The test of love!

Why diversity in love matters!

Many poets, writers and philosophers ( even those who are madly submerged in love) have written that love is not a give and take relationship, it is not a business transaction, but it is something that just happens. But today, we see our society has institutionalized love, just like marriage. While I agree that marriage is a necessary practice or custom for a civilized society to organize and live in harmony together, but unfortunately, love is something which has been defined by this society in a certain way. For ex: we see the enormous influence of religion on marriages and love. A guy belonging to a certain religion cannot marry a girl belonging to a certain religion, and vice versa. This is a perfect example of institutionalizing love. Love is something which just happens, and cannot be explained logically ( no scientist has been able to decipher why a certain guy loves a specific girl more than others).

Now, if such barriers of religion, caste, color, social status are applied to this beautiful relationship, there is no way that love will endure between them. I always felt that such an institutionalization of love is nothing but an uncomfortable adjustment, which never makes couples/partners happy and satisfied in their married lives. I find it impossible to comprehend the fact that people fall in love with only a specific group of people, who are just like them, who eat the same food, have the same social status, education, job, wear similar clothes, speak the same language etc. Of Course, there is nothing wrong for someone to stay and be comfortable around like minded people, culture,or religion. But this barrier is something which does not work in today’s life.

Because decades before, the world was separated physically, and people lived independently without even coming into much contact with each other. Today, on the contrary, the world is flat, connected, inter-dependent and a global hub. Someone in India has to collaborate with an American, who then has to work with a German or a Japanese on the same project/work. And so, as the world is coming into daily contact with different people of different color, race, gender, religion, caste, it is simply unavoidable to like or fall in love with someone who is not like us. An African guy would like an Italian girl, or an Indian girl might fall in love with a Filipino guy, etc… If we apply the centuries old rules of institutionalizing love and relationships, that ain’t gonna work now. It will be an absurd adjustment which has no justification.

Rather, the society should become open to accept that people are going to like what they want, and no longer society can impose its rules on it. In India, where I currently live, things have become so institutionalized, that new rules are popping up to stop these inter-marriages, and due to which, people are fearing to even talk or respond to someone, who is of different religion or community. Even in high profile elite circles, we see people marrying amongst their own elite group. The richest Indian businesses are family owned, and they are zealous enough to keep their elite lineage and wealth within their own group, to preserve the control and wealth. Even Bollywood and cricket ( another two careers to become rich and enter the elite status in India) are no exception. The bollywood families are not only notoriously famous for nepotism, but also for inter-marriages among themselves. And now, with the fame and wealth attained by cricketers, bollywood personalities are marrying cricketers ( Virat Kohli and Anushka Sharma, Yuvraj Singh and Hazel Keech, Hardik Pandya and Natasa Stankovic are some famous examples)

So, with the ever growing trend of arranged marriages, groupism, elite marriages as a way to keep power and wealth within the family etc, slowly people are forgetting how to love or even what is actually love! Gone are the days, when a Hindu girl from a conservative Brahmin family ( Gauri Chibber) dared to fall in love with a Muslim guy, who was an orphan, and struggling actor ( Shahrukh Khan). On the other side, we see a Muslim woman ( Fatima Ghadially) married a Hindu Brahmin cricketer (Ajit Agarkar). Both of them have been successful marriages. Gone are the days when a girl from a rich family, and who is studying medicine ( Anjali Mehta) could fall in love with a shy, simple cricketer ( Sachin Tendulkar) after seeing him at the airport, and in spite of being five years senior to Sachin. Gone are the days when a Muslim actor ( Naseeruddin Shah) can dare to marry a Hindu actress ( Ratna Pathak Shah) and not be charged under any law. Both happily continued to practice their respective religions. Gone are the days when an urban princess can fall for a guy who lived in a poor chawl (house). She married him and moved out of her palace to live with her husband in that poor chawl. Later, that guy became known as Jackie Shroff, and that brave woman is Ayesha Shroff. Can this happen in today’s world? I don’t see this happening anywhere. It is worth noting that even the legendary singer Asha Bhosle ( from the elite family of Lata Mangeshkar) had eloped with a rickshaw driver (Ganpatrao Bhosle), when she was barely 16!

