Friday, June 11, 2010

Nobody ever finds the one...and everybody finds the one

A couple of years ago, I found myself dealing with a particularly strong round of parental pressure to marry and the simultaneous absence in my life of anyone with whom there seemed any prospect of a happy life together. As I contemplated the twin possibilities of lifelong singlehood on the one hand and a potentially unhappy marriage to someone my mother wheeled out on the other, my future looked bleak. In a moment of weakness – perhaps brought on by alcohol – I told a woman friend what I was going through.
Shaizia had been an ad film producer in Mumbai before giving it up to run a lodge and restaurant in a Tamil Nadu temple town called Thiruvannamalai. She joked about being the first Muslim woman saint in the place. Her experiences, and the difficulties she had been through, had made her wise. I trusted in her ability to give good advice.
But that day, she said something I had trouble believing. “It’s possible to love almost anyone”, she told me.
When we are in love, we believe that no one else can take the place of the loved one. There is, we believe, something unique about the person that makes us love them. In that state, we forgive – and even like - their flaws and idiosyncracies. Of course this honeymoon generally doesn't last, and the scales fall off our eyes. Love then experiences its true test. If it survives the test, we marry and perhaps procreate. If not, we pick up the pieces of our heart and look again.
Most of us do fall in love more than once in our lifetimes. Every individual on this planet is unique (hence that quip: you’re unique, just like everyone else). More than one of those unique individuals can – and usually does – appeal to us, at different times. In fact, in some life-complicating instances, more than one person may even appeal to us at the same time.
I’ve been in love a few times. None of them lasted, to my regret, but they were all beautiful relationships in their own different ways. Some were incomplete, some even unspoken. They were relationships that simmered under the surface, rich with the possibilities of what might have been.
Thinking back, I realise there is little in common in those women I loved. They were all very different people, from diverse backgrounds. Yes, they were all in a certain age band, they all had a decent education, and they were all attractive. But then, there must be at least a million women in this world of six billion people who fit those criteria.
I could possibly have fallen in love with any of them. It was other factors that had determined my choices in the end.
The first of these was availability. I had only ever fallen in love with women who suggested they might be available – not easily, perhaps, but the door wasn’t shut and bolted. These women had come into my life – and I into theirs – at times when we both seemed open to the idea of flirting and dating. Attraction had had the chance to express itself.
The second was proximity. A relationship could develop simply because the person was around to spend time with. I’ve had incredible bonding with at least one woman with whom no relationship ever happened because we were in different cities. Distance snuffed out the flames before they had a chance to spark romance. After endless long Gmail chats and phone conversations, we had moved on to date other people.
We truly grew to love those ‘other people’. The beginnings might have been guarded, and casual. Yet, in time, the relationships acquired a tenderness and affection that was special. The other people became the most important people in our lives. Of course it wasn’t always perfect – is anything ever – but it was special enough and rare enough.
I wasn’t really thinking of love when I entered this other relationship. It seemed like an interesting friendship, with vague possibilities of becoming something more. Yet, it grew to become an addiction. I had not set out to love her. I doubted there could be a relationship between us. Yet it happened, because I did not stop it from happening.
It’s easy enough, really, to fall in love, as long as one is not decided against it.