Man-woman interactions have never been easy. But now every exchange seems officiated. Words are closely evaluated, by both men (before) and women (after).
By Hemant Morparia\Mumbi Mirror
I have to start with a disclaimer here: the concept of romantic love is alien to me. The title of this piece presupposes that romance had a past. A casual peek into history tell us that ‘romantic love’ was, in fact, invented by wandering 12th century troubadours in France (where else?). It was a clever, fiendish ploy that depended on mutual self-deception, in order to, well, get some… um, you know, (unsuitable word alert) ‘action’.
I have, in my life, not seen any couple that continues to be in thrall of romantic love for any significantly meaningful length of time. Any talk of romance brings to my mind a cartoon by Mick Stevens published in the New Yorker (see, only cartoonists quote other cartoonists by name. All others just quote the publication). The cartoon shows a couple on a boat ride in an amusement park’s ‘tunnel of love’. You can see the tunnel’s exit: the boat with the couple is about to land into cesspool of effluents, garbage and other stranded couples. Cartoonists get it right pretty often, I’d say.
Actually, I have to make a correction —I have known just one couple which continues to be madly in love, and with an intensity that increases on a daily basis. Let me introduce Exhibit A. On my way to the gym each evening, for the past few years, I have been seeing a couple, a male and a female. They are rag pickers who live in abject poverty on the footpath, with no roof over their head. When they interact with each other, however, I see their mutual, fixed gaze; the world is dead to them in that moment. When the man is away, I see the woman stand for long, gazing in the direction of his expected arrival. On my way back, at night, they are asleep in each other’s arms. The relationship is not one founded on something transnational or conditional. It couldn’t possibly be. In this primal and feral state, they have nothing, and they have everything. They have love.
Cut to the present. Man-woman interactions have never been easy. They are equally a playground as they are a minefield. All men have had, at some point or other in their lives, some unsavory thoughts about women. Some men, drunk on power or fame, have quite brazenly acted them out. Women are speaking out now and it’s about time too. Women are looking askance in the direction of all men. The regular, non guilty men are the ones who are clueless in this crossfire, and the angry women aren’t helping. Every exchange between the sexes now seems officiated. Words, spoken or written, get carefully evaluated and weighed, by both men (before) and women (after). What is said and what is meant or implied in this climate of distrust are considered exclusive. A minor slip could result in the ‘Gotcha!’ moment. For example, can a man say, ‘Are you the new, hot yoga teacher?’, with zero risk today? Even punctuation marks need careful attention. A comma can break a sentence, but what of a missing one? That could break bones. Try ‘I love cooking my girlfriend and my pets’. Outrage is guaranteed from humorless Twitterati and the Shouting Heads In TV Studios (SHITS) will be shouting for your head on a platter! Out of instincts of self-preservation then, male-female interactions are fast simulating the way porcupines make love (‘very, very carefully’) and without the porcupiny tenderness.
It seems that every woman is angry today (I carefully chose the word ‘angry’ here instead of ‘mad’) and every man a bit confused and unsure. I drew a cartoon recently in which the song line ‘Tumko mujh se pyaar hai? Na na na na na na na’, from the cult film Aradhana, ends with the director yelling “Cut – end of song. NO means NO!”. When I posted it on social media, several women felt hurt and objected to it. Someone even summarised Aradhana as a misogynistic film which devalued womanhood (!) and promoted patriarchy (!!). It would be all very funny if it was not so sad. If both sexes continue the present downward trajectory of interactions, which are now getting to be without nuance, leeway or spontaneity, then I am afraid, there will be little to hold us together. As it is very little does.
I believe that the human male and the human female are two entirely different species. There may be more in common between a male human and a male chimp than a human male and a human female. In due course, men will eventually go their own way. So will women. As they retreat to Hisland and Herland, there will be little meaning to life and its activities. We will cease to do, build, create, compose, communicate, play or laugh, the very basis of all civilization. There will be no motivation to do all that. We shall, each gender separately that is, return to a state of chaos, anomie and primal poverty. From those feral, dystopic lands, one day, a single man and a single woman, both having nothing, will lock gaze. Their eyes will light up as they see a faint but distinct possibility of having everything.
Post script: here is an exercise for you: what is the right way to punctuate ‘woman without her man is nothing’? (Both possible answers taken together only are correct.)