04 May 2017

What is love?

So much has been written about that king of emotions called "Love". Whether it is romantic love or love for one's children....the feeling remains the same. But many people interpret it differently.

When I was young, my mom used to watch black & white Hindi movies. From those I learned that love has to bow before duty. The couple did not get married if family or circumstances did not allow. My younger self used to rebel at this thought. I felt that those who shy away from love citing responsibility as a reason are cowards or lack staying power. I was equating love with marriage or achievement.

Then came glorious adolescence and I was exposed to so much literature on romantic love. Even the movies of that time portrayed love as coy glances, stolen kisses, mushy letters & gifts, the adrenaline rush of the hormones etc. Love was action at that time. Lack of these meant lack of feeling. But not everyone is capable of action or fancy words.

Then I met men who claimed to love me. I observed, and realized, that each one saw me as someone to idolize - someone saw intelligence, some admired my confidence, some saw outward attractiveness. And I felt that if I ever show them my vulnerabilities, or the baggage that I carry, will they still love me? I kept looking for the one who was not scared to see my scars.

I saw my friends getting married the arranged way and observed what qualities they wanted in their life partner. There was no love (how can there be with hardly any time together?), but a lot of calculation viz. what education, what community, how much income etc. I learned then that romantic love can be conditional.

I got married myself. And I learned that even when someone claims to love you, they can still disappoint you, hurt you. Living with someone 24x7 tests the relationship at all levels; especially when there is family on both sides involved. There are ups and downs and if you manage to stick together through this roller coaster, then you find a life-long companion who sometimes would kill for you and at other times would like nothing better than to throttle you :-) Love became friendship and trust that have withstood the ravages of Time.

And then I ventured into motherhood. Now, I've always prided myself on being articulate and bold in putting across my thoughts. But it is only after I became a mother that I feel I understood and can put in words what love means finally.

When you are solely responsible for a tiny tot and have to mould that scrap of humanity into a well-rounded human. When that little one is totally dependent on you for their every need. You have cleaned umpteen messes after them, your sleep and meal times are completely messed up, you have no privacy left, you don't remember the last time you saw a movie or went to the parlor. Yet, their one smile is all the reward you ever expect. That overwhelming, unconditional feeling is love.

While the child is dependent on you, you never expect anything of it. You never tire of giving. But that feeling changes the moment the child becomes independent or an adult :-) And then its like the feelings between any 2 adults. There are expectations, the usual ups & downs and the bubble is forever burst. Love can have an expiry date!

Thus, love is unconditional, without expectation, it does not have to "belong" and it can only be known with the passage of time. It can wax and wane. A blood relation or soul connection is not mandatory. Also, it cannot be switched on or off. Neither can it be hidden - at least not from the object of one's love.

Marriage and love are not intertwined. Marriage is a duty and responsibility first and foremost. Love may or may not come into it. With time, it usually does though. Those who are looking to get married the arranged way, are basically pragmatic. They haven't found love, but that does not mean they cannot choose the life partner with the requisite criteria.

But when there is love, all the criteria fly out the window. That's when people say love is blind. But Love is never blind. It gives eyes to even the blind. You notice, & remember, even the tiniest detail about your loved one. All your senses suddenly start operating at their prime! It doesn't matter if your little one stutters or drips well past their development stage, it does not dim the intensity of the feeling. Love is acceptance.

Above all, love is NOT the panacea for all the problems, neither is it the ultimate goal of life. It provides strength to get through life, it is the spice that makes the food palatable. But life is more than love. There is ugliness, anger, envy, fear, bitterness and despair. So do not get stuck on love only. Experience all the flavors of life and you will know that love leaves the best after-taste.

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