Love in India – With a dash of Politics, Religion and Consumerism

Love, it’s a beautiful word. In all its forms and with all its little nuances, it’s a drop from heaven. The closest we have to God. Love, you hear the word and little butterflies start fluttering in your stomach. Today I will talk about these butterflies. Some of these butterflies are beautiful, some very ugly and poisonous.  I wish to invite you to look at South Asia, in a small village in Haryana, India. Two people were ordered by local panchayat to parade naked in the village. Their fault? They had married because they loved each other, without the consent of their parents.

That’s not a rare case. It’s one of the cases that modern India faces. An India which was home to the world’s greatest civilization and of course its many love affairs.

How Shiva had wept for his Sati? What heart will not fill with grief for their love story? A princess married a wanderer against her father’s wish, he disowned her. The daughter for love of her father still visited him only to be insulted. She bore that. But how could she have bore any word spoken against her beloved Shiva? She burned herself. Shiva in grief and anger killed his father-in-law and wandered across the country with the charred body of his love. ‘Sati!’ ‘Sati!’ I hear his lamenting across time. Sati is born again as Parvati, another princess and reunited with her love.

Krishna! In him we see the Ubermensch of Nietzsche but the one who lifts the poor and downtrodden. The dancing Krishna with his mesmerizing flute stands in almost every Hindu household with his girlfriend Radha. He married Rukmini, that was also a love affair (and a grand one, rest assured). The music of his flute is heard beyond eternity, calling all the lovers to participate in the grand dance of Ras Leela (The Divine Play of Love!).

Will the lovers participate? That my friends is the real question.

Meera, that beautiful and brave queen. She drank the poison and it turned into elixir. The thorns she walked on became flowers. She left her home, her husband, her kingdom for her love and wandered far and far to find her Krishna. (Once she was denied entry into Krishna’s temple. She laughed at the priest. Krishna lived in her heart, how could they have denied her entry their?) Legend has it that her soul found its way into a Krishna idol and the idol burst for two souls couldn’t live in one stone!

And yet the lovers can’t love today. Not in India which is ‘moral’ at least.

What’s stopping them?

Their parents because they don’t want their children to ruin themselves. More than 90% of Indian marriages are arranged and more than three fourth of them without the consent of bride and groom. Dowry plays an important role in these arranged marriages.

Society (people you have never met and yet they influence you). Because love will ruin the moral fibre. Children will go astray when they will see people in love.

Politicians. Yes, they tell people what to do. And they tell people not to love because it is against Indian culture.

Religious/Spiritual Gurus. The worshippers of Shiva and Krishna tell people not to love! It is against Indian culture!

How did love become against Indian culture? Many intellectuals tend to blame British and Moguls before them for this downfall. I will not delve into history. While reading about section 377 (the law that says love amongst two consenting adults is a punishable offence if they do not fit into gendered sterotypes) of Indian Penal Code in a blog post, I read a line, ‘the British gave it to us but we chose to keep it.’ The British scraped it from their constitution in 1960s. We still have it.

I am reminded of another story. The world was engulfed in darkness and only the offspring of Shiva and Vishnu could defeat the demoness Mahishi. Vishnu was born as Mohini and son of Hari (Vishnu) and Har (Shiva) was born,  Ayappa.

An India that worships love in all its forms says love is against its culture.

Then there is another side of the picture. Equally ugly as the first one. Many youngsters ‘love’ but only to have sex. Boyfriends are abusive and rich. Girlfriends are abusive and rich. It’s a race to more sex, more money and more power. And the race is fuelled by consumerism.

According to an estimate, 5.7 billion Rupees will be spent on 14 of Feb, 2016 in India. Valentine, a festival of love is emerging as the biggest market of the coming age. But that’s just one day out of the 365 (366 this year). There are movie tickets, bike/car rides, mobile recharges, cosmetics (which either adds up to, or is usually more than the first three mentioned) and so many other things that go unmentioned and are mostly unnecessary but amount to billion dollar industry.

