What’s love without a good villain? Or two

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Anuja Chauhan feels that urban romance today lacks the good old-fashioned drama that a writer craves

EVERYBODY KNOWS that the quality of Love, like the quality of racing cars, is measured by the tests it is put through. Which is why it’s probably good news, in a sick, twisted sort of way, that in a world full of wimpy apologetic parents, struggling to stay relevant to their careerchasing offspring, the Indian hinterland persists in remaining that rare place where Romeo and Juliet can still be credibly set. All the hoary, nostril-flaring, venomspewing old obstacles to Love are very much alive here. Mummy- Papa. Bade bhaiya. Yeh samaj. Jaatpaat. The Khap panchayat.

But for the sliver of metropolitan Indian youth privileged enough to exist outside the matrimonial columns’ hegemony, the obstacles have changed. For them, the enemy is no longer kick-ass patriarchs like the kind Amrish Puri played in DDLJ. Instead, it’s a wimpy, faceless, amorphous foe called Options. Or Technology. Or Conflict of Expectations. Or Commitment Phobia. Or My-Friends- Will-Think-I’m-Uncool. Or Personal Space.

Unlike solid obstacles like Parents and Society, Options is a shifty, shadowy enemy. Options doesn’t lock you up in your bedroom and threaten to break your legs if you meet ‘that boy’ again. It just tags along on your date and keeps whispering insidiously that maybe the guy you met at the gym yesterday is cuter, or that guy in office is more sensitive, or that nobody understands you as well as your old boyfriend…

All the hoary, nostril-flaring old obstacles to Love are still alive in the Indian hinterland
All the hoary, nostril-flaring old obstacles to Love are still alive in the Indian hinterland

Commitment Phobia doesn’t pull out a chequebook and ask you to name a price to leave a certain girl alone. It just suggests, gently, that no matter how sweet she is, she may eventually end up encroaching on your precious Personal Space. Technology, whose main function is to bring people together, actually just drives us apart. Ipods and cell phones distract us, while 600 Facebook friends only confirm that everybody else’s life is much more exciting than ours.

The other, really depressing thing is that the quality of Love is also a function of the shock, horror and awe your union causes in family and biradari circles — though frankly, nowadays all the uncles are too busy paying off their EMIs and the aunties are too hooked to Uttaran and Chhoti Bahu to really give a damn.

THIS IS bad news for anybody looking to fall in love, of course. And it’s especially bad news for anybody trying to write a compelling love story. No wonder writers and filmmakers are now dreaming up the most convoluted of plots! Sick of the many versions of commitment-phobic-manmeets- woman-with-ticking-biological- clock (or vice-versa) love stories, they’ve moved on to weirder ploys like the one in the film Benjamin Button, where the lovers could only spend a few precious years together before one or the other gets sued for paedophilia. Or the Twilight series, where one of them wants to eat the other.

All of which leads us to the rather depressing conclusion that if you’re young and looking for love in the 21st century, you’re gonna have to settle for a Not-So- Grand Passion. Unless you happen to be a vampire.

Chauhan is the author of The Zoya Factor.

Illustration: Vikram Nongmaithem

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