BENGALURU: Have you ever fallen for someone, to only let it go because you worried about how it might be perceived by others? You meet someone, feel great chemistry, sense enough mystery, maybe even share some history and really hit it off - maybe even date a little, love a little and get involved with each other, but then, one day, somebody comments about something that is a stark difference between you two, or you happen to take an unflattering picture of you two together, and you start thinking about that one thing that sets you both apart from each other and makes you an odd item in your social groups. Maybe it is a physical thing like height, weight, skin colour and the such, or a social construct like caste, class, community, or differences in education, employment, fitness, or even fluency in the language of your usual peers.
One thing or another sets you off, and you find yourself thinking what people would say - “All the people in the world, and this is the chosen one?” You imagine the sniggers, the whispers, the gossip. There are so many things that you may not have believed matter to you as an individual, but you think are terribly important to people in your society. If you aren’t courageous in your new love, soon, you might find yourself pulling yourself out of that relationship, trying hard to fall out of love.
More relationships seem to end not because the people in it themselves are no longer interested in each other, but because of the “What will people think?” question, that leads to, “My people won’t understand,” or “This will hurt the people I care about,” or “I will be ostracized for even thinking that something like us will work, let alone actually carry it forward.”
When that happens, the person left behind will, quite rightly, ask, “Where was all this thinking before starting the relationship?” Is the love you want from a partner for yourself, or for how it will appear to a community that you belong to, or for those whose acceptance you crave? When you are really in love with someone and you would have absolutely wanted to spend as much of your life as you could with them, but you pull back because people might say something or label you or mock you, then really, aren’t you just letting them be big bullies to you? If you let go of who you love for fear of what four people might say, is it not the same as you giving in to bullies? Some people can and do find perfectly acceptable love in their life that will meet every expected standard by all their communities. Most of us don’t get that - our love is messy, odd and even challenging. To love is itself to take big emotional risks. To not let our communities, or even ourselves, bully us out of such relationships? That truly needs us to love for ourselves, and that takes immense courage.