William Shakespeare’s Love’s Labour’s Lost speaks about love being the devil. King Ferdinand and his three friends, Biron, Dumaine, and Longueville, consider themselves eager students of philosophy in the French kingdom of Navarre. They decide to spend three years without women's companies in order to focus on their studies. Then the King and his buddies are forced to host a princess from some other kingdom and her three ladies. All the four males fall in love with the women and decide to court them. Finally, the women must return to their kingdom for a year before marrying the king and his friends, as long as they remain faithful to them.
Love. It seems everybody has their own definition of it. Everybody wants to love and get it back in return, but the question remains what it is. In the words of the great Sahir Ludhiyanvi, “O..Wahsate Dil Rashno Daar Se Roki Na Gayi, Kisi Khanjar Kisi Talwar Se Roki Na Gayi, Ishk Majnu Ki Wo Aawaz Hai, Jiske Aage Koi Laila, Kisi Deewar Se Roki Na Gayi Kyunki, Ye Ishk Ishk Hai Ishk Ishk... (The frenzied heart is not scared, the gallows won’t deter it, neither a dagger nor a sword won’t break it. Love is that call of a Majanun before which no Laila can be held back by any obstruction because this is love, yes, this is love).
Those who fall in love say that it activates a particular part of the brain, which gives a pleasant emotional feeling. The same part is activated and gives a pleasant feeling when you sniff cocaine. Sure, love is a cycle of pleasure and pain, just like pleasure when one gets a gram of cocaine and pain when cocaine is in short supply. So love is an addiction just like an addiction to drugs. Love sometimes erupts like a volcano, only to subside later. Love is breathlessness, it is excitement. Are you walking in the shadows of trees holding the hand of your heartthrob and feeling it is love? Yes, that feeling is love. It is a promise for eternal physical passion, to mate every minute of the day. That is Eros in Greek.
The Greeks classified love into four categories: (1)"Storge" is Kinship love, (2) "Philia" is Friendship love, (3) "Eros" is Sex and Romance love, and (4) "Agape" is Divine Love. Hence Greeks can say, "I love you but I don't love you, even so, I have a love for you" (I feel Philia toward you but not Eros but still I have Agape). Plato said. “Love is a serious mental disease,” and coined the word Lovesick. Socrates said, “Love is madness.” Love can make you do stupid things.
Love has many shades. (Not to be confused with British author E. L. James’s Fifty Shades Of Grey.). Some shades spread pure joy. Talking about spiritual love, Sahir Ludhiyanvi penned, “ janak dulaarii ban ban Dolii, pahan ke prem kii maalaa, darshan jal kii pyaasi Meera pee gaI vishh kaa pyaalaa, aur phir araj karee ke, laaj raakho raakho raakho, laaj raakho dekho dekho, ye ishq ishq hai ishq ishq, ye ishq ishq hai ishq ishq. (Janak's darling (daughter) went from one forest to the next, wearing the garland of love, Meera, thirsty for a passionate visage, drank up the bowl of poison, and then humbly begged, “see, please maintain my dignity, because this is love” ). Seeta chose penance for 14 years and followed Lord Rama in the woods. There is a devotional love for Lord Krishna by Meera which goes beyond soul searching. Meera sacrificed all princely comfort to come to Vrindavan from Rajasthan in search of her idol. Vallabhacharya, an intellectual philosopher who introduced Adwaita – (non-dualism) philosophy, came to Vrindavan from Andhra for the love of Krishna. Surdas, a blind poet, came to Vrindavan to immerse in divine longings. Haridas, a renowned Dhrupad singer, made Vrindavan his abode for the love of Krishna. It was in 1570 that Mughal King Akbar listened to a song by Haridas and felt deep spiritual vibrations. Haridas was a Guru of Tansen, one of the nine gems in the court of Akbar. Then came Chaitanya, walking on his barefoot from Orissa, and he saw Krishna in Vrundavana, body and soul, and he was prostrate on the ground, tears flowing down his cheeks. Then there is Kabir, whose love for Lord Rama was unparallel, matchless. That is Agape in Greek.
There is a reverential love for a mentor by a mentee, a self-fulfilling love for a role model, and togetherness that comes from the love for friends, which is Philia in Greek. Love for family is a Storge in Greek, and that strong pull of love between the two is karmic love. Most of us have experienced these shades, but few of us understand the true meaning of love. There is another shade called self-less love, which is unconditional. Yes, a person can reach the level of Sainthood if he/she indeed understands the true meaning of love. Mother Teresa reached sainthood because of her unconditional love for the downtrodden. Australian cricketer Steve Waugh met Mother Teresa and was filled with love for the downtrodden children. He set up a charity foundation to help them.
