off the cuff

Falling in love may shorten lifespan

There are no happy endings to well-known love stories

17:02 February 13, 2018
Valentine's Day

Falling in love is dangerous for your health and Valentine’s Day is not just chocolates, red roses and whispering sweet nothings; it shortens your lifespan.

As my former colleague (a legal correspondent who writes on cheery subjects such as divorce and murder) posted on Facebook that it is mostly guys who usually die due to love, and some of them die nasty deaths, like Jack in the movie Titanic, who freezes to death and sinks into the deep, dank sea.

The woman, of course, survives the relationship.

There is the ill-fated duo Romeo and Juliet, who die because of a high potency herbal drink concocted by a sympathetic monk. Their families were to blame for their deaths as they could not stomach the thought of having to invite each other for Christmas or Thanksgiving dinners and have a pleasant chat over a plate of turkey seasoned with thyme.

Nearer to the Middle East, everyone knows the tragic tale of Layla and Majnun. Qais Bin Al Mulawwah is infatuated with Layla and shows his love for her unreservedly by composing and reciting poetry everywhere, even in coffee houses where only politics is discussed, and the tribespeople started calling him Majnun, mad, or one possessed by the jinn.

When Layla’s father ignores Qais who asks for his daughter’s hand, Qais goes off his rocker and wanders off into the desert. Layla is married to someone she does not love and dies of an illness in some faraway place.

Majnun somehow manages to find her grave and scratches verses of poetry on the headstone and, yes, he too dies. Indians believe that Layla and Majnun are Indian, and young lovers go to their mausoleum in a village in Rajasthan (the state made famous by the movie Padmavati or Padmaavat, the Hindu queen who attracted attention of a Muslim king) and seek blessings.

By now you know where I am going with this. There are no happy endings to the many love stories I have researched. Lovers in India should try and learn a lesson from the famous couple, Devdas and Paro, and elope instead of asking the mother for her blessing. Devdas is from a wealthy Brahmin family. He goes off to study abroad and after many years is on his way back to wed his childhood friend, who is from a middle-class merchant family in Bengal. The villain this time is Devdas’ mother who refuses the marriage proposal from Paro’s family, as she is from a lower caste.

Snuffed out by parents

Our hero descends into alcoholic hell and slowly disintegrates into an ethanol haze, and not even a courtesan who loves him and gives up her profession to look after him, can save him.

Things are getting even worse for lovers, as in today’s world the lovers do not kill themselves, they are snuffed out by their parents. The brothers, uncles and other family members also happily pitch in to finish off the couple, especially if they are of different faiths or from different caste or class. That is why in India, parents choose whom you should marry and live with for the rest of your life. And there is no nonsense about, “but, I do not love him,” business. Indian parents believe that first you marry and then you fall in love. There are many Bollywood movies you can watch and learn how to fall in love after marriage.

So, before you buy that box of chocolates and a bouquet of roses please make sure your family members like the girl or the boy. It would be a good idea to also order extra boxes of chocolates for all your family members, just to keep them in a happy frame of mind. Relatives can go crazy at the drop of a hat, you know.

Mahmood Saberi is a storyteller and blogger based in Bengaluru, India. Twitter: @mahmood_saberi