By Devjani Bodepudi
“When love beckons to you follow him, Though his ways are hard and steep. And when his wings enfold you yield to him, Though the sword hidden among his pinions may wound you. And when he speaks to you believe in him, Though his voice may shatter your dreams as the north wind lays waste the garden. For even as love crowns you so shall he crucify you. Even as he is for your growth so is he for your pruning. Even as he ascends to your height and caresses your tenderest branches that quiver in the sun, So shall he descend to your roots and shake them in their clinging to the earth……
But if in your fear you would seek only love’s peace and love’s pleasure, Then it is better for you that you cover your nakedness and pass out of love’s threshing-floor, Into the seasonless world where you shall laugh, but not all of your laughter, and weep, but not all of your tears. Love gives naught but itself and takes naught but from itself.
Love possesses not nor would it be possessed; For love is sufficient unto love. And think not you can direct the course of love, if it finds you worthy, directs your course. Love has no other desire but to fulfil itself.”
But if you love and must needs have desires, let these be your desires: To melt and be like a running brook that sings its melody to the night. To know the pain of too much tenderness. To be wounded by your own understanding of love; And to bleed willingly and joyfully.”
Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet
When I was about thirteen, I came across these beautiful lines in a poetry anthology I was given at school to study. I was in love then, so I memorised the lines then, not knowing what they meant. I only knew they were beautiful and talked of love being vast and holier than anything that I had known before.
There is so much love inside us all. The love in me is destructive sometimes. It comes out with a fierce desire to protect and as a result it may destroy. I’m thwarted at every turn because the ones I love will make the choices that they must. I describe it as shouting at a soap character on screen, willing them to make the right choice but they can’t hear me. The script must play out, the show will go on, and in the end, the hero will be heartbroken. There is simply nothing I can do.
The love here, in Calcutta seems magnified. Everyone loves to extremes. It’s like watching a strip of magnesium burn brighter than the sun only to be left with the remnants of a memory. It is a starburst in the darkness and clinical correctness of a laboratory. I think everyone here is chasing that starburst, that momentary elusiveness of wonder and lust.
I’ve heard stories of couples who have been married for years, have children, respectable positions in society, just let it all fall away because they’ve ‘fallen in love’. It happens everywhere, I suppose, perhaps more so in the West. People get divorced all the time. But somehow, it feels like it’s been sought out here, deliberately. It’s necessary because the poets have written about it for centuries. We’ve taken Romeo and Juliet to heart and Tagore’s heroes and heroines must befall heartache and tragedy, as it is the only way to love. Despair is a prerequisite to happiness and truth, it seems.
Growing up and in my teens we were exposed to the story of Sarat Chandra’s Devdas, in all his cinematic glory. That tragic drunk, inebriated with his own sorrow, the courtesan, made transcendent through her grief, the simple girl next door, within reach but tainted through poverty. As Indians, I think we’ve come to worship such love, but I was able to move on thankfully. I think it’s like dancing in the rain; there is pure joy in drowning in the tears of the gods. To fully experience love, one must drown in it first. One must first be left bereft of hope until an angel appears and lifts you up and whispers in your ear, “you will love again and this time it will be for an eternity.”
But what is Love? I did not know what it was until it filled me up with contentedness and content. It is that which stopped still the longing and searching and swallowed the void until light poured forth from every pore. Every droplet of self was wrung from my being until there was only elation.
Love asks of nothing. It is whole. It will be you, who will give, willingly, as you are nourished with its enduring strength and its midday warmth.
I suppose we must all learn the ways of heartbreak and rejection first, like rights of passage. Perhaps our hearts need to be broken and set in the form of the perfect vessel to allow Love to enter. I wish I knew.
All I know is that I am blessed with Love. I pray that those whom I love, will find it too, that many-coloured bird that sings of joy and strength and patience and peace.