Romance in Indian Writing
Romance stories are always all time hits with Indian people. From the days of the Vedas – we can find classic characters who have conquered the minds of people with their dramatic tales of love. And even in those early days storytellers had shown exceptional maturity. The stories often ended in tragedy or on a sad note. There were enough twists and turns throughout the whole story to absorb the mind of the readers throughout. And it will not be a misnomer of truth if we say that the plotting and flow of stories were at times so mature that even the most modern romance stories will be given a hard challenge. The story of Madhavi – the princess who sold her puberty in exchange for the fulfillment of her father’s dream is a classical example of such a mature love story. The story of Kach – the son of the teacher of Devas and Debyani – the daughter of the teacher of Asuras is an example of tale of love that ends in a tragedy and the storytellers from the Puranas had shown exceptional skill in describing a platonic love from the viewpoint of one protagonist and physical intimacy from the viewpoint of the other.
However after the advent of Islam in India this free flow of love stories was ebbed. India which was not only earlier known to the world as the mystic land but also the land of the Kamasutra suddenly became a country of oppressed sexuality. Description of physical intimacy started to be considered a taboo. And the storytellers of the medieval era had to take the shelter of disguised description for love stories. Suddenly everything became quiet on the eastern front. And so deep was the impact that up to the eighties the Indian writers considered describing physical intimacy as a part of romance, a sin. There were instances when writers were charged with immorality in the court of law for free description.
The floodgate then again started to open up at the onset of the twenty-first century when romance stories started showing signs of coming of age. Experimentations too started and newer dimensions started being explored. In this feature we try to explore some modern day romance stories:
Lemon Girl by Jyoti Arora is a strong story. More than the story of romance it is a feminine story. It is a bold experimental novel where the entire story has been told by the two protagonists – Nirvi and Arsh – from their point of views. Rather it is the point of view of a girl who had been physically abused by her close inmates when she was a teenager and a boy who is ready to listen to the sayings of the heart at any cost. It is a story of romance no doubt, but at the same time it is the story of a girl who is haunted and traumatized by her past experience. She wants to find an identity of her own and that identity crisis drives her to craziness. She is in a desperate search for a partner who will be there –mentally and physically, but every time her search ends in failure. This psychological dilemma imports an element of twist to this otherwise absorbing love story which has enough elements of suspense to make it an enjoyable read all the way.
From a very complex plot, let us come to a very straightforward love story. I have decided to include it in this discussion because of the sheer simplicity of the plot. It is the A Second Spring by Sandhya Jane.The only twist is that Avaantika, the female protagonist, has a history of broken relationships. She is a single mother too, which also shows that Indian writers no longer desire to portray their protagonists as virgins. It is a sign that metropolitan mind is coming out of the closet of lust and desire. It is a traditional boy meets girl story, there is no hint of love triangle or any type of complexity whatsoever. Twist has been imported by a separation between them. And the child of Avantika has added some elements of comedy to the story line. The male protagonist is dominated by the female here, he works under the female. And the picture of the corporate world painted by the writer is immaculate.
The Second Coming by Shubha Menon is a book worth mentioning in our discussion on several counts. First it has open description of physical intimacy, something which is still considered a taboo by the traditional Indian society. On second count it has portrayed the boredom that Indian married woman do feel but can not express. This is probably the result of the so called patriarchal ethical values thrust upon them over centuries. Indian woman do feel a sense of guilt on expressing their hidden desire and lust. But not so with Mini who is a working woman and someone who is not afraid of biting the forbidden fruit of extra martial affair. After her marriage had turned sour, of course from her perspective, she decides to take on an adventure of riding on another horse in another city. The writer has made a considerable effort in narrating her psychological dilemma when she is indulged in physical intimacy with another man. The dilemma does continue and at last the reader is compelled to ask the eternal question – Is body the ultimate destination of love?
The last book in our discussion is a different book altogether. It is more about the relationship being broken or from another viewpoint, of comedy ending in a tragedy. When She smiled by Ritoban Chakraborti, is a story of betrayal in love. The protagonist loved his love madly, passionately, intensely. It is a love story when both the love birds were in their childhood days. As time progressed, more water flowed through the……. You may wonder why I have mentioned the name ….., Because the backdrop of the story was in the picturesque landscape of Shimla. It might have been a ‘then they lived happily ever after’ type conclusion but it ended in a tragedy.
And that is the beauty of love. It is utterly unpredictable. That‘s why Romeo Juliet can string the guitar of our mind. It is the sad note that is always at resonance with our mind.
Because human mind is akin to tragedy. Possibly!