The Indian society, which refuses to understand that men and women are equals, has a long way to go in comprehending and experiencing real love. Look at the typical Indian expression of love. A boy fancied a girl but she didn’t like him, in fact, was scared of him because he used to tease her in public. Thanks to our films, right from his childhood the boy had seen eve-teasing as an expression of love. (In a Tamil movie, heroine gets attracted to the hero because he calls her “di”. Now“di” is a suffix you add when talking to girls you are intimate with.

Remember the Tamilish Why this kolaveri di? But if you call an unknown girl “di”, you’re sure to get a lash from her, verbally or physically. But not all girls have the guts to do this.) One day, the boy crossed all limits and pulled the girl’s plaited hair on the street, in front of many people. The girl, mortified, hung herself.

Technology has changed the relationship between man and woman to a great extent. In yesteryears, it was difficult for boys to access pornography. A picture of a nude woman printed on low-quality paper was all they could get their hands on — all you could see was a black cloudy figure and come to the conclusion that it’s a female by the shadowy outline of breasts. Sometimes, paper was torn during the ambitious process of finding out the exact parts in that black figure. The situation has drastically changed now. Thousands of porn sites are scattered on the Internet and even a village boy can access them.

But in the ’60s, especially in remote towns, the situation was very different, even in co-ed schools. I never spoke to a girl for the entire 11 years of my school life. While there was no hard-and-fast rule like “don’t talk to girls,” it was beyond our thinking that we could communicate with a girl. If a bold soul decided to express his feelings, it was in the form of graffiti in the toilet — “Pakkirisamy loves Kanchana”.

But today, the status of women has changed. Women have money and freedom. But the dubiety is whether they are happy with it. I see a lot of single women in pubs. And recently, when I was at the “infamous” Sunburn party during my visit to Goa, I saw a girl with two boys. One of the boys spoke to the girl in Tamil: “You didn’t cooperate with us in the ‘threesome’ yesterday… Today it should be perfect. Ok?” The girl replied: “What’s this, da? (“da” being antonym to “di”) Don’t scream in public… Somebody might hear,” the girl said. The boy replied, “Even if they hear, who’s going to understand?”

Media has pride of place in portraying women as sex slaves. Vulgar TV reality shows, like Steal Your Girlfriend and Splitsvilla, make us feel as if we are living in the Middle Ages. Swaziland’s king Mswati III selects his wives from maidens who take part in “Reed dance”. He has 14 wives. His father Sobhuza II had 70 wives. There’s no difference between them and shows like Splitsvilla that treat women as sex slaves.
Hyperreality, according to Jean Baudrillard, is a condition in which reality is replaced by simulacra, which means symbols, signs and likeness. Many pairs chat from cyber cafes. The man will say he is from America, and the girl will say she is in London. But the reality is both would be sitting in cabins in Noida. The youth today live in this sort of loneliness and void where image becomes everything, replacing reality. This is the reason for the increasing number of strained relationships between young couples.
Phone sex, I would say, is comparatively better because you can at least hear each other’s voices. Anurag Kashyap’s DevD is one movie that attracted me in recent times. Very few films have this post-modern approach. In this movie a sex worker (played by Kalki Koechlin) indulges in phone sex. That conversation, which goes in English and French, suddenly turns to Tamil (“Oh… You are Tamil? Then we can continue in Tamil”).
If I think of “love” that entices me, leaving out this “post-modern love”, it brings me memories of movies like 26 Days in the Life of Dostoevsky (1981). Anatoli Solonitsyn, who acted as Dostoevsky, got the Silver Bear for best actor. Another movie is A Dream of Passion (1978), which is based on Euripides’ play Medea. Those who have seen this movie can never ever forget Melina Mercouri.

Two real-life lovers who attract me the most are Salvador Dali and Gala. Their love story is like an adventure movie. Gala, who was Paul Eluard’s wife, fell in love with Dali, who was 10 years younger to her, the moment she saw him. Their relationship had some extremes, like Dali’s phobia of female genitalia and interest in candaulism, etc. But it was Gala’s passionate love for Dali which saved him from madness and early death, just like Anna’s love saved Dostoevsky from neurosis in Siberian prison camps.

When Gala died Dali said, “She is not dead, she will never die…” because, he remarked in a different situation, “It’s mostly with your blood, Gala, that I paint my pictures…”

Published in Deccan Chronicle / The Asian Age, Feb 14, 2012