I can give countless brave examples of such open-minded and inter-faith, inter-social status relationships which have happened in the past. But this rarely happens today. This has nothing to do with any particular government in power, but it is the mentality of our society which has changed to a large extent. So, the real problem I find is we have become immune to accepting diversity. It is as if we all are been consciously vaccinated by society and its rules to never break the rules, to never accept diversity, to stay within our own community, caste, religion etc. This institutionalization has led to deprivation of love and harmony among us. We live in fear with each other. We talk with other people like having a business transaction. We think before falling in love. We fear what people will say if we like someone who is not like us. This suppression of our freedom is like a virus which inhibits us to love whomever we want, to become whatever we like, or even to come out with our own identity ( be it straight, gay, lesbian or trans). We need to accept diversity of thoughts, identities, and even diversity in loving. Because as it is said, love has no barriers, it just happens. So, we should let it happen freely, this is the test of love…..

Finding the right one..

Many of us have missed catching that train where our right partner for life was traveling in!

In life, it is never easy to find true love. Everyone understands this at some point in life. When we are teenagers in school or young adults in college, our thoughts and ideas are often influenced by external world. We start constructing an ideal image of a guy or a girl based on movies we watch, or some character from a favorite TV series. At that tender age, we being young, start assuming that we have lot of time to find a genuine partner. So, most of us just limit ourselves to short relationships, or even a no strings attached kind of relationships. But all this is never accepted by society and neither by life itself.

Because, life is not something to be taken for granted. Similarly, finding a partner is also which needs to be given due attention. And this is where most of us fail, including me. We are told by our parents, or family to concentrate on our education, career and get settled. Then we can look for a suitable partner. But in today’s age, when our education often includes not only a 4 year degree, but also going to grad school ( or post-graduation). Be it working in Tech, or becoming a surgeon, or even working for an investment bank, every profession needs masters degree, or atleast a higher education with credible experience. All this takes quite a number of years, which often gets extended to mid 20’s or even late 20’s.

Now, once a man or woman reaches his/her late 20’s, and if they haven’t seriously thought about relationships, or even finding the right partner before, then it becomes quite a difficult ballgame. I have seen quite a few of friends struggling to find a partner in their early 30’s as well. This is because they have been either too pre-occupied with their education or career, or they have been involved only in short term relationships, which is not a very enabling experience. My story isn’t very different from this. And having seen friend’s situations and experienced myself, I often think whether there is any real need for us to avoid finding the partner just for the sake of career or even for an obsession to find the right partner at the right time?

Because, career is not something which ends after a couple years of experience. We cannot say we know everything in the field of work with only a handful years of working. In career, we never get settled, as today, technology is continuously evolving. There is no beginning or end of career, learning, or working. Unlike few decades ago, when everything was laid back, it was expected to complete education by a certain age, and then with couple years of experience, people used to become proficient or in other words ‘settled’ in their career. So, after that, family used to make arrangements for a suitable partner for him/her, and life moved on. But now, this no longer exists. No one can agree that they are comfortably settled in their job or career with a few years of work experience.

And further, due to social media, internet, movies and OTT media, life is filled with options to explore, know, learn and move ahead. Similarly, in relationships, no one gets settled down for the first choice. We all think we ll find an even better one, because we have options. We compare with our real friends, our social media friends, soap opera actors and actresses. We dream of a perfect partner, and a perfect life. But unfortunately, this rarely happens! While we are busy dreaming about the fantasy life filled with richness and a perfect partner, we often miss the right one in front us. He/She might be in our extended friends circle, or music class, or even living across the street. But we often overlook the ones nearest to us.

Just like in the bollywood movie ‘Jaane Tu… Ya Jaane Na‘, where Aditi and Jay, who are made for each other friends cum couples, they start finding true love everywhere outside. Only at the end, do they realize how perfect they are for each other. I feel we are like the Jay’s and Aditi’s in life. Many of us have missed catching that train where our right partner for life was traveling in!

They could have become our high school or college sweetheart!. But in this endless game to make a career, get settled down, or under the false impression to keep looking for the right one with an over inflated expectations, we often ignore or turn down the right ones, foolishly! Then after a while, it becomes very late in life and few of us give in to the family pressure to get settled down with the parents choice ( as it happens in India!). But then later, do they realize that they are not compatible with each other, and it opens a whole new arena of problems, fights, quarrels, which leads to divorce at the end.

