Suman (named changed) looks forward to Valentine’s Day each year. The 28-year-old teacher, believes the occasion to be just another day to have a good time with her current beau – shopping for goodies, watching movies, followed by a dinner, and then packing him off to his own home. Having been in and out of several relationships since she was 21, Suman’s idea of love is different. She claims that she does not believe in the theory of ‘living happily ever after.’
“I don’t think being in love necessarily means to be together, forever bound in a marriage, or something like that. This idea of marriage has been handed down to us over the years by our society with an agenda in mind. We are expected to go the usual route, which is, if you are in love, you have to marry the person and then later have kids! I don’t think a lot of us believe in following this concept these days,” she opines, adding that love for her is transient. “If a person can fall in love, then he/she can fall out of love as well. I don’t think anything is permanent,” she says with a smile.
Intrigued, I share this conversation with a 57-year-old friend Ramachandran (name changed), a CEO of a multinational company, whom I have known for a long time. Ramachandran is a happily married man with a stunning socialite wife, and an equally beautiful married daughter, who too is well settled abroad – a complete man by Indian society standards. Interestingly, Ramachandran seemed to agree with Suman’s viewpoint, that love has nothing to do with marriage or being attached to each other. He quotes one famous line of Chanakya to me. ‘Drop the idea that attachment and love are one thing. It is attachment that destroys all love.’ “Even Chanakya had it all figured it out then and we are only realising this after so many years!” he laughs, and adds that one needs to work hard to keep the flame of love ignited in every bond that we create.
“Not just in marriage, but even in our relationships with our siblings, friends and even acquaintances we need a certain amount of love to survive,” he points out, adding that often sexual attraction is misinterpreted for love, when young. “Love grows as you grow old together. It is a beautiful feeling which must be experienced by all,” he trails off.
For the modern generation of Indians, falling in love is being regarded more of a luxury than a necessity. A lot many men and women empowered by education and financial independence, are venturing into discovering love and companionship on their own terms, and not necessarily laid down by age-old stories of timeless romances. In urban India, many have taken to experimenting from live-in relationships and same-sex partnerships, to having multiple partners and open marriages. Practicing love candidly, without restraint, is been seen as liberating and exhilarating for an average Indian lover.
The rise in the number of dating sites too has opened up fresh opportunities for men and women to explore the kind of partner they want to fall in love with, and eventually spend their lifetime with. With technology at the fingertips in the form of speed-dating, and internet hook-ups, romances are short and fast, the best time to explore and be explored.
All said and done, we eventually do want to experience this roller-coaster called love in some form or the other. A fact evident on occasions like Valentine’s Day which has couples (of all kinds), taking to professing their affection for each other all over the world, while shops and businesses go overboard, with marketing gimmicks to sell anything and everything related to the concept.
Love is something we cannot do away with. One of the most talked and written about subjects by poets and writers for centuries, it is a core of our existence in one way or the other. We may fail in our relationships, but we do not fail in our conquest of being in love or the idea of it. Whether it is a warm embrace or a peek on the cheek, a look of longing or someone to just hold hands with, whether it is taking responsibility or being responsible for someone, love is what keeps us and our existence alive. Love is life in itself.