Wednesday, April 20, 2011
Love as Disaster Capitalism: To My Children 10
Whenever I think about the love affairs that I had during my childhood, adolescent and youthful days, I remember this story of Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I read this story titled ‘Sleeping Beauty and the Airplane’ in a collection of short stories by him called ‘The Strange Pilgrims.’ Interestingly, I read this story while traveling in an airplane. It is all about an anxiety ridden encounter of Marquez with a very beautiful woman whom he happened to see in an airport lounge. Marquez liked her at the first sight. Like any other young man would do in such situations, Marquez too imagined so many things about her. He even imagined getting married to that ethereal beauty.
His flight was announced and he went into his flight. And to his shock and wonderment, the woman came into the same flight and walked along the aisle only to sit next to him. She looked like an angel. Marquez was tongue tied. Flood of words came and they were stopped at the floodgates of her beautiful silence tinged with the arrogance emanating out of her consciousness about her own beauty. She called the stewardess and asked not to wake her up for any meal. She went into a deep sleep as the flight took off. Marquez waited for her to open her eyes during the long flight. And he had the choicest of words ready for her. But she did not open her eyes. Just before the landing of the aircraft, she woke up as if from a dream, opened her vanity bag, touched up her face with sponges and brushes. And finally she walked out of the plane cabin the way she came inside stately and royally like a princess.
Today love affair has different connotations. In our country there are extremities about love affairs. Some people kill their own children who are in love with a boy or girl from a different religion or community, in the name of family’s honor. The rate of honor killing has increased considerably in the last few years highlighting the imbalanced cultural growth of our society. Recently, the newspapers spoke of a gory incident in which a criminal on parole killing two women in his family for he thought they were having affairs with some guys whom he did not approve of. Interestingly, this criminal had been jailed for raping a minor a few years back. While such honor killings exist in our country, we have very liberal love affairs happening elsewhere simultaneously. Today, there are parents who approve their children’s love life as it is. They give consent to inter-caste and inter-religious marriages. Today, even the boys and girls are practical enough even to demand dowry for themselves. Love affairs have become a preamble to practically arranged marriages.
In our times, love affairs were really affairs that often shook the core of the village life. In places like villages where everyone knew everyone else as a close acquaintance or as a relative, love affairs were hush hush affairs. If today’s kids do not find the boy-girl difference as a very much pronounced one in terms of gender and social positioning, in our times, even the length of the hair of someone seen from behind with you could have ignited a scandal amounting to the scale of a wild fire. The boy-girl divide was very strong and like the ones who had been parted by the divine intervention at the origin, these souls sought each other like desperate ghosts. Boys did not speak to girls and girls did not speak to boys. In each other’s presence they shrunk to themselves. The boys watched them from a distance and the girls in the process learned to giggle, chuckle and send side glances with darting eyes.
These side glances had their own beauty. You just waited for the girl to look at you. Or if you were a girl, you just anxiously imagined that the guy who escorts you everyday by his bicycle to tuition classes to school, school to tuition class and from there to home, always keeping the right distance between you and him, would come on the right time. You may pretend that he is a pest and you desperately want to get rid of him. But the moment you don’t see him you feel like a day from your life is lost. An important page from a thrilling story is missed and you curse the natural elements for holding him back. You pretend that you develop sudden migraines and headaches. Those were the days of silent gestures. A love affair developed out of silence. It had its own colors and times. It had its fragrance and light. Sometimes you could see your imagined girl friend only by evening. She always came against a setting sun. So you always imagine her as a silhouette. Sometimes you could see your imagined boy friend only eight o clock in the morning. He accompanies you to your tuition class, in distance and silence. So on Sundays you experience eight o’ clock in the morning as an hour of torture in solitude.
Today I am amazed at the ways the girls look at you or boys look at girls. Forget boys and girls; the women and men of my age (forty years and plus) look at each other boldly but with desire filled eyes. There is no meaning to the words like ‘glimpse’, ‘glance’ and so on today. Girls, when they come back from school or college know for sure that some guys are following them and they like them to be followed. And often the guys following them literally come around and talk. They are like friends. When they are not friends they are mutual admirers of evening adventures. The boys look into the eyes of the girls and they do not avert the eyes. The middle aged women look into the eyes of the middle aged men and they do not shrink away from each other. Haruki Murakami in his famous book on jogging speaks of the visions of a young girl coming against him from the other turn, perhaps which is something that makes him run every day in the same park.
