Talking about what love looks like today, Editor Sanghamitra Chakraborty in Reader’s Digest India, writes, “Love can be such a beautiful place—sometimes soft and misty like a Monet painting; flaming and intense at other times. But it’s always powerful and sublime, like a musical sonata.”
As a society, we are obsessed with love. Oh, what would we be talking about if we didn’t have love—to define, to pine and ponder over, to dream about and cry over, to get crazy for, to literally ‘fall’ in (as if it were a deep pit, jeez!), to write elegies and short stories, and letters, songs, emails, poetry, academic papers, books, films, novels, TV shows, Netflix series, erotica, and epics about! So, when I simply Googled ‘What is love?’, I got about 12,35,00,00,000 results in less than 0.69 seconds. And why should we even be amused at that? After all, don’t we all have our own grand theories about love? Some of us think that having no grand theory is love, which is again, a grand theory in itself.
There’s bell hooks’s truthful love, and then there’s Susan Sontag’s mysterious love. Lemony Snicket’s love is messy and our homegrown KJo’s love is ‘Ishq vaala’ and ‘Friendship vaala’ love. And then, there’s the ‘love is love’, which it is. Some say that love should bring peace. Some others say that it makes you obsessive, and makes you care too much about your hair. It makes you forget yourself, forget your friends, and puts you in a slump. Some people also say that it even makes you plump!
Love, however, requires patience, and perhaps love is nothing at all the way we think it is. Perhaps, it’s completely different for each one of us, and perhaps that’s why, love is powerful and sublime.
The last few months have put all of us in a very unprecedented place. Reduced to a 6.1-inch screen, love has started looking a little different these days. We’ve all suddenly been forced into a long-distance relationship. Yes, even those of us who live just a few blocks apart. However, it’s also true that all of humankind’s history has been the history of creative adjustment leading to invention. And that’s how, with date nights over WhatsApp video call, romantic movies over Netflix Party, and online games night, we are all adjusting our love to the new 6.1-inch reality.
A few weeks ago, we asked our readers about love and how are they adjusting their love to the ‘new normal’. The responses truly warmed our hearts and made us believe even more strongly in the power of the most obsessed-about feeling in the world.
A word about our responses:
- The age group of the respondents ranged from 21-36 years old.
- 85% of the respondents identified their sex/gender as female, and 15% identified as male (other options included non-binary, intersex, transgender).
- Most of our respondents were from metropolitans like Bengaluru, Delhi-NCR, Mumbai, and Nagpur.
- All but one identified as heterosexual. One of the respondents preferred not to say.
- 46% of our respondents are in a committed relationship, 15% are engaged and due to be married soon, 7.6% of respondents are married, and 15% of respondents are single and looking for love.
- 77% of respondents chose to stay anonymous.
- For qualitative responses, we did not push people to force-fit their answers to the available list of options but provided space for them to choose otherwise.
*Names of contributors who have requested anonymity have been changed to protect their identity.
Shifting The Idea Of Love?
One of the first questions we asked our readers was about the kind of change they feel their relationship or their idea of a relationship has gone through post lockdown.
Abhilasha Chhabra from Delhi surprised us with a beautiful poem she wrote about the ‘new normal’. Here’s an abridged version:
“I spent the day with my boyfriend,
Not in the traditional sense,
We were fighting in long green boxes
But when afternoon turned from
Orange to blue
And I saw the late sun, refusing to set
Something felt oddly comforting
Realising that lying tangled there
In our feelings
In our own beds, far away
Our worlds seemed closer.”
While a few of our respondents brought up the issue of missing touch and longing for physical companionship, most of them realised that this is a moment of pause for everyone. We have learnt to give each other space and recognise each other’s need to take a breath because we’re all, after all, stuck in the same boat.
Shravani from Mumbai puts it as, “We all tend to expect the best version of somebody else, even when we are not on ours. Having gone through a phase of incessantly being at each other’s throats, we decided to take things maturely. Now we text/call thrice a week or four times. From this small act of giving each other some space, we realised that we are humans before we are each other’s love interest. And we too needed some air, even when we’re doing nothing.”
Ever heard of quarantine courtship?
Eshita Thukral from Gurgaon, who has recently been engaged to a fighter pilot posted in Gujarat, talks about how she and her fiancé have “started to value small things more now. We video call and make coffee together. We start a movie together and keep messaging and ranting about each scene while watching it. I keep sharing what I read and how grateful we are to have found each other. We have no idea when we will meet again but we have an abundance of hope! Time heals everything and when we see each other next, it’s going to be the best feeling!”
