“Fifty-one years, nine months and four days I have waited for you,” Florentino Ariza tells lady love Fermina Daza in Nobel laureate Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s timeless work ‘Love in the time of cholera’. The confession of the 76-year-old man, passionately in love with Fermina, now 72, since his young days is made before he asks to be reunited with her at her husband’s funeral. Set in the backdrop of a pandemic, the quirky, and rather melancholic love story is magic realism at its best. Its message: when love is deep and pure the distance of time and space is of little consequence.
Nope, decided this freshly-in-love youngman after reading the classic, it’s too much of a wait. Long distance love, like in Florentino’s case, isn’t for me. It is great in theory and nothing more. The longing hearts, pining souls, wordless feelings, the sweet pain of separation and the whole shebang may work for poets but not for ordinary people, he told himself. It was only two weeks into the lockdown when the young friend realised that staying away from his girlfriend was heart-wrenching.
He had reconciled to confinement and temporary separation, and armed himself with a decent stock of couplets on love, longing and loneliness. He had planned to memorise those and voice-mail or text to the girlfriend at regular intervals. GenNow lovers may find it cheesy but the old-fashioned lot always trusts poetry to convey this intricate matter of the heart. His elaborate preparation, however, had failed to take into account a villain as insidious and as devastating as the virus: untrustworthy technology. He never thought poor mobile network, shoddy data service, the dying battery and a generally malfunctioning handset would be so hurtful.
So like all good lovers he decided to break the shackles and meet his girl. What’s love if it cannot overcome hurdles? The hurdles in Delhi in his case were containment zones, police patrolling and shut gates of apartment complexes. The day he planned a bike-ride to his ladylove’s place was rather inauspicious for risky ventures. A kilometre into his journey, he was intercepted by the police. He managed to dodge them and race away only to be stopped by another team of cops not far away. That day he realised batons in the hands of policemen were not for decorative purposes, and that they certainly packed a punch.
The poor lovestruck sod was soon back home limping, whimpering and in tears. For a few days he was in a state of confusion about what hurt him more, the disappointment of not meeting the love of his life or the way the girl giggled non-stop whenever he broached his misadventure to her. She had been sensible to advise him not to do anything stupid during the lockdown.
He has had a change of opinion on love after the episode. A wait of 50 years is fine, even 70, he believes now. The late Marquez, wherever he is, would be chuckling.
ROMANCE UNDER STRAIN
The impact of the lockdown has been largely strainful for romantic relationships, studies have found. Love emojis are in intense circulation, sexting is up, as is mushy texting, and dating apps have a surge in engagement levels, but they hardly substitute physical gestures of love such as holding hands, cuddling and kissing, and just the simple act of being with each other. Most youngsters in the 19-25 age group are not averse to violating the lockdown restrictions to spend time with partners. According to a survey conducted by dating site OkCupid, nearly 75 per cent of young subscribers in India’s metro cities were willing to subvert rules to go out on a date. Globally it was much higher.
The situation has been particularly bad for partners who had broken up but are forced to stay together or married couples who have found each other incompatible. The silver-lining is people on dating apps are back to old-school love. They are getting to know each other better through long hours of chatting unlike earlier when physical intimacy happened too soon.
When 100-year-old Yavar Abbas, former war photographer and filmmaker, advanced his marriage to Indian theatre personality, writer and activist Noor Zaheer in London by ten days in March, it was prompted by a certain sense of urgency. Cases of COVID-19 were rising in the United Kingdom and the government was in the process of asking the elderly to go for self-isolation. Advanced age–Noor Zaheer is 60 — was not what bothered the duo so much as staying separated longer. The smile of relief on their faces on the conclusion of the marriage registration was just priceless, said news reports. The duo went into self-isolation soon after the formalities.
“I’ll love you forever, everyday of forever…” The tweet emanating from China a few months earlier left even the most cynical of social media users steamy-eyed. It carried the video of an 87-year-old COVID patient visiting his wife, also a COVID patient, in another ward of the health facility and nursing her with food and water. Isn’t love is all about these two words — ‘I care’?
LOVE’S LABOUR LOST
The police were all sympathy and kindness after a not-so-young man and his girlfriend were caught on way to the temple on a rickety scooter to get married. It was during the lockdown and the men in khaki would normally have frowned at such dare-devilry and wielded the lathi. But love has a way with even the toughest of souls. They arranged for a priest, a few witnesses and items for the ritual. All through this, the lovebirds maintained a discreet silence. The cops interpreted it as shyness.
Halfway into the ritual, someone among the witnesses smelt a rat. It turned out the man was already married and he had eloped with his sister-in-law. The rest is up to the reader’s imagination.
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