This youth is not only cut off from its roots but has no sense of growth as well. They can neither count in Hindi nor in Roman and if you ask me, I sincerely doubt if they can in English though they only watch English movies. This is the youth which claims to be educated but has in truth mastered only the art of cat-calling and throwing racial slurs.

There is an old Hindi song which I love:

Babuji dheere chalna, pyar mein zra sambhalna,
Bade dhokhe hai, bade dhokhe hai is raah mein.

Loosely translated it means, ‘Dear sir, walk slower, be wary in love. Too many deceits there are in this path.

So what is the point of all what I have said? Where am I going with this? Nowhere. I have no conclusion to make. I just wanted to put forth some thoughts that had occurred to me in regards to this festival. How it’s almost next to impossible to find love and add to that the parental/societal/religious pressure. Then there are gender stereotypes to be fought with and the corporate’s greed. I am no one to provide a solution. I am raising an issue and wish to start a meaningful discussion which will find a solution. So please join me in this debate and let’s discuss on all the topics I have mentioned.

And what I believe is that love, despite all that surrounds it, is beautiful. Despite all the threats of society and religion, media and market, love will triumph. Do not give hope, but be wary in love.

Image shows Krishna and Radha. Courtesy: Saatchi Art Artist


It’s All The Same Anyway

The world will not wait for me,
But you love?
They will move on and keep going,
But you my love?
Will you wait?
Wait for my decisions?
Wait till I overcome my desires
And make the world hear my denials?
Will you wait?

The world will not wait, no, it will not wait.
Wait for me, for my visions and my revisions.
Why should it?
Who am I?
But you my love?
You are a part of me for whom I go on.
I shall for you one day become what I am to be,
Or am I that already?

No, no one knows me,
Nor do they care.
This fair world, this beautiful world
Extending to foreverness knows me not.
And I have nothing to do with it.
For I know you, don’t I?
And you, you love me, don’t you?
Or is it just a dream?
Or a truce between you and me?

Is there no hope for me then?
No sanctity in my profane path?
I will have to go alone?
I will go alone.
But without you why should I go?
Where should I go?
Hold! I fall!
Let go now, I have fallen.

Let me break against hard concrete.
But would I break?
Will the plaster not fall off?
Or everything will be as it is,
The cars will go on, flies will hover over sweets
And in the afternoon the sweat will fall in sweets.
Where am I?
Oh yes, nowhere.

What? What sound is that?
You don’t hear it?
Then I must have gone mad.
I’m hearing voices today, and tomorrow?
Tomorrow they will laugh or cry.
It’s all the same anyway.
But I will know the difference,
Yes, yes, I will know the difference.

Where did I leave you my love?
Or did you leave me?
Who knows?
Oh, I do! I do!
But who am I?
I am the one who told you to wait,
So let us go now, together.

Ah yes, yes. You are not here.
I am seeing things.
But you look so frail
As if age has touched you.
That’s strange! Ha! Those creams didn’t work.
Eh, they never do, they never do.

I am old now, they say.
My eyes darken and gas builds up in my guts.
It’s hard to stand and walk
But I must go on.
Where? Where must I go on?
Oh, go on, go on!
I have promised you, I must go on.

Why do you hear my musings?
I am a fool, an old fool.
I don’t know my name
But you do, don’t you?
Come help me pick up these fallen things.
What? Nothing has fallen?
Oh, it must be me then. Pick me up!

But the kids ran away.
See them go!
Didn’t I tell you? Didn’t I?
The world will not wait, the world will not wait.
But you my love?
Will you wait, till I come back?
I shall go on. I will come back.

What? No, no let me go!
This toil is mine, mine it is.
I will dig the earth, find the treasure.
Treasure? There is no treasure. Just corpses.
Bowels and limbs mixed in the mud, rotting.
Soon it will rain, soon it will clog
And soon it will float in my garden.

