Love is my raison díÍtre. I love my life, my children, and the lovers in my life, past and present. Like the proverbial thirty seven names for snow, the word love is a poor solitary one to describe the millions of faces of that sweet state of grace. My concept of romantic love is informed by my experience of a few lovers I have been fortunate enough to have around the world. They have loved me with the faculties they had, and I loved them back, as best as I could, with the talents and handicaps that I had and continue to have.

If the formative years are the first five, then I am formed as an East Indian woman. If the formative years for romantic love are the teenage years, then I am a Western woman. I have learned more about comparative love cultures when a love affair is over than I have learned from the time of being in love. When we are in love, we are transported and we forgive so much. We all wish to be transported, into higher realms, to transcend our mundane existence. That is the promise of life - a reward of transcendental love. In any culture. But what happens when it is over?

I like the occidental tendency to logically and methodically sort out the brass tacks, and be pragmatic and savvy about the aftermath. I like the clarity with which the terms of endearment and disarmament are laid out, no room for misinterpretation, the black and white contract. I know about the casualness with which lovers can walk away from each other, people who have been intimate, bodies entwined, touching the most private and sacred parts of each other. I know about the shame of the heart gushing uncontrollably, and not wanting to let go of the other, when the other looks at you pitifully, when you are so vulnerable, so unable to understand the deal. The deal is to walk away, put your heart in neutral, and move on. The deal is to get over it. No strings. The deal is to distract yourself with other lovers, books, music, food. The deal is to not go deeper. The deal is to be detached when you see the other in social situations. The deal is to act like it's okay, even if it isn't. No mourning allowed, no lamenting allowed. The deal is efficiency.

I like the raw primitive sexuality of western men. The way they fumble in the dark with their unrefined hands, the way they have an emotion, unsculpted, unexamined, naturally, naively, childlike as if all can be fixed with the right attitude. I love the way they are willing to learn how to do it well. They are willing to take the workshop and read the manual. Such wannabe Kama Sutrians. Such diamonds in the rough.

I like Asian sentimentality. The way that a love affair never really ends, but lingers on in the ethers, a dream that never dies. The strings that remain attached in the heart are sweet: it's never over and we never get over it, nor do we want to, because in those sweet memories lies our story, our right to say ďI did love, and I was loved, once at leastĒ and when we see each other, in a family, in a social situation, at a rendez-vous twenty years later, we remember the sweet sentimental eau de miel that was our love once. We know that our lovers, even the unconsummated ones, are part of our family, and like our biological family, it is forever. They are forever a part of my fabric. I love that part of me that is able to love with devotion, kindness, and faithfulness. This is not about monogamous fidelity, but a certain fierce loyalty to someone you have been intimate with, emotionally or physically, like blood siblings, even if there have been many such intimacies. You donít have to move on. You can take them all with you in your heart, which is a large and roomy place. A place with many strings, each with a story.

I have seen the inability of Indian men to take the workshop to learn to make love better. I have seen the Kama Sutra revered as a national treasure, a claim to fame if you will for national poor self-esteem, and I have seen it used to take advantage of blonde tourists, innocent and naive young women, only too eager to consume brown-skinned eros from easy male charlatans in cockroach-infested budget hotel rooms, "tantra, yes please, I know tantra", pathetic men eager to get laid before going home for a supper of chapatis and dahl to a cuckolded wife, a prisoner of an oppressive culture. I have seen their unfathomable brutality in the contract of marriage, saying "Whatís love got to do with it, do with it?" *.

The heart, the human heart, is endlessly profound and rich, and like the female vagina, is so very and surprisingly flexible, able to give birth to new love over and over again. I have seen the human heart, my heart, commodified, imprisoned, discarded, brutalized with rape. I have seen my heart honoured, worshipped, valued, and praised by a community of lovers and friends. My Family. I have seen my heart informed by my head, and I have seen my head informed by my heart, till I could no longer tell which was which, and I was so happy, knowing that the two had consummated their love for one another, finally.

Love is my reason for being. I say it out loud this day of Valentine. I love to love*. I know how to love, and I know how it hurts, and if that sounds sappy, I don't mind. As I stand before this altar of the Virgin Mary and Ma Kali, I offer them my pain, my rage, my ecstacy and of course, my precious, devoted, no-nonsense pragmatic love. I offer them several balls of strings, in many colours. I thank them for their endless grace.

Valentine's Day, 2005

*Thanks to Tina Turner and Donna Summer for lyrics from their songs.

My life through Rose Coloured Glasses

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All text is © Anita Roy 2005. All rights remain with the author.
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