When we think of love we think of it in terms of that boy who broke our heart or that girl who betrayed us, of the secret feelings we carry or the embarrassing declarations that got us nowhere. Every poster, every hoarding, every ad, every film and book, they all use the word ‘love’ so that it is a bombardment none can escape. There is a perfect world out there with a perfect mate, we are conditioned to believe.
Through all our disappointments, through all our tears, love beckons steadily as an ideal. In the basements of our minds is tucked away this thought: True Love exists. We may be tardy, we may waste time with X, Y, Z, we may dilly-dally, but ultimately everything will sort itself out when we run into the love of our life.
Meanwhile, minds are ensnared by the mundane – politics, wrong jobs, parents who fall ill and die, Netflix, religion, poor body image, property spats, sibling rivalry, mounting bills, leaking roof, hair-fall. Life gives no breathing space. True Love seems suddenly a candle flame flickering in the faraway wind. A fable. A lullaby. A lie told to put us to sleep.
The more relentless the images of love transmitted at us in top speed, the farther we move away from it in flesh and blood. Nothing can match the passion, the twists and turns, the drama on screen. The abs, the hair styles, the cool attire, the dialogues. Sitting on our sofa, peering at TV or computers in our sleep-deprived maniacal state, True Love is dressed in Prada and carrying a Louis Vuitton handbag.
Love teases and peeps at us from windows of other homes. We meet couples who smile and glance at each other in a synchronised fashion, and we long to complete someone’s sentences too. We envy them that effortless ease with each other, not really dwelling too long on all the hard work that must have entailed in terms of focused and sustained attention.
It is easier to explode our longings on art, cinema, food, music or God. But all these loves for all these forms of man-made terrains cannot beat the loneliness at the core of human existence. We need another person. Not so that others think we have someone, not someone to procreate with, not someone as arm candy…. But someone to chat with in the small hours, when the chips are down, when nothing is going our way. For which we have to reciprocate, be there for them just as they are for us.
Love for another human being is the highest love of all. And it takes a lifetime to find it and keep it. And here I quote my colleague Subodh Sankar from the Bengaluru Poetry Festival, which he has founded along with Atta Galatta, a bustling bookshop in Bangalore, with his wife Lakshmi. Says Subodh: “We are like chalk and cheese, Lakshmi and I. She likes alone time while I talk to fill every second…. Lakshmi told me to start a bookstore. That was how Atta Galatta began…. In the last seven years we’ve gotten overwhelming support. We handle both the good and the bad together… A relationship is not about being content in each other’s successes, but being actively involved in each other’s lives.”
Cheers to that!
Shinie Antony is a writer and editor based in Bangalore. Her books include The Girl Who Couldn't Love, Barefoot and Pregnant, Planet Polygamous, and the anthologies Why We Don’t Talk, An Unsuitable Woman, Boo. Winner of the Commonwealth Short Story Asia Prize for her story A Dog’s Death in 2003, she is co-founder of the Bangalore Literature Festival and director of the Bengaluru Poetry Festival. Read Shinie Antony's columns