Love has a different meaning today. Love is about sharing now. There was a time when we considered love as longing. It was intense pain. It was intense longing. It was prolonged sessions of day dreaming. It was about writing love letters in the middle of the night and search for a place where you could hide it. You thought that there was not a single corner in the house where your parents’ eyes would not reach. You were like criminals who could be caught red handed at any time. So you shiver while you write your love letter and shiver more when you intend to give it to the girl whom you like. But often it turns out to be failed attempts.
In the era of facebooking (some one told me the new word for facebooking is effing) and free text messages, built cameras and skype chats, sending a message across is the most simple thing when you think about a love affair. You want to convey the message that you are in love with someone? Then you send a text message. If the concerned person likes it, he or she accepts your friendship, which you slowly want to convert into a love affair. Or the maximum snubbing that you could get is that he/she would unceremoniously delete your message. Today you could send Facebook friendship requests. You could pose as the most romantic person in the world in facebook and many other social networking sites. After a few years there would be some other technological innovation which would help you to make the other feel what you feel about them without the aid of any handset or monitor. It would be a kind of automated telepathy. You could even have sex with your willing partners even while you are standing in the middle of a buzzing city. Of course, there would be check points to this technology also. There would be booking for cyber raping and stalking if you try to do anything with unwilling partners. After all we are human beings currently addicted to technologies and gadgets.
In our times, to convey that you are in love with some one you needed to wait; wait like an animal who is hungry but not able to catch anything. Your instincts are so alert. And you are in love with so many people at the same time. Each person looks so alluring and so potential and in our times we never used to think about having sex with the person whom you think you are in love with. You may entertain sexual fantacies about your imagined girl friend’s friend or with a film actress or even with a magazine illustration but not with your imagined girl friend. The moment you think about her, she is the purest being devoid of any sexual presence. May be you are so naïve in your approach. In the agenda of your love affair sex is not included. And you want to communicate everything through silence and gestures.
As in Marquez’s story, you wait for the girl. She comes and you stare at her. And it continues for many days and nothing happens. Then you change position thinking that that angle would help you to come into her perspective. And on that particular day she also would decide to change her position thanks to reasons known only to her. And this game would go on for a long time. And one day you come to know that she has gone to another town as her parents got transferred to that place. You feel so bad about things and you even feel like committing suicide but you are such a coward, you even fail to make some one notice your recently broken heart. So you die a silent death in spirit only to be resurrected in a few days’ time targeting another girl at the same bus stop or tuition centre or wherever they flock.
Finally, your glances cross paths. And she recognizes your presence there. You are simply happy. Next morning onwards you are there before her. You are very conscious of dressing and you behave like a grown up man. The only conflict of interest is that your status as a ‘lover with dignity’ is now known only to you and to that particular girl. The whole world is oblivious of your existence. So when the really grown up people come to the place where you stand to buy a cigarette or bananas, they tend to push you or shove you around. And you have to bear with this insult for a long time. You cannot buy a cigarette and smoke to prove your worth as a lover because you are just fourteen or fifteen years old and you are standing a few paces away from your home where your father sits in the drawing room as if he were waiting for some complaint to come against you so that he could pull out his cane and thrash you black and blue. You may want to prove your might by punching at the bulbous noses of those lungi clad ruffians but you realize with all your meekness that you can’t even withstand a hard sneeze of those monsters. So crestfallen you stand there ogling at the girl till she gives you one glance which would weigh several kilos more than the insults that you have just suffered.
One day, you really feel that you could take yourself to the next level. If she is your classmate what you do is that you ask for a notebook from her pretending that you had missed some very important matter about hydrogen doing something with oxygen and making it water. You are all inclined to become a scientist and you don’t want to miss anything. So you ask her with all politeness and earnestness for the notebook. She snubs to by saying that you could get it from one of your boy friends. And you again feel like committing suicide. You become very philosophical for a few days asking yourself whether those covert glances that she used to give you at the bus stop were real or fake. Then you try your luck once again. But this time with making yourself absent from the usual place in front of the bus stop. You are punishing her. You imagine that she would spend torturous moments. She would regret for not giving you the notebook. She would worry about your well being. When you are absent in the class as well as in the bus stop, you would imagine that she would die of pain. And on the third day like a victor who had just got a small cup for a sack race, you would enter the class room only to find that she is already in love with the youngest English master in the school.
During your youthful days, you are like James Bond; you never say die. So you target another girl in a different location, in a different time. This time, she is not from your class. She is in the same school or college but not in your class. You happen to see her at some point and your instincts tell you that she is an easy target. As usual you start your mind game by standing against her at the bus stop. Then one day she looks at you. You are in love head over heels once again. One day, by mustering up all your courage you go to her class (only after realizing that she too is pursuing your subjects) and demand some text or note book. She, without suspecting your intentions gives you the note book and you take that note book (one precious object for which you would even sacrifice yourself. One precious materials that carries the invisible impressions of her touch and fragrance) to home and spend a sleepless night looking at it. Next day you refuse to give the note book to her, which would obviously put her into some trouble during her class and you enjoy her discomfiture with a greater sense of satisfaction.
