Of Love and Other Demons

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I’m not very certain what love is. I won’t deny that I went looking for its meaning numerous times. I definitely rule out Romeo and Juliet here, for they were stupid, frivolous and if you ask me, they deserved to die. After having read Wuthering Heights countless number of times, I  am now convinced that neither Heathcliff nor Catherine ever loved each other. They were both just ambitious, spiteful and vindictive. Growing up, they were forced to cultivate these traits in themselves as defence mechanisms. Invariably, their ‘love’ was built on the same foundation; it was not something hidden in the ‘eternal rocks beneath’, as Catherine says on one occasion. I don’t think Gatsby ever loved Daisy, either. That’s just another tale of yet another 1920s’ ambitious American man aiming at the faraway green light.

What then is this enigmatic feeling owing to which battles have been fought, epics have been written and films are scripted. Is it the way Rick Blaine reacts when Ilsa asks Sam to play ‘As Time Goes By’ in Casablanca? Is it the way Jesse looks at Celine when he spots her at the Shakespeare and Company book store nine whole years after they had first met, in Before Sunset? Or is it the blind, unrequited, undying and unwavering passion that Florentino Ariza contains for Fermina Daza for 50-odd years in Love in the Time of Cholera? I don’t know, these come close, don’t they? At least, they definitely make more sense than the rubbish Nicholas Sparks, Stephenie Meyer and the likes try to sell to you. Love is patient, love is kind. Love means slowly losing your mind (slightly ironic that I had to quote 27 Dresses here).

I’m serious, when I was younger and stupider,  I watched that mush-fest of a movie called The Notebook (yeah, Ryan Gosling is jaw-dropping hot, I don’t deny that but I would rather watch Crazy Stupid Love to ogle at his well sculpted body), which set my hormones to some sort of tango. So I logged into my Yahoo chat and PINGed the guy I had a crush on and typed ‘I love you!’. Comic sans was the font and purple was the colour of the text, I still remember. I don’t remember what exactly he said, but I do remember that it didn’t go well. That’s where my aversion towards the word ‘love’ started. Proposed in comic sans, rejected without a glance. Nicholas Sparks was feeding bullshit to an entire generation and thanks to books, films and teenage hormones, he is going to continue to do so. My friends around were doing worse. I don’t know what they were high on. I stopped at ‘love’, while some of them (guys included) had marriage on their mind, from the age of 15!

The next guy I would like to talk about entered the scene a couple of years later. Actually, it is more apt to say that this particular guy came back into my life. This is my very own version of Wuthering Heights, except more stupid and child-like or should I say less dark and gruesome? Anyway, the Heathcliff in this story didn’t come back to seek vengeance. He came back because of the existence of Facebook. Rewinding 10 years from this period – Heathcliff and I were neighbours, went to the same school, sat in the same auto, shared our lunch boxes, played together all evening, did homework together, etc. How cute, right? So this time when Heathcliff had come back, I was more careful with my words. When he asked me how I felt about him I said “Well, you are special”. Days passed by and this didn’t go anywhere either. *plays George Ezra’s Breakaway in the background* I can’t elaborate any further because Heathcliff and I are good friends now. But my Heathcliff never affected me in any major way. Yes, I did believe, at one point, that this was like the ‘eternal rocks beneath’. But let’s be honest, this sounds like an impractical, highly-dramatised Anuja Chauhan book right now. So I laughed it off, set sail into the sea again, constantly looking to lay anchor somewhere (Yes, I’ve got daddy issues and I cannot lie. Deal with it!).

The thing with ambitiously setting off into the sea has two major flaws. One is, although you’re trying to anchor yourself somewhere, in reality you are running far away from your ground (unintentionally so). You don’t let people in; you unknowingly close down to the people you want to open up to (did you read some innuendo? yeah, I like you already) in the first place. Secondly, if you meet anyone, on your way, who is asking you to stop and stay, you don’t even consider the proposition because you’re too ambitious and picky to settle. So you go ahead to kiss yet another prince who will eventually turn into a frog. A couple of assholes and zero tears later, it was time to face my first major blow in this aspect of life. I had never guessed that the way I looked at guys, selfishness, love, and even my own self, would change in the course of the next three years. This guy intimidated me (with his smartness) the first time I met him. Plus points, right there. For something that started off as so casual, this took a pretty nasty and serious turn in my head (yes, most drama in my life happens in my head alone).

When it was time to jump out of my introverted existence and face the reality, I was still unaware of the intensity of this in my own head. Because I had gauged my very own ground wrong, I messed it up. I messed it all up beyond the point of repair. I messed it up over and over again, honestly. I cried my eyes out and drank myself to sleep every night. That sense of regret overpowered me. I couldn’t think straight about anything else for anything longer than a minute. I named that regret ‘love’ after carefully calculating and assessing my emotions. I gathered the courage to finally use that word more seriously this time.

Wait, did I just blame myself for everything? Let’s strike that out, because the biggest gift that came out of this three-year-long painful phase is self-love. I never respected myself or loved myself enough before this. Just looking at the intensity of the emotions I felt (without any reciprocation) made me realise what a strong yet sensitive person I was and that was enough to make me start loving myself. I watched Before Sunset and had my hopes up for 9 years from then. I read Love in the Time of Cholera and had my hopes up for 50 years from then. I started writing better (oh, the angst of unrequited love is exactly what a creative mind requires!), I started valuing people better, I got more serious about men and I streamlined my choices in them (eventually), I made the best set of friends anyone could ever ask for, because for once I was convinced that I was good enough to deserve all of this.

A couple of cities, one whole year and no new distractions later, I met someone else who made me realise that I never really let anyone into my life ever before. My world was for myself, my defences were as high up as The Wall. A close friend of mine had sent me a hand-written letter from Dubai (when I was still trying to get over the previous guy) in which she wrote ‘maybe it was never meant to be, man. Some people are meant for themselves’. But this time, I did start to break down the wall, little by little. Because it is ‘worth it to let some people in’, this boy said. I slowly realised that I never really loved the previous guy and that it was all in my head. But as the universe conspires against everything I want, it didn’t work out this time either. But what did come out of it, in the very little time I gave it, was prioritization. I let everything that made me emotionally vulnerable fly out of the window, set myself, my health and my career way above everything else. I started giving more importance to myself than I give to other people (I did give more importance to others, all along). And I know I’ve never been so serious in my life before this. So did what I feel for this guy spell love to me? Of course not.

But I can’t deny that I didn’t find love after these numerous attempts. Love is that light at the end of the tunnel that I see every single time I go through an unpleasant phase. Love is that hope that is waiting for you after bad days; love is that determination you have to push yourself harder at everything you do; but love is definitely not that bitter and vicious feeling you foster after you face rejection or something doesn’t go as expected. Love, for me, is that insurmountable strength and positive energy that resides within me. Anyway, some people are meant for themselves, right? So I’m going to rest the idea of seeking love outside for now. Nicholas Sparks can chill with the ‘love is like the wind’ crap he’s feeding the world.