The very last night in Dhulikhel, winding a busy and fun-filled day, I was in deep slumber— even dream didn’t haunt me. There are times when body and mind seeks nothing else but full and complete rest. But lo! A loud noise, roaring laughter, sound of songs and music woke me up at 11.30 PM. I only have three hours of sound sleep and a busy day ahead of me.
Outside, in the adjoining balcony, a bunch of people were talking aloud in what seemed like a night party going on with bottles and glasses spread over the table. First, a surge of anger flashed in my mind as with the noise I could not sleep any more. I peeped twice debating whether I should complain and ask them to end their rendezvous on this ungodly odd hour (for me). On my second peep someone noticed me, “We are so sorry. We did not know someone was next door to us. But, sir would you like to join for some fun conversations and a drink…..If you will please! ” And, then several voices, male and female, in unison pleaded, “Please join us sir, please! It will be so much fun.” I paused for a long haul in dead silence without uttering a word. “Sir, if it really bothers you, we will leave.” I was a deep silence. And, then silence too felt unsettling to me. I inhaled a gulp of air simply to pause and think hard. After what was a long silence I reasoned: I MUST NOT spoil the younger folk’s party. What the heck! It is just one evening. I must let them enjoy the evening. My heart softly gave in and I smiled. That was the end of my dilemma! My face had said it all! They all clapped with laughter— our party began! “Beer sir?” “Why not?” Time began to roll as I was slowly getting into the mood for fun.
The group had one Nepali young man, who was the local host as well as a guide and five young Indians, three males and two females, all around mid 20’s. They were professionals ranging from MBA from Boston University, a psychology major, software engineer and a business man, all from Ahmadabad, Gujarat, and Modi’s state. They were on some Rotary Club’s program in Nepal.
From my opening sentence of introduction they had this question about my identity. I have come to realize from previous experiences that I must present various impressions on identity (Indian, Nepali, foreigner, Middle Eastern?) Even some Nepalis ask me that question especially when I’m travelling, to my surprise. Even in this village in Sindhupalchowk many asked me if I were an Indian as I spoke different kind of Nepali. But did I? I also wondered how many choices they give me on my identity. Is Tarai not Nepal? I jokingly retort only some times. The mixed notion of identity does not really bother me as I do feel I’m a natural hybrid of all the places I have lived and the mixed identity I project (if I really do), is fine with me.
As they were singing some Hindi love songs, this petite light skinned young woman, a psychologist, asked me, “Sir, what really is love? Can you tell us?” Surprisingly, the first question I was asked after my identity. I said, “ Why ask an old man from a different generation about this most complex emotion? Haven’t you experienced it yourself?” To this, the two women simply giggled looking at each other as they didn’t want to make any confessional statement. I asked the gentle Jain boy, how about you? He said, “Sir, I had been in love….. But …”, “But, what?”, “It was a tragic love.”, “How?” “Sir, she married a rich man.” I laughed as I said most loves in India end up this way even decades back when I was a young student there.“They all fall in love; they get separated and cry in pain all their lives like Devdas and Paro. (All time classic movie Devdas) Like what the author Amrita Preetam describes: the yearnings, nostalgic memories with pangs of sweetness and sadness like gray and white shades of life.”
“ Please tell us more about Amrita Preetam.”
“I used to read her writings in my teen years in India. Terrific writer on “love,” mostly platonic love with deep longings of beautiful and charming dreams of union. I felt then she defined for us what love really was, but later when I was exposed to Western literature and society I revised the notion of so called “pure and unselfish love” where lover gives everything including his life for this romantic, idealistic platonic love with nothing in return. Seldom does man do something without any expectation for return even in relationships like friendship, courtship, meetings, dating or spending time together.”
“Her personal life, sir?”
“Like many in Indian society she was married to a wealthy man but their was no love. She platonically loved the famous Gajal writer Sahir Ludhianvi, later she also fell for Imraz and with him she lived having left her husband.”
“ So she didn’t really have a bad life with three relationships?”
“ Well the image I have is, while the marriage was unhappy, the intense, the devotional love for Sahir was unbounded. It seemed Sahir loved her but he had many other lovers with his celebrity status in Bombay as a poet and gazal writer. He was unable to return her love as he had numerous other love interests.That longing and void was filled by Imraz as I know. He surely loved her very much even knowing she truly was devoted to Sahir. Real ironies of many love stories are that the love interest has someone else in her mind. Numerous cases are there where love is one sided infatuation and the thirst for union may come to fruition.
“Such a fascinating triangle is not it sir?”
“They should have made movie on it.”
“ But there is no lack of trangular love plots in Hindi movies.”
“You are so right.”
“Sir, we like that. But now India has changed sir, many young people marry their lovers.”
“Good for India!” I said. We all laughed musing about the most intriguing and fascinating topic of human emotion, “LOVE”. The young women giggled rocking their bodies. The topic of “love” always so consuming and fascinating across generations! “So Sir, what really is love?” pushing me again. “Mother’s love?” I teased, “It is always giving, unconditional, biologically and instinctually driven.” “That we know. How about other love? “ “Like friendship?” “That also we know.” “Others?” “You mean primal, instinctual, that keeps the world spinning?” “Yes, Yes! Instinctual, attraction based and passion driven, that kind of love?” “Yes!” “It’s basic human need. Actually it is an animal instinct— a life force that keeps all the species going round and round for ever. There is never enough love in any one’s life. It has many names like: romantic, platonic, agape, infatuation, one sided devotional or worshipping kind of love etc.”
