Saturday, 6 February 2016

Is Love, dirty?

It has been a few months now. I was getting marinaded in yet another traffic jam. As my eyes looked around the busy market street, searching for a respite from my boredom, I saw a man.
To look at, he was like every other slum dweller around him. Not even remarkable enough for me to want to draw him. But I will probably never forget his face.
He was, with his right hand stretched to its full limit and its fingers entwined in a beautiful woman’s immaculately arranged hair full of shiny beads and bells, dragging her away from her home, to the middle of the car jammed street.
The woman was obviously in pain and not at all interested in going anywhere with him.
She was beautiful. She was dressed in a carefully tucked and pleated red and gold sari, and on her hands which were desperately trying to pry her hair away from his death grip, I could spy alta, the red dye that adorns a young bride’s hands and feet. Filigreed gold ornaments and a bright splash of sindoor completed her look. 
She was not crying out. Just struggling with all her physical strength and perhaps mental too, to escape this man.
I opened my door and got out. In a city like mine, I was surprised that I was the only one who even seemed to notice the couple.
“What is going on here? What are you doing?” I made my voice as loud as it could be and said in the local language.
The man turned to face me with surprise etched all over his face. Perhaps his shock extended to his right hand too, for he thankfully released the woman, who sat down on the footpath under her.
I had to repeat my questions. He seemed to have become speechless. Jolted, he retrieved his phone from his pocket, dialled and put it to his ears. 
“I am taking her to my home.” He answered finally.    
“Is she your wife?” I asked.
“Yes, she is not coming with me.” He wailed. He had started to look desperate, I think the person on the other side of the phone line was not receiving his call.
I turned to the woman. With a curious mix of indignation and pain she was looking and prodding her arms, which would have been red with bruises had her skin been lighter.
“Do you need help?” I asked her.
Without raising her face to look at me, she shook her head. No.
“I can help.” I insisted.
No. She shook her head again.
I stood up and looked at the husband, fervently trying to avoid any eye contact with me and willing the person on the other side of his phone to pick up. I walked back to my car and drove off.
I could not find the words then, perhaps I was shocked too. But today the emotions that had had invaded me that evening have finally found words to express themselves. 
I should have asked him, “Do you love her?”
To which he probably would have widened his eyes to their extreme limit and maybe taken out another phone to dial another number.
“Is she your wife, or your property?” I should have asked him. “For if she is your wife, she will respond to your love. But if she is merely a property, then no one can help you. Because a property is a non-living entity. Essentially dead. And the dead can never love, nor reciprocate affection.”
I wish that they get to learn this fact. I hope they are able to love and appreciate each other, not as someone they have to tolerate, but the one that they cherish.

Why do we live in such a weird society, where when a man drags a woman by her hair in the middle of a busy street nobody even looks at him?
But when my father says“ I love you” to me, every eyebrow in the vicinity is raised?
Why is love shameful, dirty; but violence not? Why is it necessary to wrap one’s love under “curtains and veils” hidden from the public’s eyes, to be peered at and ridiculed from latticed windows; but violence taken for a way of life?
This is not the only instance I have from my privileged life that makes me ask the question, “Is Love dirty?”  
There are various examples sprinkled throughout the three decades that I have been a resident on this planet which have compelled me to frown and ask over and over again. Why is it so difficult to love? Why did my grandparents scold my then teenaged mother when she saved a young kid from the thrashing that the local goon was giving him? And why when at the age of 43 when my mother was going to have lunch with my father in his office, did her friend ask in a sympathetic and conspiratorial tone “Are you having problems?”
Our society is You and Me. We don’t have to be weird.
Shout to your brother “I love you. Have a great day today” when he leaves for work in the morning. Kiss your wife, it doesn’t always have to be sexual, when you cross her on the way to the fridge. Revel in happiness when you see a middle aged couple taking their evening walk, their fingers entwined together.
And stop a bully from taking out their frustrations on a physically weaker being.

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