India has produced a generation of urban, English-speaking, educated millennials who have grown on a diet of Western sitcoms, romcoms and popular literary fiction. How has this binging on western pop culture affected their perception of love and attitude towards concepts like dating and courtship? I asked a few of my friends. Here are their responses.
Date Me, Maybe?
Haaaave you met Barney? No? Well then, here’s wishing you a hearty stay under the rock at the bottom of a garden pool in Guatemala. Except, haven’t all those rocks become wi-fi enabled by now? Sorry, you just lost your best excuse for not being up-to-date with the best thing to happen to mankind since the invention of electricity.
Sounds a bit extreme? It probably is. As an unabashed sitcom addict, as someone who can’t make it through the day without at least three threats of being shipped off to sitcom rehab and as someone whose current WhatsApp display picture involves paying homage to the beauty of Monica and Chandler’s relationship, I can probably be forgiven (however grudgingly) for failing to understand how the rest of the populace gets by in life without them.
From Ted’s unerring, if somewhat misplaced, faith in the universe to Leonard’s unrelenting passion that finally got him the girl, these shows aren’t afraid to step out of their turf and dip their toes in more serious waters. To back that up, here’s a list of crucial life-lessons these shows dole out on a weekly basis.
Nothing good ever happens after 2 am. Doesn’t matter if Pamela Anderson herself shows up at your doorstep; once the clock has struck past two, slam the door in her face, turn down the lights and head to sleep.
You are never on a break. Think you know the acceptable amount of time that has to elapse before you are officially on a break? Good, now take that number, multiply it by 10 and you still won’t be anywhere close. For future reference, remember until your girl is ready to sign on a sworn affidavit stating otherwise, you are NOT on a break.
Steer clear of girls with overly attached best friends, unless blue hair and orange tan is your thing. Just steer clear of them or before you know it, you’ll be stuck in the middle of a royal bride war.
Never take anything for granted, especially not the act of walking up to the altar and saying the right words. Practice in front of the mirror if you have to. To be on the safe side, tattooing your fiancee’s name is advised.
Never date a Tribbiani. They aren’t really great thinkers, nor are they world leaders, don’t read a lot and apparently can’t run very fast either. Unless you look forward to having your fridge raided on a daily basis, never date a Tribbiani.
And well, handy tips and necessary social survival tips apart, perhaps this is just the fangirl in me talking. The critic in me is shrewd enough to know that all’s not hunky dory in la-la land. While Ted’s many, many ventures in the land of dating might have taught us all what NOT to do, given how differently we lead our lives compared to ‘em Americans, perhaps these lessons have been redundant all along. While hopping into bed with someone after a handful of dates is routine behavior back in America, the Indian version of the three-date rule has been stretched and prolonged to the point that many guys have given up hopes of getting lucky until the wedding night. No parental interference, no curfew, no deadlines and sure as hell no worries about “Mr. Sharma kya sochenge” – looking to sitcoms for dating advice is perhaps akin to trying to pick up the finer nuances of Greek grammar and syntax from a Chinese scholar.
Then again, perhaps the reason why these shows command such blind devotion is because they pack in a barrage of lessons, the kind that a hundred Ekta Kapoors couldn’t. While all the K-serials are excellent if you are looking for a crash-course about appropriate ornamental jewelry for nightwear, these sitcoms and romcoms have slowly brought about a sea change – helping us shelve our fences and open up in matters of heart, with the result that the rules of courtship are being rewritten.
So yeah, while the cynics might have written them off, I would still recommend giving these shows and movies a try. Because in all honesty we don’t just watch them, we need these shows in our lives, to remind us that if Cupid can find a girl for someone as insufferable as Sheldon, he definitely has plans for you as well. To remind us that if you are into a girl, you don’t need to jump her right away, that love has various forms, and the best kind is actually getting to know her, becoming her friend, “pulling on her pigtails” so that when four seasons later she’s been shot by an unseen sniper, and you make your declaration of love, it will mean the world to her. To remind us that no matter how bleak things may seem, sometimes you just gotta put on your Halloween costume and have faith that the universe will reward you with your own personal Katie Holmes.
So go ahead, befriend her like Castle, amuse her like Barney, seduce her like Derek Shepherd, stand by her like Marshall, dote on her like Ted and in the name of all that’s good, STAY AWAY FROM THE ROBINS of the world!