Jeff Brown says, “Love can happen in a split second instantly, but bonding can take a long time. That love is not the end of a story. It’s just a first chapter. Next chapter demands that we acknowledge our wounding, clear out emotional debris, enhancing our capacity for attachment, learn how to authentically relate in relationship, refining our abilities to meet love with true heart. It’s a work of lifetime. Our opus of opening. How terrifying! How delightful!”
“What are other elements in love?”
“Love is nature! It must flow as a river. Attempting to block it will create a dam that could break loose at any instant like a dam sweeping boulders creating a land-slide.”
“Sir, what is one critical factor in sustaining love?”
“Believe in giving, sharing, reciprocation and understanding each other, as there is never enough of it in life.”
They nodded in unison.
“And?” It was so clear nothing else consumes human energy more than this complex, intriguing emotion of “love” beside food and water just as Abraham Maslow’s theory on human need.
“What else sir?”
My time to philosophize!
“No one will walk with you if you are very tired.
Life may be suffering but it is also about giving and sharing.
Learn about living by caring.
Then only you’ll know what really ‘love’ is”.
They all loved it claiming, “Sir, you nailed it so poetically.”
“Glad you liked it.”
“How about pain and sufferings in life, sir?”
“There is no life without pain and sufferings.”
“How do we deal with it?”
“You MUST deal with it and find your own pathway. There just isn’t one-shoe-fits-all solution for it.” This is what author Herman Hesse has to say, “I began to understand that suffering and disappointments and melancholy are there not to vex us or cheapen us or deprive us of our dignity but to mature and transfigure us.”
A solace to us mortals Robert Bly has to say, “Where a man’s wound is, that is where his genius will be.”
“Sir, is it true that suffering cleanses and purifies us?”
I said, “I really do not know. Many cultures like ours and that of the Greeks and the Romans have glorified pain, suffering and sadness as a romantic journey in life. In fact I have debated that in my writings. Let us realize we can’t get to the bottom of all this in one evening. We MUST accept them.”
Sir, what is the secret of having a good meaningful life?
“I’ll repeat what Baruch de Spinoza, the Dutch philosopher, one of the great rationalists of 17th century said, ‘What I want you to do go out into the world and enjoy your life. I want you to sing, have fun and enjoy everything there is for you: the mountains, lakes, ocean and desert. You can read me (God or nature) in sunrise, in a landscape, in the look of your friends, in human eyes… I am pure love…. I filled you with passions, pleasures, feelings, needs, inconsistencies… and free will.”
Respect your peers and don’t do what you don’t want for yourself.
You are absolutely free to create in your life: Heaven or hell.
This life is your only chance to enjoy, loving, to exist.”
Believe in yourself. I want you to feel me (God) in you when you kiss your beloved, when you tuck in your little baby, when you caress your dog.
Take care of yourself, your health, your relationships and the world. Express your joy!
The only thing for sure is that you are here now at this moment that you are alive, that this world is full of wonders. Enjoy and immerse yourself into it.”
Carl Jung says you must love yourself too: “You cannot stay away from yourself forever; you have to return, to know whether you really can love. That is the question-whether you can love yourself, and that will be the test.”
Seneca has some tips on life. “No activity can be successfully pursued by an individual who is preoccupied … since the mind when distracted absorbs nothing deeply, but rejects everything which is, so to speak, crammed into it. Living is the least important activity of the preoccupied man; yet there is nothing which is harder to learn… Learning how to live takes a whole life, and, which may surprise you more, it takes a whole life to learn how to die.”
Someone said, “Life is the great gift. Whether it ends in eternity, reincarnation, or nothingness, we are given but a brief flicker of time. To love, to build, to know, to learn! To walk the world as ourselves and know it for what it is.
We have been given one chance to spend these brief years making the world a better place. Neither eternity or nothingness matters because your legacy is written in the ripples of the lives you touched.
Nobody walks it for you, and nobody drags you along.
One chance to look at the world, see its pain, and decide that because you can do something you will do something. One chance, one glorious chance, to acknowledge yourself as more than mineral, more than vegetable, more than animal. Once chance to look in the mirror nothing else has made and speak the words nothing else has ever conceptualized, “I will do it, because it is good.”
One chance to be human, in the fullest sense of the term. Life is the great gift. Rise up and live it.”
And, “Life is so precious. We are only here for a moment. May we meet it with delight?”
The time had slipped as it does when you’re having fun in life. The Dhulikhel night was getting colder by the minute. It was past 2 AM in the morning and I said, “Time to go back to restful sleep for few more hours.”
“Sir, we are inviting you to visit Ahmadabad.”
“Ok! Thanks. But it is time to rest. It sure was fun!”
“Sir, we sure will see you. Final words of wisdom? ”
“Three words: Live, Give and Love!”
I slipped back to rest as I had a busy day ahead of me just a few hours later.
(Arun Sharma is an engineer and a writer with seven books published. Acknowledgment with thanks : Rose image was provided by Suddarshan Raj Tiwari , all other natural images by Dr. Mohan Chand Thakuri)
यसलाई जीवित राख्नकोलागि तपाइँको
आर्थिक सहयोग महत्वपूर्ण हुन्छ ।