The very mention of ‘love’ as a human feeling elicits honey-dipped exhibition of emotions. Blame it on dopamine. Deep sighs, croons, gasps and whistles are regular and spontaneous public responses to this still-unfolding mystery called ‘LOVE’. Still unfolding. How? Well, love beckons the mellow, soft and balming concoction of conversations towards itself. It has a great ‘pull’ effect on the masses if approached intelligently. Love has been referred to as an unarming weapon.
In the annals of ‘love’ expression, words struggle and compete with one another to register and announce the arrival of that penultimate expression of exhilaration and liberation. Love liberates. Love emancipates. One may discover love in strangest of places. Unexpected places. One may experience love or discover emotions akin to the feeling of love in simple details of life.
One may reflect upon it while traveling to work, attending to routine errands, during a sojourn, on an unplanned road trip, just by watching the sun go down or even by caressing a canine or a toddler and in some instances by lending a helping hand to the needy. In the manner it plays out, love often ventures beyond the binary expressions and maybe multihued transcending distinctions of sex, caste, class or ethnicity.
Love hides in its bosom an array of emotive pivots like care, affection, melancholy and even nostalgia in some cases. Love is there in the realization of the here and now; it is also there in the vision of future and lurks in the yet unknown recesses of the human mind and perhaps, in the netherworld if at all, it exists. Scholars and life gurus vouch for life, turning the power of love. Great civilizations and nations have flourished by accepting and promoting feelings of love as a political creed either openly or covertly.
The experiment with ‘Dhamma’ of emperor Ashoka is rooted in the idea of love guiding the destiny of human beings. To take another example,’Love thy Neighbour as Thyself” is a time tested Christian commandment which has successfully inspired leaders and legal systems like the Common Law System of British Commonwealth. Love dissolves negativity. Love conquers everything. So the proverbial adage goes. But still hate, enmity, disaffection, and isolationist tendencies rule the roost in the 21st century.
Love demands material pleasures in the contemporary. It seeks epiphany in the transient. It indulges in the showbiz. It bedazzles the digital realm, where emoticons have replaced the physical dimension of love. It blinds the unconcerned. It ekes out a living through ‘commodification’ of erstwhile genuine demonstration of emotions.
Love in present-day India is also fast trundling into the morass of ‘gentrification’. According to the Oxford English Dictionaries, gentrification is ‘the process by which an urban area is rendered middle-class’. Sociologist Ruth Glass coined the term in the 1960s, describing how ‘all or most of the original working-class occupiers are displaced, and the whole social character of the district is changed.’
Reality television, blind dates, glitz, glamour, and chutzpah of the market-driven society blacks out the gentle and tender expressions. The whole idea of ‘love’ is commercialized, and it almost smacks down the love expressions of the less endowed members of society in terms of ownership of material means and resources. Conformism to silvery notions of love may not work in every scenario.
This naked consumerist trend sits oddly with the fear and disagreement among youngsters when it comes to striking a love relationship with a member of the opposite sex who belongs to a different caste and class hierarchy. It comes as no surprise then, young and daring lovers face a relentless onslaught of caste and class diatribes. Law whimpers. Good samaritans are crushed.
Self-proclaimed guardians of societal virtues brutally outlaw interfaith coupling. To love can be truly devastating in modern-day India. Nothing is more revolting for many than an inter-caste marriage between a Dalit (person belonging to erstwhile lower caste) and a person from the so-called upper echelons of the societal pecking order. This scenario makes love a complex phenomenon and not without risks in contemporary India.
Law is yet to categorize crimes arising out of such events. Official report (NCRB) on crime data leaves out lynchings and honor killings. Crime is bracketed under broad categories of murder, rape and like. Murders of RTI activists, whistleblowers, and inter-caste love couples are not separately classified in official data reports.
This practice, therefore, doesn’t help us much in devising any policy to deal with such cases. In many cases, it has been observed that the male person in a ‘love relationship’ often faces charges of either rape or sexual harassment under the penal law filed by the police at the behest of kith and kin of the embroiled girl.
In such cases, prosecution floats a common argument that ‘the girl is a minor and seeks punishment for the errand boy’. However, it is only recently that the courts have started to recognize the fact that a teenage girl may follow the young male partner on her own accord out of love and may be able to make decisions for herself even if she falls short of the age of majority, i.e., eighteen years of age. Honor crimes claim both the girl and the boy in a love relationship as victims.
In such a scenario, time looks on with hope towards the liberated and courageous few who would perhaps take up cudgels to speak. To pursue the creed of love and to rekindle the spirit of fraternity ensconced in that purest notion with which all of us relate in our common dwelling. Yes. It is LOVE, after all. Love finds its way. Love travels. Well beyond the mountains and the horizon. It is expected to prevail. Needless, to emphasize that love can be expressed in a thousand ways.
Not without reason, Shakespeare had observed, “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. I love thee to the depths and breadth and height my soul can reach when feeling out of sight for the ends of being and ideal grace.” (William Shakespeare, Sonnet 43).