What we talk about when we talk about love
Remember Rishi Kapoor in his shiny disco onesie in Karz? Niftily treading a rotating record, he called out: “Hey! Tumne kabhi kisi se pyar kiya?” The crowd cried “Kiya!” His response, “maine bhi kiya” seemed to settle things. This commonality, it implied, would help us keep our balance and move along as one, even as the ground beneath our feet kept turning.
Today though, we find ourselves quite far from this primacy of love. We no longer understand the same things when we speak of love. This misunderstanding contributes no small bit to our cultural stalemates.
Many hold that love is a minor matter, at best, a delicious frivolity. Great men from Faiz to Byron have nobly informed us that “Aur bhi dukh hain zamane mein.” Fighting wars or uplifting the downtrodden is the true important business of social change and personal relationships don’t merit serious engagement as fundamental to a just society.
This dismissiveness permeated the ruling which reinstated Section 377 and radiated from the demeanour of the judges as they walked out. Justice Singhvi’s condescending pat on his ‘little sister’s’ head seemed to imply that, one day, when she grew up, little sister would understand this.
This is an epic fail interpretation of love. It is love that makes us transcend boundaries to understand and reach out for the other and love, that makes us accept boundaries thereby respecting difference instead of stamping it out with power, ownership and control. Love makes two people from different communities overcome the prejudice of generations and usher in a new possibility. These same new possibilities are indicated when love helps parents understand their children’s choices and helps children persist in explaining their choices to rigid parents.
Imagining a different possibility, ie, change, rather than clinging to one you have always known, ie prejudice, is facilitated by the principle of love making it the very cornerstone of heterogeneity, openness and considered justice.
We look to courts to translate these philosophical ideals into social goals, to see the good of one and the good of many through one lens. If we cannot acknowledge complex freedoms between people, how are we going to imagine them for the People?
In the outrage that followed the judgement of December 11, someone posted a line from the film Ishqiya — “Tumhara pyar pyar, hamara pyar sex?” It may have meant to say that homosexual love was not just about sex as prejudiced heterosexuals think. But it also ends up endorsing the troubling idea that in the hierarchy of human emotions, sex is inferior to love. This division of love as something pure, or satvik and sex as something impure, or tamsik persists.
Sex may not be all of love, but it is a part of love. In making a big part of love a source of shame or disrespect, we make love itself impossible. We create a hierarchy where those who we have ‘just’ sex with are somehow not as worthy of the same respect and fairness as those we love (or marry). We justify demeaning others, thinking it is power, and demean ourselves. Violence is an extension of these hierarchies and this self-hate. Until we can treat the idea of sex itself with a certain lovingness, we will find no adequate response to sexual injustice except contempt and violent revenge.
Tomorrow on the anniversary of Jyoti Pande’s death, after a year of these struggles, we have to think about this way of thinking. If we want a change, we will have to make love our organising principle, not violence and dismissive hierarchies.
Paromita Vohra is an award-winning Mumbai-based filmmaker, writer and curator working with fiction and non-fiction. Reach her at www.parodevi.com.
The views expressed in this column are the individual’s and don’t represent those of the paper.