A gentle art, a quiet thievery

A recent song that captivated me is this one on first love:

The fresh romance of the lead pair did capture the heart of this diehard romantic, but what captivated me most were the lyrics.

An intermittent lightning, a noiseless thunder

A gentle rain that falls and drenches only two…. 

 An unseasonal shower, this love

The rest of the song is all about the stealing and gentle deception that is romance…..stealing glances, a smile of delight quickly covered up, the getting ready to meet someone but trying hard not to appear overly eager, the awkwardness, the gentle teasing and testing of the other to see if there is a response, the secret smile when the response is as expected, a fluttering of the heart that becomes a hammering and under all this the effort to pretend normalcy…..this game of tender subterfuge goes on until every conscious thought is lost, and time stands still. A beautiful, joyful theft happening in plain sight with the people powerless to stop it, and making no effort either. Love is a tidal wave and losing oneself in it is an absolute and senseless joy that defies description!

***

Every species has this little dance of courtship, this ongoing banter, a unique give and take before the pair decides to take things further. The minute a woman gets an admiring glance, her gait becomes more confident; the minute a man is admired, he squares his shoulders and walks taller. The peacock preens itself to attract its mate; the cuckoo sings the sweetest notes in the hope of finding an answering cry; the weaver bird uses all its innate engineering skills to build a nest, in the hope of finding and impressing a mate, and as for the puffer fish, its engineering feat is here!

Many species have males doing all the wooing – and there are some dangerous species where the female woos and then destroys the male once the next generation is assured! To the male of the species, a female praying mantis is a Fatal Attraction!

Among humans, and I’m sure other species too, some are more adept at the game than others and play for keeps. If their prospective partner is equally adept, it can be a joyful courtship, with each matching wits against the other, while playing to eventually be on the same team. Such well-matched pairs are a joy to behold, and one wishes with all their heart that they will end up together. Of course there are others who are also adept at the game, and who play for the sake of playing…..The players of the field and the playboys/playgirls. Detecting who is who takes skill, and in some cases a lesson from the school of hard knocks….in which case, here’s hoping someone didn’t get too scarred. Some are downright dishonest cheats who taint everything by association – a Tamil movie called Amaidhippadai changed the entire meaning of a hitherto innocuously named sweet called halwa!

But let’s leave the players alone, and focus on the lovers. I’ve asked a few women what their love was like – even those from an older generation. How did the pair meet? How did they fall in love? Even those who had arranged marriages: how did they decide that he was the one? When did they fall in love? Invariably, even the sternest of them would instantly blush and try to wave me away: Go on, you surely have better things to do! Go!

Some would blush, laugh, look downward, grin and start telling the story sheepishly, becoming bolder as they go.  One told me how she had gone with a female friend to a restaurant, and couldn’t find a chair. Spotting a couple of chairs at another table, she asked a man at the table if the chairs were meant for someone. Without batting an eyelid, he replied: “Yes, the chairs are reserved. I was holding them for you!”. A stunned silence, some shared laughter – and a relationship for life that followed.

An American friend once told me about how captivated they were on watching an Indian film: “Your films have so much romance! It is so beautiful!

Having grown up watching Indian films, I didn’t think they were all that unusual  – except perhaps that nearly 90% of Indian films were musicals. Aren’t American movies romantic too? “The older ones are, but in Indian films it is the entire art of wooing and courtship – that is what is so romantic! You don’t find that art anymore in an American film – the couple are attracted to each other, and very quickly the relationship gets physical!

I hadn’t thought of that. Indeed, romancing someone is more about the fine art of courtship.

***

Not just romantic love, any kind of love – between those not related by birth or adoption that is – involves a gentle stealing. Even among babies and toddlers, the crowd-pullers and heart-stealers are always the charmers who use their wits to get out of some mischief – we cannot help laughing and loving them even as we see through their little tricks. Lord Krishna, who captivated many, started out in childhood as a butter thief. The gopis knew he stole the butter they had taken pains to churn, and even as they complained to his mother about it, he had well and truly stolen their hearts. Game, set, and match!

***

To the heart-stealers, to those who had their hearts joyfully stolen, and to the would-be heart-stealers, Happy Valentine’s Day! May you find joy, and may your love bring you contentment and peace.

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