I know there is no perfect answer for this, and this blog post is only an expression of my views on this subject. But I do sincerely feel this has a lot to do with our over inflated expectations about the partner( maybe like Mr and Mrs. Smith couple Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt, but unfortunately they are also divorced!), our pre-occupation with career, getting rich and getting settled down, or even a string of short term relationships, due to lack of mutual trust between each other, or a no string attached, ‘friends with benefits’ driven mindset between the partners, none of which gives a long lasting, genuine relationship.

Hence, maybe my generation which is obsessed with the social media and virtual world, needs to think and understand that finding true love or a soulmate cannot be done by any algorithm, or using artificial intelligence. A true relationship does not have any checklist which states to have a certain education, or career to qualify for an enduring relation. Love simply just happens, and to know this is the first step.

-Abhishek

Stay tuned for the next post…..

Loves moves the world…

Having a loved one in our life is the best thing that can happen…

We usually have the habit to extrapolate our sufferings to the highest scale. We think we have suffered a lot in life, and that we have some of the most unsolvable problems in our life. We then get depressed for petty reasons and feel why should bad things happen in our life.

I also go through such feelings sometimes. I then try to calm down my mind’s racy thoughts by either doing “Sudarshan Kriya”, or listening to my favorite music or even writing down something. Then when my mind settles down, slowly awareness dawns. It comes to my realization that how foolish we humans are regarding our concepts which are formed in our minds. We immediately want to give an explanation to whatever happens in our life. When good things happen in our life and we feel we have reached the zenith of success, we immediately jump to pat our back for the hard work we have done, we reach cloud nine and comfortably forget the past, because we crave for the path of roses laid out ahead rather than the thorns of past.

But on the other side, if we fail or do not achieve what we want, we become depressed, lose confidence, and start hating people who are successful out of jealousy. We become desperate for the fruits of success, and having not achieved it, makes us lose interest in the path we followed. We realize the true nature of people during such times, and after experiencing this, makes us aware of the intricacies of human nature. Some people even go to certain extremes out of depression or loss of faith in life.

Be it success or failure, the most important thing to realize in life is that nothing is more difficult in life than a life without love. Yes, indeed. What is the use of any success in life, if we have no one to share with? What should a successful person do if he/she immediately realizes the flock of people going after him/her are only because of their recent success. And they were the same people who had deserted earlier for being a failure!

So, it is better to have true loved ones supporting us during times of failure, rather than fake loved ones praising us during times of success. I feel they are the fortunate ones who have true, unconditional love in their life. Nothing in life is more difficult than living without mother, who is always an unconditional source of love to us. Our parents, even some all weather friends who stand the test of friendship, during the winter of failure or during sunny success, can be counted as true jewels in our life.

Once, we realize this, we will never give importance to ups and downs in our life, because after all, the value or importance of success and failure is only given by us. It depends on who is with us during that phase. Being alone in success or failure has the same meaning. Hence, it simply doesn’t matter even if we become successful or not. There is nothing to be worried about or even get depressed about. Our family, friends, our relations always matters more than worldly accomplishments. So, its the love that moves the world…


The social dilemma..

Nowadays, the definition of being social is someone who is active on social media. The basic nature of social gathering which makes humans as social animals, have changed from the open, outward social world to a closed, inward social media world. As it normally happens, that with every change, there are unintended outcomes. So does, the world of social media has changed the world of human bonding, particularly love…

Yes, today we see that people are more keen on finding their love, or soulmates online, through social media. Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram have become the defacto rulers of social media world. And several apps like Tinder, Bumble, OkCupid have become the preferred dating apps for the young generation. Gone are the days when people used to look around their friend circles, or family connections for a life partner. Today, the options are plenty and so are its after effects. I personally find these tools to be useful for everyone who wants to make friends, find dates or just hangout/socialize for fun. But these tools have changed the way dating or falling in love used to be before.

