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     Volume 4 Issue 14 | September 24, 2004 |

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Slice of Life

In Love and out of it

Richa Jha

The other day, a dear friend of mine called up and complained, "Why don't you ever write about Love."

"Who's that?" came my impromptu query. You can't blame me for my ignorance. The only Love I have vaguely heard of is Courtney Love, and I don't know enough about her to write 800 words.

"Oho, you get me wrong. Not any person Love, but love, LOVE, don't you get it?" her words had a strange mix of bewilderment and annoyance. The cyclone-hit jazzing phone lines added music to the symphony, aggravating the effect.

"Aaaah. L-o-v-e. That love. What is there to write on it?"

"Can enough be said on it?"

"Hasn't enough already been written on it? Cliched as it may sound, but while fools fall in love, only the ones with suicidal tendencies remain in love."

I have seen people in love. And I have known them before they fell in love. By no stretch of imagination could the two have been the same. The devil that possesses them transforms them overnight into self-centred whining misanthropic recluses, with no desire to have their private, insular reveries ruffled. I have seen more than one hitherto carefree soul being devoured by the Love Monster and turning into overcautious, over protective, Eric Segal reading, "Casablanca" watching weepy heads. And they seem to enjoy it, even revel in it.

Consider this young friend of mine in Dhaka (a friend in love is a fiend indeed, as you shall see), who has recently declared her undying love to someone I've not met yet. Like most people in love, she's behaving as if the universe consists of her beau and her. Add the telephone to that, and that makes it three of them. That's a large universe for them, considering that three is a crowd. But the telephone is an unavoidable necessity they have learnt to make good use of. They are yet to receive their phone bills for this month.

I don't know what made me do it, but last week I waited in her room for her to finish chatting while she was on the phone with the only person that matters. Tired of waiting, and cross for a gross unconcern, I finally walked out of the room after forty-five minutes. It had been a painful wait, because a) I didn't have the pleasure of eavesdropping, so hushed was their conversation; b) for a while I thought she was singing to him on the phone, and this friend of mine is only partially better than The Hubby where singing is concerned- we still haven't figured who croaks better; and c) I'm not sure if she noticed my leaving because you cannot have your face buried deep into the receiver, and still be looking around you. (I wonder if this is how they converse even when alone.)

And then she called up an hour later to find out why I left so early! The tone said she knows why, and yet was unapologetically and shamelessly silent on the sorry word. People in love are next only to God, or so they think, which makes them above all worldly wrongs. Isn't this how people in love behave? Show me one person who's himself and in love at the same time. I have not known a more paradoxical heightened state of mind. All at once you laugh, you cry; you accept, you reject; you give, you take; you look so secure in the knowledge of each other's assurances, yet teeter tentatively on the edge of insecurity.

This week The Hubby was out of town on work when, just for a lark, I brought out all our lettered exchanges when we'd just met, and when we started our lives together. Studies and work saw us intermittently separated at frequent intervals during which these letters were the primary source of sustenance for lonely hearts longing to be together. These letters bound us together in a way none of those brief telephonic conversations could. (I am sure it is a lot easier in today's world with e-mails and instant SMS's.)

The envelopes looked familiar as I sifted through them trying to recall the millions of words that were penned within these papered cases; the plethora of emotions that flooded these pages, and the many more left unsaid, but each heaving pause in a sentence enough to convey the bitter-sweet turbulence in the minds. The days just got replayed as I moved from one letter to the next, all methodically numbered and dated, often two or three having been written in one day.

I read silly sweet nothings, I read heart aches, I read yearnings and commitments; dreams and resentments; I read compromises and even ballistic threats; words that pricked, hurt, or words that tickled and warmed our souls…myriad compositions, but always cloaked in innocence, never with malice. Not even midway through and I knew what it was. If this is not love, what else is?

And, if that were love, have we now strayed off the path of charged emotions, into a loveless existence of daily routines? Somewhere down the years, our relationship, like any others, slipped into an easy habitual companionship, driven (and dictated) more by our day-to-day immediate needs than by the abstractions of love. Blame it on familiarity, on familial responsibilities and commitments, or on the veritable end to the exercise of exploring and discovering the new person, we often do end up taking our spouse for granted.

Or, as The Hubby believes, nothing kills romance faster than marriage!


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