To my tango partner

 

img_20160904_162058My entire life, I have been surrounded with (the idea of) love; thinking, reading, watching, writing, and even critiquing love. I have been fascinated by 90s Bollywood movies that speak of romance and love in the language of song and dance, as opposed to the countless narratives around me that construct love in practical terms. It is not the cinema I like, for it sure is problematic, it is the construction of a certain ethos of love; a love that I have always wanted.

The world around us cherishes balance and control. Love is wonderful, but not too much of it (here, I am obviously referring to human love, for love for work is idealized). We believe that children and adolescents must be “protected” from certain forms of love. We are told to prioritize our working bodies and keep love aside; there is a time and age for love, when you have achieved everything else.

John Lennon and Yoko Ono once said that when you are in love, there is no such thing as spending too much time together; there is no space for space between lovers. I have not known or wanted anything other than love. I have known of a cinematic world where lovers abandon work and other things practical and collapse into the colourful world of song and dance. In this world, love requires neither practicality, nor demands effort. It is the simplest human experience that pulls you into a whirlpool of breathlessness (from all that dancing) and vulnerability.

Herbert Marcuse describes love as an “ethical taming of eros” wherein love is a tamed expression of sexuality- an acceptable form of human affection and desire in the capitalist context where work is given primacy. There was a time in my life when I believed it to be true, but you have shown me that we are neither ethical, nor tame. I may have assimilated concepts of love throughout my life, but with you, I have lived them. I have lived every single moment of my fantasy and I have known that there is nothing better than having someone who shares your way of love and knows that dancing is the solution to all the problems in the world. Perhaps, our love would make Marcuse reconsider his statement, because, in our delusional world, love comes first and work need not exist at all.

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#tango #love #dance #publicdisplayofaffection

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Reblogged: The ‘Filmy’ Body: Understanding pleasure and dance in the public space

My article published by TARSHI (Talking About Reproductive and Sexual Health Issues) in their issue on ‘Technology and Sexuality’.

A screenshot from the song Rangeela Re

A screenshot from the song Rangeela Re

Shades of Rebellion

A response to: How DDLJ ruined my generation

As the celebrations for 1000 weeks of Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jaayenge (DDLJ) are in full swing, there is a parallel conversation amongst the critical consumers of media about how the movie is patriarchal, regressive and contributed to the building of an ethos of conformity in the young minds of the 90’s. This is contrasted with the rebellion against parental authority by the 70’s kids. Some analyses have been sensitive, carefully treading around questions of films as representation of reality and shapers of reality, not giving undue value to one over the other. Others have directly blamed the movie for contributing to the internalization of a conformist cultural idea thus trying to establish that somehow movies, or at least this particular one, shaped reality to a greater degree than representing it. While I agree by and large with the analyses of the movie as patriarchal, I find the idea of labelling it as representing conformism slightly ridiculous and narrow-minded.

I have been a fan of DDLJ, more so of Raj, primarily because of his courage to stay put and fight for what he thinks is ‘right’. Simultaneously, I have also been a fan of the 60’s counter-culture revolutions and the May 69 riots in Paris against state and parental authority. I personally do not think that the two revolts have to necessarily contradict each other. What one needs to do, perhaps more so in the case of DDLJ, is to adopt a flexible approach to rebellion and not fall into the trap of ‘what the “correct” form of rebellion is’. I think my problem remains, not with the criticism of DDLJ as a symbol of conformism, but with the attempt to define right and wrong rebellions which deny the individual and multifarious ways in resistance presents itself. One needs to think – Why is it that the act of staying put and initiating a dialogue with the aggressor, in this case the paternal authority, seen as an act of conformity as opposed to being viewed as another form of resistance? I understand that the rebellion against authority and fleeing from sites of oppression have a sense of romanticism associated with the 60’s, but surely that does not mean that there is a monopoly on what rebellion means. Because if rebellion is defined as that and conformism is constructed as everything which is not a direct revolt against authority, or a mass movement at that, then it trivialises various other shades of rebellion.