And the next day is your day. You have recycled your old love letters which had been written painstakingly but read only by you and had been hidden in your collection of old comics. You recycle them in such way that it would look very fresh and intense. You have avoided all the stock images and stock phrases as you have grown two or three years more from the days of the first draft. Now you embellish the letter with some literary allusions and you take some liberty in citing some words with sexual connotations. And you push that letter into her notebook and in the next morning with heart beats which would put those of a hundred meter sprinter into shame, you would go to her and hand over the note book. Next morning, when you reach college, you listen the choicest phrases from your letter being recited from behind the pillars, etched on the walls and black boards. She has ditched you and she has given that letter to everyone to read and enjoy. And that day you come to know that she is the girl friend of the college union arts club secretary and he was behind in spreading the content of your letter all over the place. That day again you do a virtual hara-kiri. But nothing happens to you.
You try out different things with different girls. As you grow up in years, you go behind girls by bicycles or motor bikes but always keeping safe distance from her. You drop love letters on her path. Sometimes it is picked up by her and at times it is picked up by her friend, who is many levels down to her in terms of beauty and looks. Sometimes, it is picked up by her brother who is a local thug or a well known body builder (I used to wonder why most of the beautiful girls all over the world have body builder brothers). I have seen so many unlucky guys who becoming boyfriends of intended girl friend’s friends and vice versa. Giving a shoulder to cry on during the moments of ditching is the biggest trap that the young and women of our times you to fall into. First you give a shoulder, then chest, then lap and finally your life, which you see like a landscape after battle when you look around now. If the letter is picked up by the girl’s brother, then you are refined man for at least six months; three months for joining the broken bones and another three months for getting back to former shape physically and emotionally.
Then one day you find your true love. Then you are really in love. You need not write hollow love letters instead you need to write very thick ones with a lot of content. You write volumes to her and she writes one or two lines as if she were appreciating a crescendo performance by you in one single clap. You do not write such heavy letters on that night and on the next morning she burns you with her scorn and barbed words. She would not talk to you for couple of days and she would accuse you of having interest in some other girls as if you were a kind of remaining specimen of a Casanova in the earth. You go back home and spend your precious nights in writing letters pepped up with poetic allusions and wit. You would never question her demand for having one letter each every day even you meet each other every day and spend almost eight to ten hours together both in class rooms, libraries and whichever corner where you could just take the measurements of her body parts over the clothes. You have changed the concept of your love. Now along with her friend’s and film actresses’ images you can imagine her also a sexually potent individual.
One day you would take her to a movie and during those days it was more difficult than a real elopement. Today boys and girls go together watch movies. In our times, going together for a movie (it is not the movie which is scandalous but the three hours spend together in darkness) was the most dangerous thing. You always imagine that her father or brother would come to the theatre where you go. Though it does not happen you think that her father has employed spies ever since your girl has started spending an extra twenty minutes before the mirror and her father noticed the cosmetics bill has gone higher within one month than her mother’s total consumption of cosmetics till date. Failing to make any changes to her countenances after continuous application of various cosmetic products available in the market, her mother had totally developed an aversion for anything that enhanced skin color.
So you go to a theatre and watch a movie together. You believe that you are Spartan and it is the time given by God for proving your charity, chastity and chivalry. So you spend those precious and tumultuous three hours not even allowing any hair of yours touch her on her body. Next morning triumphantly you ask her about your good behavior and she gives one of the most scornful looks in the world and says, “I have been thinking about those three hours for a week. And I thought you would touch me all over in the darkness.” You feel like a stupid for the whole life in that one moment and to add insult to injury she would add, “Women dress up for women and undress for men.” You look at her as if she were one of the sluts that you have only seen in the dirty magazines. But then you control yourself to behave like a gentleman.
Through accidents you learn to love. I should say you learn to live. Slowly you learn to put up with the insults heaped against you, initially for being sincere and later for being genuinely insincere. I am an old timer. I too had my stint of silent love affairs till I got the real ones. Who said love is an accident. It is a disaster conjured up, invited and enjoyed for some perverted reasons. But disaster has its own charm. It clears up a lot of things and builds a lot many new things in its place. Love, in the conventional sense, is a way to disaster capitalism.