Have you seen young couples cooing over each other? Each moment seems like eternity. Watch a young mom play with her baby, and see how she doesn’t care whether anyone’s staring. No matter how ugly or deformed the offspring is, to her, it’s perfect. Check out dog-lovers talking to their pets: they drip devotion. This public display of affection says so much.
All these people are living fully and wholeheartedly in the present. They’re so utterly engrossed in what they’re doing. It’s a kind of meditation. Whether it is nuns ardently praying in a church, or a team striving to win a game, it is all love of what they are doing. Wise men have always told us that it is love, and love alone, that makes the world go round.
So how does one fall in love? Does it have anything to do with the heart beating faster? Is it what describes Baba Amte’s sentiments towards the marginalised? Is it what the soldier feels for his country? It’s all of these and more. It’s a blend of the use of heart and brain. It is a pure emotion.
A couple I knew perished in a road accident when their three children were in primary school. The maternal grandmother and a spinster aunt took over their upbringing. They struggled to educate them, get them married, and looked after the next generation of babies too. It was no wonder that both died healthy octogenarians. Every waking moment of their lives, they were thinking of the welfare of others, not themselves. Their unblemished caring and unselfish routine had dispelled grief and despondency.
A widower in our neighbourhood was bereft and forlorn when his children opted to leave the country for better prospects. He couldn’t stop them, nor did he want to go with them. A chance meeting with an errant teenager led him to help the latter with his math lessons. The man was a corporate person, familiar with presentations, budgets and targets, not teaching dawdling, lanky adolescents. Nothing had prepared him for the deep satisfaction he got when his “ward” surprised all by getting a first division. Our gentleman was drawn into the world of education mid-life, and he was permanently hooked. Today, his drawing room is scattered with text books, scribbled papers, pencils—all signs of love. It has been 12 years since he began, and he’s never felt as energetic ever before, he claims. He is in “love” with his new vocation, cheerful and invigorated.
Love has no restrictions
From Meerabai to Mother Teresa to M F Hussain, people have claimed repeatedly that there’s something about “love” that makes the heart tick and the brain become alive. Essays have been written on love, and its effect on general health. Forget statistics, just looking around and noting old people is enough. The ones who have someone to love and who are loved, live longer, happier lives.
So what’s the trick? How does one love? Like most good things, it is a habit. Make friends with a stray pup, feed it, cuddle it day after day, and see what it does to your morale. It is something you can’t measure, but it’ll make a difference to your life. It’ll make you feel rich. You’ll miss movies and not mind it. You’ll make sure you get out on time because you know, somewhere out on the road, he’ll be waiting for you. Unknowingly, you’ll fall in love with the little fellow darn. It’ll give you a reason to live, something to look forward to.
Love grows with time and love means giving plenty of time and effort. People working in NGOs often remark that they “enjoy” their work. Such people rarely retire from what they’re doing. Doctors who follow-up with their patients well after they’ve healed, teachers who keep track of weak students outside school hours, grandparents who stay up to give “company” to whoever at home is working late, loyal peons who will not leave until the last employee has left the office, all display a degree of love. Ever thought why this feels good? Because this love is given unsolicited, with no expectations whatsoever. And it’s given generously, unselfishly. It can’t be bought. It takes your mind off your own self and misery, and forces you to concentrate on the happier, more positive aspects of life.
A positive change
It goes without saying that the most valuable love of all comes from within the family or from people close to it. The smell of my elderly uncle still lingers in my memory. A voice from the past makes people swivel in delight no matter where they are. The feel of a hug, the sight of a familiar, beloved face, makes you all excited and young. When this happens often enough, general health improves.
A sense of belonging, security, and wellbeing sets in. There’s a positive change in the quality and length of life.
How does one know whom they love most, besides spouse or lover? It is not necessarily the person one turns to in times of grief, for that could be the closest available person, but it is the one who is instinctively thought of when good news has to be shared. Who did you call when you passed an important exam? Who did you go to when you wanted to spill the beans of your latest romance? Who did you turn to when you wanted to share the prize you won for the Radio Quiz? Whose email do you open first? Those are the ones you care for, who care for you. Let them know it. If you can’t say the three little words, show it by cooking, waiting, sending newsy letters, or just being there with a smile. It takes time, but works like magic.
Write down the names of those you love. The time to do it is now. The place to do it is wherever you are. The one who will benefit most is you.