As I mentioned, earlier, it used to be a lot different in finding the right partner. The relationship world was much divided based on their culture, religion, work or even ethnic preferences. People from a particular religion or culture could not easily find someone from a completely different religion or culture to date, lest fall in love. Even if they did, it was not easy for them to carry on the relation due to the way society worked back then. For ex: In India, where the marriages are primarily decided by family and hence, love marriages are looked down upon, it wasn’t easy at all to date or even meet someone from different group. But today, fortunately, this does not exist. These tools have revolutionized the world of dating, and marriage as well. Though still, the matrimony sites and dating apps continue to put on filters based on religion, caste, ethnicity etc. But today, we have the choice to discard these non-pragmatic barriers which society imposes, and select the choice of person, from any background as we wish for.

This is a good change brought out by the social media. But what I feel more concerned is the fundamental change of the way we date or even build a relationship. I mean what is happening on the apps is we often try to know about the person based on his social media profile. We tend to believe that whatever he/she has displayed on their walls is the real life. We forget that the pics which are uploaded are edited with numerous fancy filters. We mistaken for the happy pics uploaded on the photo gallery to be of a successful life. We check how many friends they have in their friends list, and based on that number, we define the social quotient of that person. We see how many countries they have visited, where do they eat, and hangout, or which movies and books are their favorites. All this info is easily available on all the social media apps ( this is what makes them attractive for their user base).

Now, the problem is if all this is already known to the person who is looking for dating or making friends, won’t this influence the person’s choice? For ex: If someone has less friends on his friends list, but he is a really nice guy and good at heart. Now these apps doesn’t tell the world about his good nature ( as good qualities cannot be quantified by some algorithm to be converted to some number). Hence, the world will look at him as a socially shy person just because he has less friends as compared to his peers. Further, the girl who might be looking for partner, might even ignore him, based on this pre-condition.

On the other side, if people meet him personally, then there is much higher chance that they might like him, and they can become good friends with him ( which does not mean they have to officially exhibit their friendship status on facebook). Same goes for matchmaking or dating. We tend to fall for the filtered pics, or first class travel destination videos, or even a toned/muscled physique, and wish to make them our life partner. But later do we find after couple of dates, that they are not the right choice for our life.

I remember one scene from the movie “The Terminal” which many of you might have seen. Tom Hanks who performed the role of Viktor Navorski, helps his friend Enrique in exchange of food to get information about the female officer Dolores. Enrique likes Dolores, and is desperate to know what she likes, where does she hangout, whom did she date etc. Victor helps to get this info from Dolores to Enrique, just like facebook does. But the difference is Dolores did not know who is asking about her, and why is someone taking so much interest in her. This is the real secret of relationship. The true beauty in any relationship is that intimacy, bonding and even to some extent uncertainity about the next step. True relationship blossoms when both of them are longing for each other, to know, understand, and even act to share this bonding. It requires a certain degree of social contact.

Like the one in the famous movie “Taxi Driver” when Travis confidently walks in to talk to Betsy. Betsy doesn’t know anything about Travis, and still Travis manages wonderfully to convince her to take her out for a date. This is the real social skill, which comes by real contact. I wonder if facebook would have been there at that time, and if some Travis who is just a taxi driver sends a friend request to Betsy, how much is the probability that Betsy would go out with Travis for a coffee, based on the online request? You know the answer I bet.

Taxi Driver – Travis and Betsy meet

To know the person in real life, by observing their actions, how they behave, how they take decisions,how they react to certain situations is what glues the thread of affection together between them. This cannot happen through an app or website. And this cannot happen, if both of them already know a lot of info about each other from their facebook profile. The ironical coincidence is the movie “The Terminal” was released in 2004, and it was the same year when facebook was launched. It was as if the days of innocent thrill to go after the person, that desperate desire to know about them, and impress them are a part of history now. Today all the information is at the fingertips, and handy but at the cost of lack of innocence, intimacy and curiosity for each other. And Covid has made even difficult for us, when moving out of the house is avoided by most, and so the only way for relationship to build or maintain are through these apps. Facebook, Snap are getting richer but the quality of relationships and bonding is getting poorer.

Thus, I feel our parents or grandparents generations were a lot happier than ours, as they did enjoy the thrill, the excitement to meet someone, to demonstrate the social skills to socialize and even impress the one they loved. Now, what remains is the fast paced like, share, comment, subscribe based networking, facebook wall dependent profiling, and painstakingly time consuming filtered selfies and pictures to share our happy go lucky faces to the world. I hope that the good old days of meeting in person, sharing the joys and sorrows of life ( and not pics and chats) with each other, and then falling in love to remain life long partners still remain in my generation ( Millennial and Gen Z). Lets end this post just like the happy ending between Enrique and Dolores…..

