What does love mean in this new age? Sudhish Kamath and Shonali Muthalaly make a case for the contemporary Valentine
Forever and ever?
Back in the day, before the invention of mobile phones, we used to talk, hang up and spend the rest of our time living a life. We shared it with people we loved because they were around you more than anyone else.
Like the mobile phone that replaced telephones, we are not attached or wired to anything anymore.
If you are young and born in the late Eighties or Nineties, you know the longest relationship most people have had is with their mobile phone.
Back when we had landlines, we rarely changed phones. Today, we change mobiles every year or two.
In many ways, these phones have become a metaphor for our love lives.
When it comes to love, the concept of forever has forever changed. Handwritten long love letters have been replaced by single character emoticons.
Like phones, the lifespan of relationships, is coming down every few years. There’s so much activity in our lives and our batteries are draining quicker than before.
When it stops working and can’t be fixed, you get rid of it and get a new one because you need it. You need it because you are used to it.
Close proximity with computers and mobile phones has only made us adapt and learn from machines. The inbox has become an extension of our mind space. We store information as files and delete what we don’t need.
We live online. Friends are on Facebook, people follow on Twitter and closest buddies on Whatsapp. And Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is as simple as Unfriend, Unfollow, Block, Ignore and Blacklist.
The nineties said friends are the new family. Today, networks are the new friends. We spend more time on networks than with friends.
The need to belong and find acceptance within the network is superseding the need for relationships. With most urban youth having their first relationship at 16 or 18 and not ready to commit until they are 30 or 40, they don’t want to wait till they are married to get physical. Careers have become more important because it’s become more difficult to find a well-paying job than a relationship.
Once the most intense relationship breaks down, every relationship after that pales in comparison, leading to disillusionment, emptiness and a temporary void.
Like the end of a really good sad movie. Eject. Insert new disc.
Or shutdown. Log in.
I see dead people.
Yet… all it takes is a moment to bring a heart pounding back to life.
Heart. The most resilient thing ever. With a lifespan of over a 50 mobile phones. With an inbox so deep and limitless. With strength that can withstand the greatest of falls. It’s built to love. No matter how hard you try not to use it, you just cannot control it. Want a happily ever after? Surrender to it. It has an endless supply of love. Release it. And it will set you free.
People come, people go. Love stays. Forever. And ever.
Why wait for forever?
Modern love is tough.
Perhaps that’s why Mr Right has been replaced with Mr ‘Right Now’.
Cynical? Not really. Perhaps we’re finally realising the significance of Carpe Diem. Seize the day. Live the moment. Luxuriate in the ‘Now’.
The world has changed. Love used to mean romance: poetry, roses, candle lit dinners. Boys begged common friends for your phone number. Wrote you ten page letters, with cute cartoons drawn in the margins. Composed songs for you, and strummed them on beat-up old guitars.
In the Nineties we fell in love and channelled the likes of Savage Garden: “I’ll be your hope, I’ll be your love be everything that you need/ I love you more with every breath, truly madly deeply do…” Contemporary chartbusters are very different. Think Eminem and Rihanna singing ‘Love the way you lie’: “Just gonna stand there and watch me burn/ But that’s alright, because I like the way it hurts/ Just gonna stand there and hear me cry/ But that’s alright, because I love the way you lie.”
Welcome to the free fall of modern love. Breathless. Relentless. Unapologetic.
So you’re in love. And out. You break a heart. Have your heart broken. Dump. Get dumped. Have a fling. Cheat. Experiment. Maintain ‘friends with benefits.’
It’s fast, it’s ruthless, it’s no holds barred. Speed dating, powered by technology. Relationships on steroids.
Girl meets boy. Girl googles boy. (And vice versa.) A little Facebook stalking, Whatsapp through the night, dates set via SMS. There goes the mystery. But not the drama. By date two, you’re half way through a relationship. Texting, sexting, booty calls. Love and lust, inextricably intertwined. Till it’s over. Till you’re at a party. Again. Exchanging BBM pins. Again. Here we go. Again.
Love at first sight? Please. You have got to be kidding. This isn’t a Jane Austen book. Or ‘Harry Met Sally’. Or a Celine Dion song. They seem so naïve today. Romance instagrammed: Charming – but far from real.
Love today is far more complex. An information overload, incessant connectivity, inescapable uncertainty.
But it’s still love. And it’s still real. And perhaps, it’s more resilient. Because, ironically, in this age of high-tempo relationships, we’re more understanding than ever before. After all, we’ve all ‘been there’. We know what it’s like to hurt. To cheat. To fall in love. Truly, madly, deeply.
So you’ve become more sceptical? It’s called growing up. Another bad relationship? It’ll make you appreciate the good ones. Had your heart broken again? Take pride in your courage to keep believing.
Meanwhile, enjoy the good times. Even if they’re temporary. Maybe Mr Right Now will turn out to be The One. Maybe he won’t.
But in the end you’ll realise that love hasn’t changed. Our generation is as infatuated with finding “the one” as our parents generation was. Only, our odds are better. After all, we’re more willing to take chances. More open to living life on our own terms. And modern love has made us so much braver.