Love, Romance, Relationships: The Indo-Western Conundrum
A thunder startles you. Drops of rain start to fall, slowly making you wet. Suddenly, someone pulls you into a half-embrace. You stare into the eyes of the guy. You smile. He smiles. His eyes move lower to the single droplet of water resting above your upper lip. He inches closer. You feel warm all over. A thunder rumbles again. Inside, your heart thuds. You feel – nay, you KNOW – you are in love! Really, are you?
It is the first day of your class in a new college. You don’t know anybody. Butterflies jitter in your stomach. How would it be? Would you fit in? Such thoughts swirl inside your mind. You enter the classroom. Suddenly, you trip. Oh no! You are falling! That’s when two hands grab you and halt your fall. You are suspended two feet above the ground, completely at the mercy of the stranger. You turn up and look into a pair of twinkling hazel brown eyes peering into your brown-black ones. You feel a lurch in your gut. You finally understand what love at first sight is. Is it really love? Or are you in love with the idea of love?
I can go on and on. These stories may sound familiar to you. Tell me, do they bear any resemblance to any – even fleeting – thought or feeling? Or are they similar to something you read in fiction books or seen on TV? More often than not, the answer would be a Yes.
As teenagers, our bodies are flushed with hormones; especially the gender-specific hormones – testosterone and estrogen, and the love hormone – dopamine. We start noticing the other sex – really noticing and not in a platonic way. This is also when we first step into a bigger world – from school into college. We feel like we have finally grown up and are not kids anymore.
At the same time, we are constantly exposed to external stimuli about love, relationships and what not. And the romantic dreams begin. We fall in love with the idea of love. This is exacerbated by the media, which plays a key role; all kinds of media – TV, radio, books and social media. We are constantly shown stories, visuals or hear songs about these things. Think music. Think Bollywood – movies without romance!? Never! Think books – Mills & Boon or its variants. Think TV soaps – all about getting married and what not!
What I am getting at is, at an age, where we are not really exposed to the realities of the world, of adult life, of the complexities of love and relationships, and most importantly what we really need – not just want – in a partner, exposure to love stories of all kinds infills in our naive minds an idealism about the idea of love. We start overplaying its importance in our lives. At every nook and corner, we search for the “other romantic half”. It affects the way we date, the kind of partners we choose or think we are in love with.
A relationship requires a degree of intimacy most people – certainly at a young age – rarely even imagine. It requires us to know someone on a level we don’t even think exists. When we think we know someone, it often only includes a superficial level of knowledge. At the start of courtship, we have loads of conversations – the “getting to know each other” kinds. We say and share our experiences, our feelings, thoughts, ideas and so on. The other person thinks they know us completely. Is that really true? Is that all that makes up a person? Most importantly, how accurate is our idea about our own self? To know someone – really know them, we need to first know the events that shaped their life. Then, we proceed to make our own observations about the kind of person they are through their reactions, dealings with other people, behavior and so on. How many stories in books or movies or songs talk about the amount of effort this requires? Is this love? Infatuation, yes, but definitely not the kind of “forever” love history sings about.
We are led to believe that love is something that “just happens”, probably because of cosmic forces. It is only when we are deep into a relationship – once the honeymoon phase is over – that we really get to know someone. That’s when our bubbles burst.
I recently read many research findings that say watching romantic movies can harm your love life. They give people unrealistic and potentially unhealthy expectations about real-life relationships.
Researchers found that those who watched romantic comedies were more likely to believe in predestined love than those who preferred other genres of movie. They were also more likely to believe that perfect relationships happen instantly, and were less likely to believe that couples need to work at relationships.
Resulting impact: It is now common to have romantic partners right in our teenage. Another trend that has emerged is, going on “dates”. Earlier, the idea of dating was the same as getting into a relationship. The former is about exploring potential, while the latter is about “falling in love”. Today, this confusion seems to have abated. Or perhaps, it is just because the stories I hear are from my peers in the 20s age group, who may be more experienced than college-going kids.
So how does this affect parents? On one hand, the conservatives hold on to their opinions more staunchly, and force their kids’ behaviors by limiting movements, friends’ circles, and stamping on love marriages. On the other hand, there are many parents who have patiently accepted the changes in their kids’ lives. However, the question is: how much effect does parents’ rules and regulations really have on their kids’ life outside their homes? Some kids may choose to uphold, some may revolt.
Whatever the case may be, matters of the heart are not easy; especially when you bring in logic. It is difficult to be rational when you are swept away in emotions. The good thing is, a lot can be learnt from these mistakes. So whether it is infatuation or love, don’t hold yourself back; just make sure you think before you leap. Happy loving – oops, living!
PS: Coincidentally, while writing this post, I was listening to pop songs from the 90s, almost all of which were about love and relationships.