I am out of town and should be back next week. But one never knows, till then have fun with this. I choose to share this piece with you for the fact that Manu Joseph writes beautifully and his take on relationships seems to resonate a lot of my ideas. Fresh from the retreat of the Abhi-Ash wedding, this piece is a humourous look at the absurdities of life, or the foolishness of youth. The piece was written a few days before V. Day '2007. Do register the 'civic crusade' towards the end of the essay.
Lovers as buffoons by Manu Joseph, in The Times of India, 11 February 2007.
Married couples are hilarious to watch. Taken together, as they stand at the doorsteps of a friend's house or in other social destinations, they look like co-conspirators. Their eyes are their language. Their whispers purposeful. They have merged into a single unit. Mr and Mrs, like sofa-cum-bed.
The husband's funny anecdotes, she has heard a thousand times. The wife's compliments to a woman at the table, he knows as bullshit. You can also see them outside the theatre's loo. The wife giving the man her bag, a small pretty bag that has no meaning because it has no space. And the man then looking like a fool holding the bag, trying to look broadminded and brave after figuring out there is no manly way of holding a thing that has a leather flower on the handle. But by far, lovers are the real jokers of the times.
In the office they think they are clandestine. Among acquaintances with whom they go out, they try to be discreet in the beginning and then, unknowingly, they throw signs. Like, when they all go to someone's house for dinner. Romeo finishes eating. Juliet takes only his plate to the kitchen. It is a timeless habit of new love. Then they slowly become vital revenue sources of cafés. They stare at each other vacantly and chuckle over nothing. They tease each other and take mock offence at the ribbing.
They give each other ratings. Then they would shortlist their favorite restaurants and take an oath that they would never visit those restaurants with their future lovers. After the oath, they would say that they will always be together.
Soon, they would yield to the irresistible pressures of their hormones to procreate and pass on the genes which is what the whole myth of love is all about, though they may not have read The Selfish Gene.
After the erotic tempests have been calmed, and nature fooled with a rubber thimble, the girl begins to talk about things like global warming, the beauty of old buildings, the plight of street children and things like that. The boy nods.
Meanwhile, a steady stream of gifts are exchanged, all adorned by the logo of love, a most moronic symbol that looks more like your hind than your heart; and that impaled arrow more an opportunistic advertisement of piles cure than romance. The boy soon learns that the gift a girl truly loves is something that has absolutely no use.
Now the boy, satiated by love, and in the delusions of having an incandescent personality because of the compliments of his mate, would wonder if he could achieve other scalps like her. A lifetime with one woman frightens him. Because he has seen older men and their wives. The fate of a woman, a boy thinks, is in the violence of age. When he meets older couples, he fears the inevitability of life, and he tells himself that he will somehow find a way out. He won't. In time, his girl would begin to cry in public places for such is the nature of love.
The boy would look around distraught. He would look more distraught when the unavoidable question arrives. Where is it all headed? He whispers something about an "open relationship". It is an invention of men. Such convenient structures are not easily sold to women. That's why the male looks distraught in that café. So many girls in the world, he thinks, and he has to choose only one. On the streets, among poorer youth, boys arrive at this distraught look almost through the same route the deception of true love.
In the long promenades by the Arabian sea or in the fringes of meagre parks or in the shrubs of Aksa, middle-class lovers sit fused, one silent pair after the other, hands straying or eyes filling depending on what stage the relationship is in. Infatuation fondles. Love cries. It is always like that.
First the vacant silent gazes, then a lot of compliments, the soft squeezes and smooches, the elevation of the boy's status in the fellowship of boys who believe all tales of his conquests, then misled by decency the girl seeks the promise of marriage. She weeps through the long pause. The distraught boy promises marriage. His hand is on her shoulder instead of where he would like it to be. He looks around a bit embarrassed for he began as a hero, which is what a girl in love makes a boy feel, and now he is stranded in a funeral.
Soon they recover from the melancholy, and resume the groping probably in the backseat of a taxi. It is a sign of the times that the rearview mirror of many taxies is pointed to the backseat.
Youth is pathetic, desperate, sorrowful, its glory overrated. Lovers remind the world of this. They console the old. But some people in India want to ban love in public places. These are usually unhappy men who can find love only after paying for the hard mattresses of undead women.
Lovers evoke in them the same animosity that the hungry poor in this country feel when they see someone munching a burger in public. That's the reason the Indian youth, despite the urgent torments of love, cringe at the thought of fondling in public. Or for that matter, eating a burger on the road.