When love is robbed of its purity

Tags: Op-ed
When love is robbed of its purity
THEN AND NOW: Transcendental love does not make money or make people spend money. So why should a world that values a gift more by its price tag than by the emotions with which it’s given, value inspirational love?
Valentine’s Day has just gone by. In India, February 14 is celebrated as the day of love and lovers so much so that now we don’t even think of it as an alien custom. Its commercial exploitation has also reached Himalayan heights.

The euphoria of love is such that it makes even the most unromantic person flushed with romance and passion. But is love only the man-women kind, or now, to be politically correct, same sex or LGBT type too? If one were to believe the commercial hype around Valentine’s Day, it’s all about love of the carnal kind, as sublime love has gone out of fashion. Transcendental love does not make money or make people spend money. So why should a world that values a gift more by its price tag than by the emotions and feelings with which it’s given, value inspirational love? Love where not a word is exchanged or love where there are no physical, carnal acts performed. Love that is all pervasive and yet undemanding; the love of a sufi (mystic) worshipper of god, love of the whirling dervish for ‘the one and only’, love of Meerabai for Lord Krishna or the love of a pet for its master.

I grew up learning about sublime love. In our childhood, we learnt of Meera, the saint whose bhakti was her love for Krishna. Her love — that of a devotee for her deity — defied social taboos of that time and as a consequence, she was ostracised. I grew up hearing about the love of Shravan for his blind parents, who served them till his last breath. I grew up learning of the love between Sudama, the pauper and Krishna, the god prince. I grew up reciting the love that Mary had for her little lamb as well. All these were ‘love’ in the absolute form, but not the kind of love that has to have a day to celebrate it. These were all eternal, non-demanding, not expecting to be reciprocated kind of love. The practitioners of such love did not have to buy gifts on one day in a year to prove their love. These days, relationships break up just because one of the partners forgot February 14.

I grew up learning about the love that bound George and Joy Adamson to Elsa, the lioness. The Adamsons rescued a litter of three cubs from the wild and reared them till they were fully grown. Her two sisters were sent to zoos, but Elsa grew up as a surrogate daughter to the Adamsons. They shared this love and turned it into a Hollywood saga Born Free. Although it all eventually ended in a tragedy when Joy Adamson was found murdered by poachers many years later.

Elsa too was thought to have met the same fate after she was released back into the wild, where she found a mate and started a pride. But theirs was a tale of love beyond compare. I have read of two similar stories of two English men who rescued a lion cub from a cruel circus owner and reared it till he became fully grown. They then took him back to Africa and released him into the wild. A few years later, they went back to meet their friend — the lion — and there is a film of their reunion on YouTube as well.

Generally, one does not associate emotions like love with beasts. But one has to see the video clip of the lion’s reunion with his former ward to realise that one is witnessing pure love. Not only does the lion display his affection, but his wild mate also shows fondness for the men.

On Valentine’s Day this year, my cousin from South Africa shared a video which showed a similar story. A woman from an eastern European nation had rescued a very sick lion everyone else had given up on and had nursed him back to health. After the lion had fully recovered and regained his strength, she had put him in a wild life preserve. The clip showed her visiting the lion. In the video clip, one sees the lion beaconing her from behind the bars of his enclosure, when the woman gets close to the bars he grabs her with his paws, it looks as if he is going to tear her head off. Then he reaches out to her face and one feels that’s the end of her, but in the next frame he kisses the woman tenderly and engulfs her in a loving embrace one can see the love he has for the woman who brought him back to life. Now that is a unique kind of love.

Such instances of love always shame what we have made of the institution of love.

The love of Valentine’s Day is tainted to a large extent by our lust. Its link to consumerism has robbed it of its sublime purity. It comes with a price tag and is gauged by its worth more than its sentiment.

(The writer is founder president, Mahatma Gandhi Foundation)

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