Ripples in the pond
There are great loves that make the world go round. And if you think of the relationships that have impacted on history, or made some dents in the way the world carries itself, you need to go back to how Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir longed for each other’s company. They loved greatly, and they contributed hugely to the shaping of literary and philosophical perceptions among their contemporaries and in the young who flocked to listen to their discourses.
Love has always been the pivot upon which the world has moved. And it has gathered steam and substance when intellectual material or artistic sophistication has been injected into it. The thespian Dilip Kumar felt a deep attraction for Madhubala, and she for him; and everyone around them knew that they were made for each other. But then Madhubala’s father came in the way and spoiled it all. All too often in the history of man-woman relationships, parental interference, or call it adult insolence, has spoiled the chances of what could have been two charming lives lived in proximity to each other. Dilip and Madhubala went their separate ways. Madhubala died young, obviously with a broken heart. And that heart had a hole in it.
There was always a fullness in the heart which beat in Richard Burton. And passion always throbbed in Elizabeth Taylor. They met on the sets of Cleopatra, fell in love, went through fiery passion, divorced and married again. It was love that was as tempestuous as the explosions in Pompeii. And yet the most profound form of love comes in silence, in moments when the man and the woman share twilight moments in swiftly gathering winter. Anna Akhmatova and Isaiah Berlin listened to each other; he bore into her eyes and she imagined the song in his pulsating heart.
That was their togetherness. Anais Nin and Henry Miller would be uncomfortable with such tranquility in love, for theirs was always a stormy relationship. They wrote, they argued. But, more than that, they craved sex and had a rambunctious time of it.
In the history of love, little comes close to the bonding that eventually united Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett in marriage. They met in poetry, he reading hers and appreciating the imagination rising out of it, she surprised by his quick attraction to her intellect. Barrett remains a less than famous poet, but her ties with Browning led to the latter composing some of the classic instances of poetic thought. Take, for instance, the universally recited ‘Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp / Or what’s a heaven for?’ The Brownings were a fortunate pair, for happiness defined their lives. But you cannot say the same about William Butler Yeats, whose endless longing for Maud Gonne was to no avail. He wrote for her, suffered on her account and in the end was compelled to lose all hope of a consummation of love with her. He then did a most bizarre thing: he proposed to Gonne’s daughter, which idea was of course roundly dismissed.
When these days you come by scenes from old Waheeda Rehman-Guru Dutt movies, it is much more than the songs that strike your sensibilities. You think of their doomed love, you think of the suffering Geeta Dutt went through. And then you wonder about the intensity of pain that pushed Guru Dutt into taking his own life. The paths of true love never did run smooth, said Shakespeare. You mull over that thought, and you realise that it could be true, indeed is true. Woman has been made to suffer through her love for the man in her life, relentlessly. Pat Nixon stood beside, and by, Richard Nixon through all his travails, without complaint. She endured the humiliation of Watergate, the tears welling up in her as her husband bade farewell to his staff. When she died, Nixon wept uncontrollably as her coffin was lowered into the grave.
And yet there is something pacific about love when you look into the eyes of the woman you call your mermaid. You watch her throw her head back in liberated laughter and you imagine the sensuousness of her lips. There is something about her nose that stirs the passions in you.
You watch her neck, marvelling at the smoothness of the skin and ending up marvelling at such amazing grace in beauty. In the dusky hour, as the glow from a sleepy sun runs riot across her cheeks, you cup her face in your hands. Somewhere in the interplay of light and shadow between her warmth and your ardour, love creates ripples in the pond and makes magic across the meadow.