The Terminal – Enrique proposes Dolores

As time goes by…

“As time goes by”, is the song, written by Herman Hupfeld, and filmed in the iconic movie “Casablanca”, which is one of my most beloved movies. We simply cannot expect another movie based on this theme to be featured again. Our lives are altered in a such way, that we neither have the time or the patience to go deep and remake such a rare classic, which exemplifies the vicissitudes and immutability of human emotions. Hence, a small effort to appreciate this masterpiece and share few observations about this.

The movie goes back to the times of world war 2. Those were incredible times when living itself was like a gamble. If anyone could live without fear, they would be considered to be enlightened. How Rick came to Casablanca after Ilsa separated away from him in Paris, how their chemistry of never ending love for each other got mixed up, and restricted by Ilsa’s marriage to Victor, Ilsa’s desperate attempts to hide her emotions for Rick from Victor, then her distressed efforts to convince Rick to give those letters of transit to Victor, and finally the unexpected decision taken by Rick to send both Ilsa and Victor to America, all are beyond comprehension.

The movie though has a very simple theme, but conveys a very complex message. I would say everyone might infer the movie in their own way. The unconditional love shown by Rick towards Ilsa is very envious. I wonder how this is even possible in today’s world. The movie reminds me of the Shakespeare’s quote from A Midsummer’s Night Dream, “The course of true love never did run smooth…” Indeed, the path of Rick and Ilsa’s love story was strenuous. And this happens in every true love. It never runs smooth, and never gets finished. But the idea of happy ending only exists in a chimerical world. The expected outcome is often eluded.

There are few similar life stories based on the real life Rick and Ilsa, like Sahir and Amrita Pritam, or even French existentialists Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir. Their paths also crossed on several occasions, love blossomed, but the story remained incomplete. We usually want a happy ending. Most movies show a happy ending story ( though for commerical reasons), as it gives everyone hope that things work out nicely at the end. But in a parallel bonding, there is never an ending, and rather what ends is also a continuation. Its strange to assess it logically as our left brain won’t comprehend it. But if emotions can be expressed logically, scientists would have invented a chemical to trigger the neural circuit in the brain or could have come up with a mathematical equation to predict the course. It would be highly incongruous to even ackowledge this. But fortunately it has escaped the paradigm of logic.

At the ending scene in the movie, Rick does the thinking for all of them, and bravely decides to let go Ilsa and Victor to America. This potrays a strong message to us. We often presume that in relationships, victory is the ultimate ending, and in order to win, we must gain. Rather, on the contrary, to let go is winning. Because just like Rick let go Ilsa, because he knew that even though she loved him, but she would never be happy without Victor. Even though Victor and Rick both were against the evil Nazis, but Victor desperately needed to reach America to escape the Nazis, and she knew only Rick could help them. Though she did not mean to take advantage of Rick in this situation, and Rick inspite of knowing this, decided to let her go. This shows an extremely rare quality exhibited by Rick, and that is dispassion. By letting her go, he gained her respect and love, forever. What a way to conclude!!

This reminds me of Mazhar Imam’s Urdu couplet

Muhabbaton ki parakh ka yahi toh rasta hai
Teri talaash mein nikloon, tujhe na paaoon main

(The best criterion to judge the intensity of love is never to get the person who one loves)

In modern times, we are conditioned to think that gaining is victory at the end. But the chemistry of love and emotions are complex. The movie tells us to introspect on this, and remains as one of the top rated classics. Sahir and Amrita were the quintessential intellectuals in this respect. We cannot find such examples today, as rare they are like a honest politician. Our way of life has been contrived in predefined fashion and even love, emotions, relationships are scathed in today’s world. As time goes by resembles the divergent realism of the society and we can still hope affirmatively that even though as time goes by, there will always be stories of rare acceptance and letting go for the sake of humanity and love itself.

Lastly, to quote Sahir from his collection, TalkhiyaanMuhabbat jo anjaam tak pahunchi nahin/Wahi muhabbat hai, baaqi kuchh nahin (Love that remains unfulfilled/Is the true love, the rest doesn’t matter). Ref