I have read the classics
Or have I read the gothics?
It’s all the same anyway.

Who is at the door?
A messenger perhaps.
Or some kid, come again to trouble my old bones.
‘Wait, will you wait?’
A letter.
She waited and died waiting.
And the world will not wait.
Why shall it?
Go! Let go! Let me go!

I cry and I laugh,
It’s all the same anyway.

I Too Had a Dog

When I was 2 or 3, I don’t really remember when, we had a dog. I don’t even know his name and I don’t know his breed. What I do know is that he was black and I loved him very much. I know this because I still remember his death. He was a funny dog. Ma says, we, that is me and my brother, used to play strict teacher with him. We would get a cane and just come at him. He was always brave and maybe more mischievous than us. He would snatch the cane and throw it in the pond nearby our home. We would go crying to ma that how bad our dog was for throwing our things. Ma only laughed and he would come and sit silently wagging his tail and acting all innocent.

We loved him. He always chased us when we went out to fields to explore in the sun and brought us back. Ma had told him to keep us inside when it was hot. He was good at it.

I remember he was sick and ma says it’s because he had fallen down the stairs while chasing a monkey. He was much hurt and our uncle rushed him to the vet, who was quite far because we lived in a village. The vet stitched his injuries but said he won’t live. Uncle brought him home. He just lay down by our bedroom door and refused to eat or drink. I remember this clearly. He was sad. We were sad. My grandma tried to cheer him up but he wouldn’t listen to her. Perhaps with the fall, his appetite had fallen too. He did not eat or drink for two days. In the evening he started whimpering and everyone knew he was going. Everyone but me.

I was not there then. I don’t know where I was, I just was not there with him in his last minutes. Somehow I think it was for the best. Uncle made him drink some water from Ganges River and put some basil in his mouth, a Hindu custom for a departing soul. He left this world, while people who loved him sat by him weeping. He left a people broken-hearted. And those people decide not to have a pet anymore. It just hurt so much.

Their poor baby, he was sweetheart to everyone when he lived and after death he was so missed. He made everyone laugh. Grandma has told us many tales of his. He would guard her door while she worshipped and let no one enter to disturb her prayers. Later I took the post with him and continued his legacy till we moved to a different city.

I don’t remember a lot of things, but I remember his death. I don’t think I can go through all that again, so maybe I won’t have a pet. One of my friends just lost her dog and she is so heartbroken. It just reminded me what we had gone through. I am left thinking when someone we love dies, some part of us die with them. A part that will never again be born like all souls, it will never reincarnate. With so much love, how many parts of our souls have died?

A Drunken Night

It was another drunken night. Another one of those one night stands. Shila woke up dizzy and still unsure of where she was. She looked around and barely recognized her room. Then she looked at her side and the man she had hooked up last night was still there, snoring. She couldn’t see his face but he had an admirable physique. Who was he? She could barely remember. She had a blurry image of meeting him in the bar last night and they had talked of Tom and Jerry or something like that before they were in her car making out. When was she home? Probably after midnight because the guard was asleep. The man turned and Shila rubbed her eyes to bring them back to focus. ‘Wow! He doesn’t look bad,’ she thought. ‘Bad? He is kind of yummy actually.’ Big forehead, large eyes, curved lips and a little stubble, a man she would be ready to go on a date with. The man woke up with a lot of twisting and turning as Shila smiled at him.

‘Would you like some coffee?’ she asked him. She never asked guys for anything. They were all turned out as soon as they woke up or she woke up. Except a few who had lingered to get her contact number. She denied of course.

‘Um… sure. No cream though,’ he said wearing his pants.

‘Don’t have any,’ she got up and moved towards the door, ‘would you bring the newspaper from outside?’

‘Yeah. I’ll bring some samosas as well,’ he replied.

