“If it is true that there are as many minds as there are heads, then there are as many kinds of love as there are hearts,” wrote Leo Tolstoy in Anna Karenina. Love is one complex emotion that has different definitions for different people. Ahead of Valentine’s Day, we delved deep into the love of all kinds, types and hues to explore what the four-letter word means to different people, and in the process, discovered an all-new vocabulary to define LOVE. Every great love starts with a great story, and that's what connects Rekha and Jameel. If falling in love seemed next to impossible for Rachit, Sapna was determined, and that's why their love is different. Gazala and Ahmed have evolved over the years, and love is both sweet, sour and spicy for them. For Nimisha and Rohini, love is an unsaid commitment to be with each other, while Manish Gaekwad is still waiting for love to come his way. It means selfless service for Vimla Kaul and giving for Tunisha. It is comforting for Anil and Kritika Rao and evergreen for widow Divya Juyal. But Love is Love for all.
Love is Different - Rachit Srivastava and Sapna Shukla
Rachit Srivastava and Sapna Shukla worked in different branches of the same organization, lived in different cities, belonged to different castes, and hailed from different family backgrounds. They were the perfect chalk and cheese couple, much like the two cities where they lived; he in Delhi and she in Mumbai. Their conversation started with a tiff that graduated to friendship before Cupid struck and changed the dynamics of their relationship. “She joined the office in February 2018, and proposed to me on March 4, 2018. I was in shock and awe, and equal measure. I made it clear that this relationship isn’t happening because of the challenges compounded by my physical condition and mounting loans,” recalls Srivastava. Shukla stayed put, and one day Srivastava realized that the girl is made of different mettle. The families came into the picture, but as expected, he wasn’t the man they were looking for their daughter. “My parents were happy as a lark to meet her and accepted her heartily,” says Srivastava. The girl astounded him when she took the lead and came for her wedding all alone, all the way from Mumbai. “My parents were dead against this relationship, but deep within, I knew I had found my soul mate,” says Shukla, who celebrated her second anniversary on February 9. The couple has a three-month-old girl, lovingly named Rewa.
Love is Understanding - Ahmed and Gazala
Theirs is a filmy love story. A boy meets a damsel in distress at Bandra station in 2004, keeps in touch by phone, Cupid strikes, and the duo falls in love, faces opposition to this alliance, waits for his family’s approval to marry, and lives happily ever after. But over the years, the couple has realized that love is not just between them, but all around them. “Love keeps evolving with time and age. It tastes both sweet and sour because that’s how the relationship grows stronger over the years. Love is not always about loving and longing for each other. It’s not always about showing affection towards your partner but it also means having their presence in your life even when they aren’t around,” says Ahmed. Love for Gazala is an overbearing feeling. “I know in my heart of hearts that love is around me always, even if it is not physically present. Fights and arguments between couples followed by silent reconciliations without saying sorry to each other, without letting down the other person and continuing to live as if nothing happened is also love,” says the mother of two teenagers.
Love is Story - Jameel Gulrays and Rekha Rao Gulrays
Mumbai-based Rekha and Jameel Gulrays’ love is a beautiful story that reads like an unputdownable book. While the couple seems like a textbook example of opposites attract, their shared love is Katha Kathan, a read-aloud storytelling movement to save Indian languages from becoming mere dialects. “I love him, and he loves Indian literature, and so it was but natural to do something that speaks of love. Love for us is Katha Kathan which brings people from all over the country to narrate stories in their mother tongue. A people’s collective is doing its humble bit to save Indian languages through storytelling sessions on various social media platforms. In the last six years, we have been going from strength to strength,” says Rekha. An avid reader and storyteller, Katha Kathan is Jameel’s beloved because he loves Urdu literature and litterateurs of yore such as Sadat Hasan Manto, Qurutulain Haider, Munshi Premchand, Krishan Chander, Ismat Chugtai, Rajendra Singh Bedi, and poets like Mir Taqi Mir, Ghalib, and Firaq Gorakhpuri, among many others. Because of their shared love for languages and literature, Katha Kathan has around a hundred active members connected to the movement. “I am charmed by stories, characters, narrative drive, and a plot that hooks me. Their stories have enriched me, and I have become wiser and brighter by loving them. The story doesn’t end with mere reading, and I pass on the joy when I read aloud these stories with other team members; after all, love is caring and sharing,” adds Jameel.
Love is Commitment - Rohini Roy and Nimisha Patel
Together for eight years now, it was luck by chance for the young same-sex couple. “I met Nimisha at our workplace. I found her very attractive. For me, she was the one. I told her right away that I liked her and wanted to spend my life with her. She remained quiet but mentioned that her family was looking for a suitable boy,” says Chicago-based Roy.
Roy went through many personal upheavals, waiting for Patel to reciprocate. Adding to her woes was her parents’ disdain for her sexual identity. She was steadfast. Spring brought bloom, and their relationship turned into a new leaf. “She would call and check on me while I was dealing with my grandma’s death. She would talk to me for long hours, and finally, she invited me to her place as days went by. We were falling for each other slowly but surely and I took her to my place to introduce her to my mom and dad. My Indian girlfriend won my parents hearts in a few months, and we have been together happily since then,” fondly reminisces Roy. The couple work as nurses in a hospital in the US.
