By Sonya Rehman
I had a bit of a full circle moment at work today. A colleague asked me to look into a theatrical production, Ek Mulaqaat (due to be staged in Dubai, next month), for coverage in our magazine. Agreeing, I googled the play, and to my surprise, I noticed the play is based on a story that I’d read about last year, on a popular Facebook page.
It was quite a moving story. Even though I’d wanted to read into it further, back then, I soon forgot all about it. Until, of course, this afternoon.
The true story – set between Lahore and Delhi in the 40s – was about Sahir Ludhianvi, a poet and lyricist, and Amrita Pritam, also a poet, and their journey of loving each other – but from a distance. An unconventional love story that remained unfulfilled, unrequited. While Amrita chose to profess her love for Sahir through her writings, Sahir, remained silent, never once slipping up by publicly declaring his affection and longing for Amrita. However, certain authors and scholars have opposing points of view – some say Sahir was smitten, and could never, ever work Amrita out of his system, while some say it was Amrita who remained obsessed with Sahir for years on end. Others say it was a mutual love which grew stronger with the passage of time. But who is to say what really transpired between the two lovers..it is not our place.
But it got me thinking about how simple love stories were back then. Even in the complexity of the story, there is simplicity. Why? Because there were no grey areas in what constituted the idea of love – it was what it was. But in our time, everything is a mess, and something larger is amiss. We revel in choice, revel in having options, and revel in confusion. It’s like a drug – the constant what ifs, and let’s-see-what-happens, I’m-not-100%-sure-yet, or, I’m-just-not-ready-yet.
Last year, I had the misfortune of being put through to someone who was on the hunt for a wife. I decided to give it a shot because the introduction came through an Aunt, someone who I really look up to. Besides, his profile seemed nice: he was geeky, seemed like a bit of a social misfit, had a mop of wavy black hair, and wore glasses. A taller version of Dilton Doiley. Cute, I’d thought, when we spoke over messages, prior to our meeting. Cut to my first meeting with Mr. Blah and in the span of 1.5 hours all we spoke about was: banking – his profession, how much property he owned in Lahore and Dubai, and politics. It was quite a downer. Later that evening, he messaged asking if I’d like to meet his mother the next day. To be honest, even though my heart did cart-wheels at the thought of meeting a potential mother-in-law, I was charmed. Very charmed. But still, I wanted to get to know him first, prior to the whole ‘meeting the parents’ thing. Mr. Blah never kept in touch after that, only intermittently, stringing me along for a few months – strictly friends – yet dangling the carrot (metaphor for God’s sake, metaphor) in my face every now and then, to keep me interested, but not too interested. Don’t worry, I wasn’t heartbroken, just a wee bit disturbed, and then, amused. It made great fodder for a laugh with my girl friends, much later.
Speaking with them, I found most had gone through the same thing – even though their experiences in the rishta/love department were far more disturbing and annoying (mine was quite mild, in retrospect), it made me realize how unsure men (and women too, but let’s just bash men for now, tee hee) are vis-a-vis their love lives. I’ve had male friends – chronic bachelors who acted like they had game 24/7 (they didn’t), but were in reality, just little puppies looking for a home (or a lap), and male married friends/acquaintances, who, after years of camaraderie, decided to hit on their single, female friends, because, hey, the girls were single, and single women can be had, can’t they? And then the successful geniuses like Mr. Blah, who have/had no idea whatsoever what they want out of companionship and how to attain it. While mother’s stamp is imperative for any big life decision (I’m a proud mama’s girl, too), one need not look for love without knowing oneself first. Everyone has their own hierarchy of needs: carbs, career, love, waghaira…what comes first, what comes last?
As a whole, society is flawed and confused – the institution of marriage, heck, the temple of love, has become a public urinal, it’s like a shitty version of Grand Central Station; where people come and go, flying in and out, amidst self-important social media drivel, their noses in their phones, their brains farting ideas like crazy, their fingers flying across their keypads, updating statuses and tweets with such passion, you would think they were working towards a Nobel Prize.
But alas. What do we know about love? What do we know about patience? What do we know about crafting our own, personal narratives? White noise, white noise, that’s all there is. In the age of Tinder, Grindr, etc, the hook-up culture is rampant. Marriages are tipping towards the edge of divorce, and what’s more, we’ve never allowed ourselves to truly fall in love. But stories such as Sahir and Amrita’s, evoke within us the memory of what it is to be a human being – to feel, and feel recklessly, to allow connection minus the ego, and to let love be the driving force in each and every aspect of our lives.
The beautiful, Kabhi Kabhi, lyrics penned by Sahir Ludhianvi: