Free speech is music to our ears, indeed. Speaking at ‘One Small Love – Bangalore for Mangalore‘ on February 14, Bangalore-based journalist, teacher and author C K Meena got under the skin of Love.
This is a poem about love.
Just listen to me – a poem, she says. Bravely.
Poem, or song? Call it pong, if it stinks.
Better call it comic verse, call it my funny Valentine – my funny Valentine’s Day message to you.
Valentine’s Day, a day for love, we are told.
Only one day? That’s stingy. Really mean. Love should fill all our days.
Trapping it in a 24-hour cage is the enterprise of those who sell the idea of love, the sellers of love who put love in a shiny box and gives it a barcode.
Buy your love perfume, buy her diamonds, rubies and pearls.
Treat your love to a special-offer-fitness-package at a gym so that he or she will lose weight. Ooh, how romantic, how utterly romantic.
On Valentine’s Day, take your love to a film called – you’ll never guess the title – a film called – “Valentine’s Day”.
But don’t take me for a cynic. Don’t mistake me, as we say in this city. All I’m saying is – Love, which is immense, can occupy the tiniest space. A leaf picked up from the ground beneath a certain tree. A piece of coloured paper. A broken string. A doodle. Any little thing that has meaning for two people in love.
No need to hyper-spend in a hypermarket
No need to hype love or fake love or turn it into a slushy mushy cliché.
But today’s Valentine’s Day, right? Oh, go ahead, buy your lover a furry toy monkey, listen to the Carpenters, for god’s sake, without blushing. “It’s the love that I’ve found ever since you’ve been around…” Listen to James Blunt without cringing. “You’re beautiful…”
But seriously, what is this notion, this emotion called love? This passion, this obsession, this confusion called love? This attraction? Creation? Collaboration? Communication? You know, people, you can take almost any noun with a shin sound and make it an aspect of love.
But seriously, what is this emotion called love?
All right, stretch your legs, spread out your mattresses, because if I try to answer that question I’ll keep you up all night.
Staying up all night might not be such a bad thing, if you’re two people in love.
You’ll spend half the night fighting and the other half trying to make up and when you finally do, you’re too tired to make love.
Love is about sex. Although it is not only about sex.
Love is being angry or moody or jealous. And knowing you’re being angry or moody or jealous for no logical reason whatsoever.
Love is a look, a gesture, a shout. A waterfall of laughter. A nice, warm bowl of s-s-s-silence.
Love is selfish. Love, as our autodrivers will tell you – love – is slow poison.
Love is sweetness and forgiveness, and being willing to give up everything you ever own.
And being nasty, and thinking of revenge, and destruction – of yourself and the other.
And feeling such unblemished happiness you think it will last forever.
Which it might. Or might not. Depending.
But let’s get away from the subject of two people in love. Man and woman, woman and woman, man and man, whatever. Millions of books and songs have spoken of it. Poets have tried to grasp its full body and only managed a nibble, a tiny pinch. So let me not try to go there.
There are other kinds of love.
Blood love. Father-mother-sister-brother, let me not go there, either. Simple, yet complicated.
Divine love? Nah, you lot are too young for that. Save the spiritual for the sunset of your life.
There is the love of inanimate objects. No, I’m not being kinky. You love a book, a film, a song. You don’t want to have sex with it but you want to devour it, possess it whole, because it speaks to you, it tells you who you are.
Then there is the love of a fellow human being. A love that comes from knowing that he or she shares your fate, your world. You are sitting side by side in the same boat, the same train, the same seat on the Giant Ferris Wheel of life. You reach out your hand and help a stranger when she is in pain, when she is distressed, because you share the same universe, you are sitting beside her on the Giant Wheel of life.
But there is another kind of “love”, my children, another kind of “love” which sounds like an excuse for hate. Loving your country means hating another. Loving your culture means hating another. Loving your language means hating another.
Strange kind of “love”, which is really hate in disguise.
What does it mean to love a language or a country? Nothing. Nada. Zilch. You belong to your country because you were born in it, born to it. Your language you acquired after birth but it is part of your muscle, blood and bone. What’s to love about them? They are mere facts. A country is a fact of life. Your mother tongue is a fact of life. What’s to love? Would you say, oh, how I love two-plus-two-equals-four, oh, I am so proud of two-plus-two-equals-four?
Naan yaav bhashe nalli mathaaadbeku antha, yaaaru nan-hattara hel beda, hel baaradu. Samaj mein aaya? Purinjitha? Manasilaayo, maashey? And if I could learn to speak all 22 scheduled languages and all its glorious hundreds of dialects I would speak them all, I would sing them all to you.
My culture is made up of many colours, many faces, many tongues. It has no room for hate of the “other”.
But some crazy people, some lunatics who give the moon a bad name, have been trying to dictate to me what my culture is, what it should be. They have been saying, speak this tongue, wear this colour, hate this face.
How dare they? Nobody can tell me what to speak and whom to love.
The loonies have been saying, we forbid you to love one who belongs to a different colour, who speaks a different tongue. How dare they?
Nobody can tell me what to speak
C K Meena, well known to Bangaloreans for her tart, witty columns on life in their ever-changing cityscape, has written two books of fiction — the semi-autobiographical Black Lentil Doughnuts and the crime thriller Dreams for the Dying.