If it is so then it invalidates everything that Raj and Simran stood for. There is immense courage, faith and sensitivity that goes into understanding the intricacies of a system and rebelling against it. One has to give some credit to Raj for realizing that the aggressor isn’t an individual but it is the entire system and that under the pretext of ‘caring for the other’, there is a large degree of control that is exercised over family in patriarchal setups. There is a recognition of the fact that one can rebel by rendering the other humane. Even though I am reluctant to make direct comparisons, it reminds me of the Gandhian form of resistance which finds force in the belief that the oppressor is after all a human being. But this recognition does not come from fleeing (eloping in this case) or battling the parental authority. It comes from turning the other cheek, premised on the belief that the power of the human face (in terms of presence of the silent, suffering body) induces an inkling of self-realization even in the worst of cases.

The movie ends with the famous dialogue: ‘Jaa simran jaa, jee le apni zindagi’. For me it was much more than just a singular, chance act of permissiveness. I think that it depicted a decline in parental authority, recognition of the porosity of consent and the flaws in a worldview which allow us to control the decisions of anyone else. And I think Bollywood does that time and again, each time the ‘couple’ (albeit heterosexual) reinstates the value of love over parental wishes. This particular movie culminates in the imagery of the running train, in full Bollywood style, symbolizing mobility and freedom. (This is only my interpretation of DDLJ, and I’m sure there will be many others, just like there will be rebellion or conformism in different shapes and sizes).

Of course, one may argue that the final act was similar to that of a kanyadaan, of a simple transfer of authority rather than letting go, and I won’t deny that. I completely agree that DDLJ is an extremely problematic movie with Simran portrayed as the good, virginal girl. It is terrible how gender roles play out and how Raj and her father refuse to listen to her and assert their own views as the right ones (Raj’s wish to stay and fight and her father’s act of forcibly marrying her to Kuljeet). I am not defending any claim against DDLJ but the one that has adverse consequences for individual subversion. For if one narrows the definition of rebellion to simply fleeing and/or violently opposing, then it renders silent, non-violent protests useless. I am worried for rebellion more than for DDLJ, for rebellion needs to constantly produced and re-produced, with full awareness that following ‘trends’ often devalues subversion of certain kinds, and we don’t want to fall into that trap.

This article was published on Youth Ki Awaaz: A Fan’s Response To Those Who Think DDLJ Represents Conformism.

On being in love with the idea of being in love

“I love that you make me feel like I’m in love. You, on the other hand, I can take or leave”

Ever since I have fallen in love with the idea of love, I have jumped from person to person. I have tumbled from one story into the next. Life has felt like a continuous stretch of memories, each story weaving into the next, very little to differentiate one from the other. After almost a decade of chasing after the dream, I have come to realize that it is the story that I have fallen head over heels in love with. It is the idea of living with someone, sharing a life with him. It doesn’t really matter who it is. It doesn’t matter whether we’re so similar that we embrace each other like a singular being, two bodies one soul. It doesn’t even matter whether we’re poles apart, with nothing to bind us together but the constant elation that comes with just knowing that you are loved.

I don’t need to know why someone loves me, and I definitely don’t have an answer to why I love him- what is it that makes him unique or special to me. Those things are at best mundane ways to allow time to pass. I don’t want the time to pass. I want to just lay there and revel in the glory of being in love. I want to feel every ounce of my energy invested in someone who mirrors just that feeling back to me. This is why love is eternal for me. It’s extraordinariness is what always lifts me up and twirls me around. Sometimes it’s a dizzy whirlpool of lovely sensations, sometimes a deep abyss that makes me want to kill myself. But really, at the end of the day, it’s love that I love- more than any person. The people, the faces are somewhat dispensable, or at the very least interchangeable, but the feeling isn’t.

Holding On

This summer, I worked at a public hospital (Lady Hardinge) in Delhi as part of my Masters (in Psychology) program. It is what has kept me busy and completely exhausted for the past month-which is my excuse for not having written anything for the blog. Needless to say, it was a mentally taxing experience which has left me with a bittersweet feeling.

My first interaction was with this little boy, 4 years of age, diagnosed with ‘celibral palsy’ so severe that he barely could walk, talk or even sit up without support. The hospital had become a home for him and his mother, even though it is common knowledge that the prognosis, at such a young age, is miserable.

My interactions were limited to his mother, and initially I felt this intense sympathy for her. On hearing her story, I found that this woman had left her alcoholic husband who used to beat her; which, I feel is a task that is easier said than done. This child was her only child and she was financially dependent on her parents, all of whom belonged to the LSES. It doesn’t make so much sense without giving the context, but let’s just say that she couldn’t even afford to buy fruits for her child.

