"Your next column should be a Valentine's Day special", my Editor tells me over Gtalk.
Yes, yes, don't worry. It will be a totally tadakta-bhadakta, jhakaas item for your V-Day special, I assure him.
Anything written, said or expressed about love will always find audiences. How else do you think these love stories have been the bestsellers and tearjerkers across centuries, continents and cultures? I have been a voracious consumer of love stories myself and my day begins with Bollywood numbers that profess love of different moods and genres.
So, 650 words on love come as laminar flow. Rise in love, I preach. Find new beginnings, new things to love, and then come back to the one love you have had, I go on writing, taking cues from Khalil Gibran. The editor is happy, and so am I.
Only, there is something else that has been bothering me. I have to acknowledge this love story I have no business with, something in my head is screaming out loud. The thing is, this love story involves my maid, and it had a very tragic ending - so tragic that the one involved will never know what it feels like to rise in love or what it means to have new beginnings and curves in love. And the other will dread falling in love ever, again.
Savita, my maid, was young and pleasant; two reasons why I decided to have her around my kids. Only a mother can understand how her system eventually starts revolving around the support maids provide. My happiness, peace of mind, social commitments, ability to meet deadlines and enough time to get outrageous in the virtual world actually depended on her. She would take the kids to the park, so I could write those 650 words. She would fetch them from the bus stop, so I could do pro bono work for friends. She would cook that one meal, so I could write that one script which would ultimately be aired. Yes, my life depended on her. And, so I conveniently chose to ignore the time she would be spending on her mobile phone, talking and smsing incessantly to someone I didn’t want to know about. I conveniently chose to ignore the fact that she was young, and had all the right to have a boyfriend. She had all the right to fall in love.
She chose to fall in love, but soon realized the repercussions she would have to face. People from two states, two castes and two communities cannot be together. She came from western UP, and had witnessed rampant khap type violence. She had been brought up to bow down to traditions and patriarchy. She was never to consider getting married on her own, or her father would kill himself, she had been told umpteen numbers of times. But heart gave way, and she fell for our car cleaner’s son. After a torrid but short-lived affair, she was made to come back to her senses – this was not to be, marriage of choice would never be allowed, she would never be accepted in that family and moreover, she would never want to be the cause of her alcoholic father’s death.
She must have chosen to be the reason of the love’s death instead. Only this time, it wasn’t metaphorical. The young boy actually killed himself when she got cold feet and refused to elope with him.
It was nobody’s fault. Not Savita’s (she should have persisted), not mine (I shouldn't have ignored), neither the boy’s (he shouldn't have given up so easily), nor his parents’ (they shouldn't have ignored it either). But now, I seriously think that we should stop singing and listening to these meaningless songs of love, for we belong to a world which is the most intolerant when it comes to making our own choices. We live in a world which feels the most insecure when it finds an individual in love. We are not to make our own decisions. We are not to break the traditions. And we are never to allow the luxury of confidence to the lovers, either in themselves or in the system.
So, die in love. Kill yourselves. And if you do survive your own wrath and disillusionment, khaps will make sure you don’t live. If you are not the one killed for family honour, the deeply entrenched caste system will make your kids feel like outsiders all their lives. And no, it doesn’t matter whether you are in a big town or a small one. Getting married for the sake of love will be the toughest thing you will ever go through.
But no, I will keep that sham called love alive. I will watch Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak one more time, read Rumi, sing another song of unflinching love to my beloved and buy those red roses and chocolates for Rs. 500 on the name of St. Valentine. I will have academic discussions on Kabir, Rahim and Raskhan. I will love reading "Love in the time of Cholera" and I will continue to churn out those 650 words every Valentine's Day for whichever publication I will be writing for.
Did I not say that love is an oversold theory? It may be alright in theory, but it will rarely work in practice.