, a little shy and seemed genuinely interested in knowing her.
So, they kept meeting and talking and before they knew they were dating. “Watch out,” her friends warned, “not so fast. You met him on Tinder, at best he’s looking for a casual fling.” Tanya took a step back only to realize that they were both drawn to each other hopelessly and there was no looking back. Neither Tanya nor Abir had thought that they would find something so beautiful on Tinder, so they plunged right into it – into a journey of love, friendship and companionship!