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Recently I shocked myself. I am not much of a romantic, never have been so. Watching ‘La La Land’ I realized why I had avoided watching the film for so long. In the beginning though, I found that I just could not engage, shrugging it off as a boy-girl romance that could not absorb me. But then, despite my cynicism I found myself getting involved as the screen couple went through the ups and downs of trying to find expression of their Art. When the film ended with a nod and a smile from the man who succeeds in finding himself, I burst into tears. I remembered the Dylan song that asked not to be reminded that once he knew ‘her’ well, more tears followed while I half laughed at myself. And remembered someone somewhere saying that Art is a jealous mistress.

Being a woman, and knowing the male psyche, I would say Art is a vengeful and jealous lover. I think the reason I burst into tears at the ‘once I knew you well’ smile is that I realized that like the female protagonist of the film, I too had compromised. I did not pursue my passion because I got fed up of waiting for a break. Today when I meet persons who remind me of myself at the time; I recognize the hunger in them. I silently say hello to the spirit of old who was impatient to succeed – whatever success means. And I wonder how long till they find they could not remain uncompromising. Or when they give up and decide that the job waiting around the corner is what the Compromise is. Or the man who the parents pushed to meet is that significant other who will look after the creature comforts and snarl or smile by turn, and occasionally buy the accoutrements that grace that newish apartment, and the Art of silence is learnt till silence enters the soul. And you stop painting or dancing or singing and wait for your child to display the very talents you once imagined you possessed. And wait. Till your child too turns the corner to compromise. This is the story of most women who tried to make a change but who compromised. I have to admit that I have been lucky in meeting men who have been great, in having lovers who gave me as much joy as I hope I gave to them. Even though I compromised, even though I gave up on much of what I thought was creativity and moved on to what gave me security. I do remember trying to push someone I was attached to, to take up a steady job and later, much later when my own child was old enough, I became the mother from hell and insisted that all creativity gets shelved and he learns to Compromise.

But what of love? Usually love too bows out, like the Arts. I remember once at a New Years Eve party I overheard a man telling his partner, eyes shining with unshed tears that he promised the next year he will succeed. It broke my heart to watch her fearfully acknowledge he would try. But most romantic love ends badly, in boredom or in drifting apart. I keep urging people to marry their friends, because romantic love is worse than the other jealous lover, the Arts. I think the best words of love outside the realm of fiction is what I have read is when Gauri Lankesh was murdered and her friend and once partner Chidanad Rajghata wrote his love for her, calling her his ‘Amazing Grace’. Gauri had not compromised. Reading about her it seems that she refused to toe the line, and she paid for it with her life. History is peopled with such persons who are killed because their views are out of step with that of the rulers or governing class or their trusted toads. It is utterly monstrous that in India today the State rules by terror. Or it appears to be so, although some interested people said it may be the extremists. Anyhow this is not about the terror that is India today. It is about the freedom that we take for granted, be it the pursuit of the Arts or the pursuit of romantic love.

That Gauri Lankesh’s man had loved her, truly, is a given. That his words had wrenched my heart as it did many others who read it is also a given. Yes, if romantic love it is that what we aspire to then such words of love are more than enough. But I have a sneaking feeling such words of love are never enough for those who wish to be ruled by the Arts, for those who are passionately in love with their creativity and have no time left to indulge in other passions – it is never enough. But truthfully, I can’t help but wonder if there are any such words of love that Gauri Lankesh had been described in, to describe others who refused to compromise, ever?