Love is a variety of different emotional and mental states that range from deepest interpersonal affection to simple pleasure. Being loved and appreciated brings that feeling of being someone special. In a checklist of life, it stands out: to be a significant checkpoint for some people, an important milestone, in order to have a blissful and successful life. When we look around, we have a feeling that everyone is being loved by everyone and we wish to have what everyone else has love. We see on different media, couples in relationships exchanging words like “Love you sweetheart", “ Love you honey", “Love you baby" and some such syntaxes. We feel we are supposed to have that love and that love will surely make us cheerful. But does it? If a husband forgets his wife's birthday, she thinks his love has diminished. He doesn't pay heed to her hairdo or doesn't compliment the new attire she nurtures doubts about his love for her. If a wife has a long conversation on phone with an office colleague, there are horizontal lines on the husband's forehead. Her omnipresence on social sites may have an adverse impression on his mind. Thus, love becomes a point of a check, a tick box in a form to be ticked right if all is well and to be crossed if it deviates from the trajectory. If love becomes a checkpoint, then it becomes a commodity, a thing to be bought in a mall, a possession and a status symbol. When it is treated as a commodity, it becomes deceitful. so much so that people expect authentic love, unconditional love, and unadulterated love, in return, just like interest on fixed deposits, dividends on the shares and statutory bonus on a yearly salary.
The truth is, our idea about love comes from Facebook posts, romantic stories, romantic songs and movies. They all show superficial ideas of love, which lead to pain and anxiety. True pleasure and happiness are absent. The idea of love is mostly based on ownership and selfishness and comes with strings attached. That is why love immediately turns into hatred if there is a threat to ownership. The couple who share tender kisses starts confronting one another when someone goes wrong and then hates each other out of jealousy and obsession. It is not love. It is a compulsive attachment. When the expectation of something by each other crops up in a relationship and that expectation does not come up as desired, the cracks show. Couples who do not love each other for who they are and expect who they can become, and the decaying process starts. This then is not an honest transaction. People approach love like they are buying a Smartphone. 3 years warranty, unbreakable glass, latest operating system, dual camera, headphone socket and countless built-in memory. And oh, it should work trouble-free! Ultimately, seekers of such unconditional love become sad. Waking up each day, tearful and sobbing, not knowing why nobody was sticking around. Love is not a checkpoint. It is not a checkbox. People are not an object. Neither they are commodities. People are living beings. They have flesh, blood, heart, and mind. Treating them as merchandise certainly kills the desire, the wish, the expectation of real love.
Then How can we know real love? Love is the stillness that listens and speaks something that doesn't pause or stop anywhere but instead pours down in drops of light for many years. It spreads in the eyes, diluting the pupil and causing a grin, and it droops on the eyelids due to its radiance, for the lips do not speak, but the eyes do, silently telling tales for decades to come. Only a few handfuls can detect the scent emanating from those eyes. It is merely the realisation that your spirit must feel. Reading in the eyes. Do not taint it by labelling it as a romantic relationship. Allow it to be free of cultural standards and expectations; allow it to be pure. Real love is labour. A pledge, an effort, and a commitment. The same way we do our job. Do we carry an empty briefcase around just to tell people our title and designation? No. Love is not void either. It is an investment. Day by day. Every daycare for the other person. That is why love is hard to get. We get what we give, and that includes treating other people honestly, with the poise and esteem that we wish back.
There goes a story where an honest woman saw in her garden three old men sitting when she opened the main door of her home in the morning. Surprised, she went towards them and inquired who they were. Love, Wealth and Success, the old men said. She beckoned them inside her home for breakfast. “Only one of us would come inside”, the three old men said. She was in a quandary for some time and then, with a smile, she asked Love to enter her house. As Love got up, Wealth and Success also rose. . “I have invited only Love,” she said to the other two. “Wherever Love goes, we follow,” said Success and Wealth. Soon, the family was happy, successful, and wealthy.
To conclude, let me turn to Sahir Sahab again. He says, “ye kaayanat jism hai aur jaan ishq hai, ishq saramad, ishq hee mansuur hai, ishq musaa, Ishq koh-e-toor hai, Khaaq ko but, aur but ko devataa karataa hai ishq, intahaa ye hai ke bandey ko Khudaa karataa hai ishq (This earthly being is the body, while the soul is love, love is a tiara and love is always the winner, Musaa (Moses) is (the personification of) love, love is like the (pinnacle of) Mount Sinai, love makes a statue out of ashes, and a deity out of (the) statue, and the summit is when love makes a common man a God).
Anna Karenina, an iconic novel penned by famous Russian author Leo Tolstoy, starts with the line, “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”
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