The primary purpose of this post is to invite those of you who live in Chennai to the launch of Urban Shots at Landmark (Apex Plaza, Nungambakkam) on December 1, Wednesday at 6.30 pm. It's a collection of 29 stories by 13 writers; yours truly has contributed two.
The stories, all set in urban India, celebrates what Ganga Mail stands for -- love, life, relationships; above all, basic human emotions. The writers live in different cities, and all of them are very young -- a majority of them biologically and the remaining, at heart (yours truly, who turns 40 in exactly a month, choses to be in the latter category). The book, therefore, promises to be a heady brew or a cocktail, if you please. So please come dear reader, it would be great to see you, to know you.
The secondary purpose (or was this the primary?) is to take the opportunity to share a few thoughts on love, since the book is about love. Well, the book is not just about love, because there is a lot more to it, but come to think of it, everything eventually stems from love.
It is love that gives birth to every single emotion under the sun. If you find a lost friend, you are happy. If you lose someone you love, you are sad. If you love material things, you create greed. If you love sex, you birth to lust. If you love the idea of being famous, you become a champion of ambition. If you are dumped by someone you love, you realise what a heartbreak is. If you love your job, you know what satisfaction is. If you love your motherland, you become an example of patriotism. And so on. Love, therefore, is the driving force of universe. No love, no nothing.
Yet, when you think of love, the image that instantly comes to your mind is that of a boy and a girl, or a young man or a young woman, exchanging shy glances and shy smiles. That's the kind of love about which I feel like sharing a few thoughts tonight. And as a self-proclaimed nostalgia expert, I am tempted to introspect about how the whole concept of love has changed over the decades. Basically, Then and Now stuff.
Back then, it was considered heroic and exemplary to fight for the woman you loved and to get her at any cost. If you won the battle, you were considered a hero, and if you lost, you were considered even a bigger hero because you sacrificed your life for love. But why don't they make movies like Heer Raanjha, Laila Majnu, Sohni Mahiwaal anymore? That's because today's society no longer has the patience and sympathy, leave alone admiration, for men who are so blinded by love that they ignore their own self. If they don't learn to love and respect themselves first, how how can they love a woman? The ditto holds true for today's women, I guess.
Today, if you happen to fancy a woman and subsequently discover that she belongs to a different social set-up and that her father has several goons at his disposal who could easily take care of you, you instantly escape from her magnetic field and settle for the next best thing. Life is far too precious to be squandered away for a woman. Today love is pragmatic and success-oriented: you carefully weigh the pros and cons before falling in love. No one, be it a man or a woman, wants to be in love with a loser. No one.
If you are a woman, touch your heart and ask yourself: would you like to love a man who meditates upon your name throughout the day and who always waits outside your window, sunshine or rain, just to catch a glimpse of you and who, if you ask him to do so, will readily jump into a river -- or a man who is normal and free of obsessions and is productive?
The loser belongs to the last century -- and he is far too entrenched in grave to hope for resurrection. Yet there are people I come across every now and then, who fail to understand that they first need to love and respect themselves in order to find and earn love and respect. I only feel sorry for them.
Then there is something else, apart from pragmatism, that stands between love then and love now. That is technology. Even today I am not sure whether techonology is of great service to lovers, or a great disservice. If you look at the plus points, you can thank technology with tears in your eyes. Today, two lovers can stay in touch real-time, through SMS and internet chat and Facebook. They don't have to meet up physically all the time. They can express their feelings for each other -- be it an overdrive of affection or a bout of sulking -- on Facebook by writing philosophical status messages or by posting songs from You Tube that effectively convey their emotions for the moment. Of course there is SMS and Gmail chat -- to profess love, to make love, to make amends, to make peace, to settle scores.
But the tragedy is that lovers don't write to each other these days. By writing, I mean the kind when you put a pen to paper, which is a mode of introspection. You can rarely lie when you are composing a sentence on a piece of paper with the help of a pen. The moment you hold a pen, especially a fountain pen, you plunge deep into your mind and come out with the truest sentence possible. A piece of paper, after all, does not have the 'Delete' or 'Backspace' button -- you better be accurate in describing your feelings in the very first attempt.
But on a computer, the 'Backspace' and 'Delete' buttons rob you of honesty. You are often tempted to speak your mind, but upon realising that what you speak may not go down well with the person on the other end, you keep fiddling with those buttons until you have composed a sentence that causes no offence. If you still think some damage has been done, you swiftly add a smiley or two to nullify its effect. You know what I mean, don't you?
Back then, the moment a letter arrived, you could tell from the handwriting that it is from 'him' or from 'her'. Not to speak of the smell of the paper. It always smelt of 'him' or 'her'. And the fact that thoughts could not be exchanged real time back then, unless you were face to face with the person, made you look eagerly forward to the letter. The letter was the sole substitute for the physical presence of your lover. Ah, the love letter.
Today, the love letter has fragmented into bits and pieces -- into 20-word text messages, 15-word status messages, 50-word emails and so on. And the fragments no longer bear the distinct handwriting of your lover -- they are all about fonts and font sizes. As a result, the email from your lover looks just the same as the email from your boss.
The battle is on right now, to smell one set of typed words from another. People are succeeding, I can tell you.