Love is Selfless - Vimla Kaul
Vimla Kaul lives by the adage, “Once a teacher, always a teacher.” After retirement from her teaching career, she didn’t hang up her boots but went on to start a school, Guldasta, for underprivileged children in Madanpur Khadar village, New Delhi, with her late husband Prof HM Kaul. “The school had only five students in the first batch in 1995, and classes were held at the village chaupal. I moved from one park to another to conduct classes in the open for 15 years before moving to a brick and mortar structure. In these 27 years, Guldasta has been growing from strength to strength, and today there are many success stories that are the most befitting reward for me,” says Kaul, 87. What started as a learning centre to provide education to underprivileged children whose parents mostly work as maids or drivers, servicing the middle-class housing colony in the tony neighbourhood, is well settled today. Two of them teach in the same school. “The school was shut during the lockdown but has been up and running with studies and extra-curricular activities in full swing,” Kaul informs, talking highly of the young team members.
Love is Equal - Manish Gaekwad
Author and scriptwriter Manish Gaekwad has been waiting for love to come his way. He’s had his share of love and relationships in the past, but everything seemed fleetingly good, nothing that promised to stay, and for good. “By and large queer love is not acknowledged, tolerated or accepted in society. Many of us grow in such a toxic environment that it becomes difficult to believe anything will change for us, let alone that love will find us. We begin to suspect even the small acts of kindness and become hardened to the idea. But once in a while, love manages to conquer us, but for a lucky few only, because love isn’t something all of us find warmly embracing us from all corners. So to those whom love comes, they value it even more than their non-queer counterpart for whom it is most likely a given,” he rues. He believes that queers are greater romantics because love validates their identity in so many ways. In a Kinsey study, the doctor observed same-sex couples as more loving because couples of the opposite sex took love for granted, meaning one or the other partner felt they were entitled to it. “Same-sex couples believe more in a partnership of equals and always put their partner’s comfort before their own, and so they love each other equally,” says Gaekwad.
Love is Giving - Tunisha Poacha
Giving is in Tunisha Poacha’s genes. Eight-year-old’s father happens to be the founder of Seva Kitchen, which provides meals to the needy. “It started with a mere 50 meals cooked by my wife Fermin on November 24, 2014. It has grown to about nine cities in India. There are 20 fridges of kindness called Neki Ka Pitara that serve milk, juice, eggs, fruits, and snacks. It has motivated many other organisations to replicate the initiative,” says Tunisha’s father, Khushroo Poacha.
He elaborates how Tunisha runs a campaign during Daan Utsav, the annual festival of giving in October, year on year. She broke her piggy bank to donate Rs 2,500 to her father's charity drive in 2018 and collected 7,500 school bags in 2019, 3,300 sweaters in 2020, and 1,022 dolls in 2021 for the needy and sick children. “I wanted to send Barbie dolls, but Dad suggested that we engage a toymaker from Kutch. He said, it would allow that artisan to earn, and these children will get a beautifully handcrafted doll. I love caring for people, and I want to see everyone happy,” says Tunisha, summing up her idea of love. These dolls were sent to children with cancer or congenital heart defects in Chennai, Hyderabad, Navi Mumbai and Nagpur.
Love is Comforting - Kritika and Anil Rao
Every love story is beautiful, but theirs is Kritika and Anil's favourite. The duo were classmates in a school in Delhi. "He was the new admission in class 9. We sat on adjacent benches. I always had a crush on him. I tried to invent new ways to be around this very introverted boy. He moved to Hyderabad after two years, and that's when our fondness for each other cemented. I professed my feelings after Class 12," says Kritika. They lived through happy and sad times in their seven-year long-distance relationship through college and university. "People wouldn't believe that we met only six times during those seven years. If anything, we only grew closer," says Anil.
Both sets of parents had reservations about their relationship. "We convinced our parents in late 2010. My dad wanted the wedding to happen as soon as possible. We got married on September 29, 2011. It's been a blissful 10 years with two lovely kids, an amazing mother-in-law, and a supportive extended family. I am living a dream," adds Kritika. The transition from schoolmate to soul mate has come with its own set of challenges, but what makes it special for them is each other's reassuring presence and silent gestures that speak volumes of their love as a couple. "Roses and chocolates are not his thing but sitting with his back supporting my aching back while I breastfed my children is how he loves me. I can't stop falling in love with this man. His love surrounds me like an invisible blanket that comforts me on the coldest nights," says Kritika.
Love is Evergreen - Divya and Aashish Juyal
Every Valentine's Day since Divya first met Aashish Juyal at her workplace in a five-star hotel in Delhi, meant chocolates, roses, cakes, and a lot of chuckles, gushing over how they fought parental opposition to be with each other, eventually tying the knot, and being parents to two boys, Abhinav and Arnav. "This year, we would have celebrated the 20th anniversary of meeting each other. But unfortunately, our love story was cut short by his untimely demise last year. After suffering a massive cardiac arrest, he passed away while being treated for low saturation levels at a city hospital in April 2021," she says.
Her life was soaked in unforeseen grief, but she had no choice but to move on with the drudgery that came along quite unannounced and uninvited in her life. She chooses to live a life being eternally in love with the man who made her life beautiful. "I see his love in the flowers that bloom in my garden. Flowers spread joy with their beauty and fragrance, and long after they wither away, what remains is the fragrance. Invisible and yet present, like his love," she says.
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