As I spent time with her, the feeling of sympathy was replaced by respect. I was proud of her for being the epitome of resilience, even though her own experience was neither of sympathy nor pride. I realized that sympathy was only what I felt for myself. I knew within seconds of talking to her that sticking through such a situation was something that was quite impossible for me to do.

Why I chose to write about this in my blog, which usually is a refuge from the otherwise stressful academic work, is because even though I might never completely relate to this kind of situation in ‘reality’, this experience has made me realize how much love there is in the world. What I take back is that giving up on something that you love should be the last option. Actually, maybe sometimes it shouldn’t be an option at all. Even though the very thought of not being able to give up may sound suffocating, I feel that  trying and going after the person/thing you love leaves you feeling proud for at least trying. 

I would love to feel as proud of myself as I did for her. 

Discrete Identity

With a bit of alcohol in me, I gathered the inspiration to write about my endeavours with my conscience. Off late I have been rather detached and ignorant of my creative and emotional side. I forgot that there were times when I was an ardent lover of poetry. Recently I have laughed at my own poems sometimes. But I am a human being and alcohol gets the better out of me.

Why is being gay so tough. I was born gay and I have been very confident in my sexuality and have never really had someone bashing me for am gay and neither did the identity crisis scar my childhood greatly. You know the toughest part for me right now is that I cannot have many dreams. I am not sure if I will be lucky enough to have that perfect love affair.

I meet a guy randomly probably from…

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Truth, Beauty, Freedom and Love

All I needed was Moulin Rouge to re-discover myself. Watching the movie re-awakened in me the ideals that I hold so close to me, the mantra of the Bohemian Revolution- Truth, Beauty, Freedom, and Love.  The world hasn’t seen a better movement. The counter-culture revolution of the 60’s was equally liberating, but somehow the idea of polygamous and open relationships doesn’t make me comfortable just yet. I’m working on it though, why should love be only for one and not many? But right now, I know that it’s just not for me. Strangely, I also realized that even though I stand by the workers revolution, the main factor that pushes me to be so strongly anti-capitalist is because capitalism devalues love. Diamonds are a girl’s best friend? Oh come on.

I love stories about people who love passionately, for whom the best way to die would be of love (death by feeling alive?) I  know it sounds incredibly optimistic to look for all-consuming love instead of settling for the love mixed with the business-ethic of rationality, give and take. It is terribly hard too. 

 But nothing sums this feeling up better than Christian in Moulin Rouge:

“The greatest thing you’ll ever learn, is just to love and be loved in return”

That is all I have to convince you, and if I have, then just try. Dream a little. Make freedom a perspective, a way of being. Be true to yourself and your feelings. Find love, and you’ll know that it’s all you really need.  

A-Morality

I have a confession: Despite my love for the Victorian era and British propriety, (Oh, you’ll know if you see the Jane Austen series) I pride myself on being amoral. It irks me to see people constantly obsess about what is right or wrong, what they should or shouldn’t do and so on. I just don’t have a punitive superego, actually sometimes I wonder whether I even have one or not.

Anyhow, when it comes to relationships I really feel that “everything is fair in love”- as long as you’re honest about it. Sigh. There comes the first “moral” contradiction that lies in being an amoralist, but just so that it’s clear- I do believe that being humane should be top priority. Then comes doing whatever the hell you want. Just one simple philosophy- ‘your freedom ends where my nose begins’. 

I believe in freedom of feelings. That’s what I mean by being amoral in love. It saddens me to see so many questions of what people (especially women) ought to feel. What the hell does that mean anyway? Forums are filled with questions like “my boyfriend did/does blah blah and I feel so bad about it. SHOULD I feel bad? Or am I overreacting?” Questions like these and replies to them obviously help people feel better by seeing that they’re not the only ones killing themselves over such feelings. I’m no agony aunt, but I feel that they’re oxymoronic. I mean, read your question- you already feel bad. Sure, people could make you feel better by acknowledging (or worse, judging) how you feel, but them telling you that you shouldn’t feel the way you’re feeling won’t change anything, will it?

Also, just an observation: “My boyfriend is amazing, should I feel nice?” doesn’t seem to be half as popular.

Feelings don’t need censorship, those who pass judgement on them do. “Because I feel so” is a perfectly appropriate answer.

P.S: It’s funny how the moral of the story is to be amoral. Ugh, contradictions.

There’s a right way, a wrong way- and then there is the way you feel.

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