Some of us definitely miss seeing our partners, and the pandemic has only added to the challenge. Love, anyway, is so much about the longing and surely, ‘absence makes the heart grow fonder.’
Says Sridhun Purushothaman, who is happily married to the love of his life, “Well, it surely has gone to a mode where I long to see the one I love and look forward to the time I can meet her again. Having a fully active but naughty kid back home does trick your mind as you want to be around both the jewels of your eyes but just can’t be there near them to have fun and prank one another as you want to since you are stuck somewhere else due to the lockdown.”
Adjustments We’re Making
All said and done, we adjust.
When we asked our respondents about the way they are adjusting, they told us how they have become more intentional about their love. We have become more patient and more resilient. Someone even confessed that pre-lockdown, they were not ready for any kind of commitment, but now, things have changed for the better.
Says Manya*, 30, “Somehow, it has grown above and beyond simply making special memories... it’s living in the everyday. In putting the effort instead of meeting or figuring out a schedule to meet, the meaning of how you profess love has changed.”
We are also growing to recognise our partner’s needs with more care now. Ragini from Delhi tells us, “We video call a lot. We watch movies together. We try to make sure nobody goes to sleep angry because it’s just so much more difficult when you’re away from each other. We keep each other motivated. He’s helped me get through my college assignments. We remind each other to workout. We play a lot of online games. We share recipes and motivate the other to cook it.”
Talking about taking one day at a time, Jahnavi from Bombay says, “Won’t say it’s been easy at all, but it’s also made us understand that if we can adapt to this, we can adapt to everything. That sort of solidarity in these situations makes these things worthwhile. We both know we’ve grown and come a long way and this should hopefully just solidify that. But it is hard because, at the end of the day, we’re just two kids figuring it out!”
And it truly is about figuring it out together. Shefali* puts it as, “Two unhappy people means no happiness. So, we took our time adjusting to the lockdown till we each found our own normal and then figured out the new normal for both of us together.”
And then there was binge-watching together, working out together, video call dates, and in Qwingkl’s words, “just keeping lots of patience before we meet again.”
Amongst the external challenges that have been propping up are: lack of privacy, stressful mood swings, anger due to certain unfulfilled expectations, communication lags, differing schedules, and definitely, a lack of physical touch. However, love is all about moving along, holding each other’s hands, and jumping over (or through) the bumps and puddles. “Dealing them with patience and loads of communication,” as Qwingkl from Delhi tells us, is the key.
Perhaps it’s also about evolving and setting little routines for ourselves to ground us. For instance, Chloe*, 26, says, “The issue is finding a time when both of us are calm to talk. We still try to keep talking. Most of all, we make sure we pray together before we go to bed.”
Big Hugs On Meeting Them Again
We received the most interesting and smile-inducing answers to “what’s the first thing you’ll do when you reunite with them?”
While Jahnavi will “just hang”, Qwingkl will “ jump up up up and do a Shakira Dance ‘coz babe home!” We were not surprised to see many, many references to hugs, kisses, making out sessions, and of course, sex!
“We would hug for literally 3 hours! That’s the plan. Then finish a bottle of gin & dance on our favourite songs like maniacs!”, Eshita elaborates.
Ria* wants to plan a trip, but she’ll probably adjust her plans to the situation. She says, “I’d want to say go on a trip but with COVID that’s stupid. A long drive, wind in the hair, homemade food (again because, COVID).”
More than anything else, COVID has been a big lesson to all of us. It has taught us that we can keep preparing for an exam on Algebra all along and get into the examination hall, all confidently, only to find questions on Trigonometry instead. And no, there are no ‘out of syllabus’ questions in life.
So, when we asked about how they perceive the future, our respondents just said ‘Que sera sera’. Whatever will be, will be. There was a lot of hope–for people to get more compassionate, for a better life, to be able to get married soon, and to remember this time and change our fundamentals. There was also a fair amount of belief that this too shall pass, no matter how hard it is.
And again, there was an awareness of the fact that not all days will be the same. As Abhilasha puts it, “The future is always uncertain, apocalypse or no apocalypse, no?”
So, what do we do?
We keep adjusting. We keep loving. One day at a time.
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