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     Volume 7 Issue 39 | September 26, 2008 |

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The Pitfalls of Falling in love

Syed Badrul Ahsan

Cartoon By Shahriar Sharif

Falling in love can sometimes turn out to be a most irritating affair. Dwell on Edward VIII. There are good reasons to think he would have made a good king for England. But then he thought of life in a different way. Nothing could compare, even remotely (and that was the way he saw it), with the love he and the American divorcee Wallis Simpson had for each other. Now, you can argue with yourself if Edward could not have kept both the crown and the woman. But, you see, those were different times. No one wanted to see a divorced woman on the throne; and the king was not ready to have any woman but Simpson beside him. He discarded the throne, unlike Henry VIII, who discarded his wives and had their heads sliced clean off their shoulders. Edward and Simpson then lived out their days in Paris. Were they happy?

Ah, love is always a matter of happiness. Or is it? There are moments when it can lead to a whole tranche of trouble, sometimes with terrible consequences. Remember the tale of Heloise and Abelard, two lovers doomed to unmitigated misery when people around them refused to approve of their love? Abelard was castrated and Heloise spent the rest of her days in a nunnery. That was love pure, but then again, purity always comes with bagfuls of misery. In our times, love has cost men dear. Nelson Rockefeller left his wife (and that is really no problem if two individuals married to each other begin to drift apart, realise that they have stopped sharing) and then married a woman named Happy. It only led to unhappiness. Rockefeller, in case you did not know, wanted to be president of the United States. But that marriage with Happy did not go down well with voters, the fallout being that he did not even get his party's nomination for the presidency in 1964. It went to Barry Goldwater.

It is never easy being a politician and being in love. For much of his adult life (and then posthumously) Jawaharlal Nehru was battered endlessly over his affair with Edwina Mountbatten. Now, of course we do not know of the extent to which they carried their love, but that they were deeply involved in a romantic relationship has never been in doubt. The trouble was that they were both public personalities; and those in the limelight are not expected to demonstrate their affections in public. So what happens to spontaneity then? In love, one is supposed to be carefree, frolicsome, untouched by all the banalities around one. But then politics comes in and keeps the lid on things. And why must you speak of the political world only? There is, once more, royalty for you. The story of Charles and Diana is a phenomenon in our times. Yes, okay, we have heard it over and over again. But have you ever considered the love Camilla Parker-Bowles has consistently had for Charles? Diana called her the Rottweiler; others unable to shake off their blind sympathy for Diana have contemptuously thought of Camilla as the Other Woman. But sit back and think dispassionately, if you can: there is a consistency and a purity that you spot in Camilla's love for the man she is now married to. But it has its pitfalls as well: she will never be able to convince people she is a more sincere lover (and she is) than the young woman who died in the company of Dodi Fayed in 1997.

Love can sometimes lead to huge rumblings across the valleys and the mountains. You cannot easily forget Paris and Helen, whose infatuation with each other caused that long conflict that is today both history and legend. Great men on both sides of the conflict went down in battle; and not even the gods and goddesses of mythology could keep themselves away from the war. By the time the war ended, everything had been lost, every home had been burnt, all the women had been turned widows and their children turned orphans. Only one young man, Aeneas by name, survived --- to find his way to the court of the blazingly beautiful Dido. Together they built the city of Carthage. In our times, Aristotle Onassis and Maria Callas did not build a city, but they had burning in them a love that was as passionate as it was glorious. Until Jacqueline Kennedy came along. Onassis rather unceremoniously ditched Callas and trotted off to marry the pretty widow of the slain John F. Kennedy. Callas died more of a broken heart than any ailment in 1977. Onassis too is dead; and Jackie is buried in Arlington, beside her first husband.

Speaking of the pitfalls, perhaps even impediments to love, we have Shakespeare explaining the dilemma for all of us. Love is not love, he avers, if it alters when it alteration finds. And that could have been a huge reason why Hamlet, for all his vacillation, was unable to free himself of his love for Ophelia. Yes, he did at one point harshly decree that she get herself into a nunnery. But he did not mean that, as his abundant grief at her graveside was to show. A thinker, Hamlet was averse to crude demonstrations of possessiveness. It was a quality Othello did not have. He simply strangled Desdemona, in the way that Porphyria's lover, afraid that he would lose her love someday, suffocated her to death with the long strands of her own hair.

There are loves that ignite the passions, silently. Through the shadowy haze of twilight, you notice with something of an exciting jolt that you have fallen in love with a woman whose grace and beauty are past compare. That is as it should be. No pitfalls here. No pitfalls? But there are; and you run into them moments after you have taken her hand in yours. She blushes to the roots of her hair, she trembles, she wants you to keep her hand in yours and yet let go of it as fast as you can. And then she runs off into the rains, turns and smiles nervously, to tell you she was not meant for you. Or you for her.

You walk along the silent pavements, wondering about the marvellously enticing quality of her beauty, of the fullness of her lips in her undying youth. And then your heart breaks. She thinks you are cheating on her that it is someone else you care for.

Pitfalls, did you say?

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