Oh no! He too!’ Shila thought. When a guy left for bringing anything he never returned. It was an understood sign.

‘I know what you are thinking. I’ll be back,’ he smiled.

‘Whatever works for you. I’ll be in the kitchen,’ she pointed and left. After some time she heard his footsteps behind her. She turned to see he was standing at the kitchen door smiling.

‘You didn’t go,’ she turned back to the coffee machine.

‘The door is locked,’ he came closer.

‘OK, I’ll unlock it,’ she turned and saw him looming at her, ‘what do you want?’

‘How about a kiss? I’ve been meaning to ask for it since I woke up, but you are quite tense,’ he moved closer.

A kiss? I’ve been meaning to ask him that ever since I woke up!’ Her cheeks turned crimson.

‘I know,’ he said as if reading her mind and massaged her lower lip softly with his thumb. He pulled her closer and their lips brushed against each other and he sucked on them hungrily, but tenderly. Shila enjoyed every sensation running through her body and gave in, invading him, tasting his soft tangy smell of sleep and alcohol.

‘You taste like soft, fresh cream,’ he said between the kisses.

‘I thought you didn’t like cream,’ she pulled away.

‘Not in my coffee,’ he pulled her back.

‘That’s OK,’ she kissed him back.

They moved back to her bedroom as he tugged on her lips and she unbuttoned him.

‘I still don’t know your name,’ Shila said after an hour or more.

‘Then you must be quite eager for me,’ he smiled.

‘Shut up. I bet you don’t know mine as well,’ she hissed.

‘We are just two strangers here. But I answer to name Arun,’ he said.

‘So Arun do you know what to call me?’ she got up but he pulled her back.

‘Will Shila do? I saw it when we came in last night,’ he said.

‘You’ve got a memory then. But I need to eat. I’m tired and famished,’ she got up and he pulled her back again.

‘You wait here. I’ll bring something,’ Arun stood up and went to the door.

‘OK. There is a restaurant close to the building. They have great food,’ she said.

‘I’ll be back in ten minutes,’ he said and left.

They all say they will be back but they never are. You just wanted to make a good morning and so did I,’ she thought and got up. She was scarred so much by her past experiences that it was not possible to believe that anything good can happen in her life. She made coffee and sat at the sofa. Arun, if he decided to come back was already fifteen minutes late. She went to the balcony. Wind was cold and sun was hidden in clouds. The Sunday morning was not beautiful. No mornings were anyway. She had been living like this for more than three years. She had a perfect job, great salary, great friends but no family. She never cared for her parents much who had disowned her because she had left her torturing husband and came to Delhi. They blamed her for not working on their marriage. He blamed her for not working on their marriage. She was fine with living alone but she also wanted to be close with someone and this quest led her to night clubs and random one night stands.

She liked it in the starting but then it started boring her. They were all alike, good-looking and mind numbingly stupid. She was tired of them and wanted to get out of all this but week after week she found herself back in the club picking some random guy, a little of this, a little of that and they would fall like logs of wood on her. But Arun, Arun was different. He actually listened to what she was saying. And she certainly remembered him passing out before they made it to the bedroom last night. Nothing had happened then. It was in the morning when they came as close as two people could be. But even that didn’t matter, because he was gone just like the rest of them and wouldn’t come back. She moved closer to the edge of balcony. It had rained last night and floor was somewhat slippery. She moved too close to the edge and slipped, falling for a hundred foot drop. As she hit the stone pavement her last thought was, ‘no one came for me and I’m dying, alone.

People rushed to the dead body as blood spread on the pavement giving it a tinge of black redness. They stood watching, speculating, talking as Shila took her last breaths. From a distance Arun came rushing with flowers and a plastic bag in his hand. He had seen her too close to the edge and wanted to warn her, but she looked lost. He came through the crowd and fell on his knees close to her and said softly, ‘Shila I had promised to come back, see I’ve come. Don’t go now.’