Does Love Still Exist?
Contributor
Written by
Mohana Rajakumar
February 2014
Contributor
Written by
Mohana Rajakumar
February 2014

St. Valentine may be horrified by the cherubs touting candy, flowers or jewelry. The overemphasis of eros, or romantic love, may have merged out of rampant marketeering. Between Christmas and Easter, after all, is a lot of retail silence. In modern society, with women marrying later and partners divorcing earlier – not waiting for children to grow up – does love still exist?

 

I had a great idea in 2009: I would write a book about how a modern person with traditional values would find love. I didn’t think this would be so difficult. After all, I’d managed to resist the pressures of my own South Asian culture until the spinsterly age of 26, at which point, as my father put it, it was “time to find a good man who would make a commitment” to me, even if he wasn’t Indian.

 

Fresh from an unlikely, whirlwind romance in the desert, I sat down to explore in fiction the difficult choices facing young Qatari men and women amongst the myriad dilemmas of love, choice, honor, and duty.

 

The Qatari characters were based on a meld of dozens of stories I knew of real people; but the insertion of a South Asian girl into the love triangle was all my own.

 

I put Abdulla, the male protagonist, and Sangita, the unexpected loved interest, in a small London apartment and waited for sparks to fly. In a Disneyesque, romantic genre move, they were on a countdown: three days.


But nothing was happening. There they were; young, attractive, in close proximity, and I couldn’t believe that they were falling in love. All the elements were there but the emotions were missing.

 

I started asking everyone: “How do people fall in love?”


My older Indian friends were surprised. “Didn’t you have a love marriage?” they asked me, products of the arranged marriage system. “Don’t you know?”

 

“Seems so long ago,” I muttered, well out of earshot of my husband.

 

“I loved your book,” another friend said. “I’ve never known what love is…” she said with a dreamy look, having been arranged to her husband.

 

“It’s all the same after a while,” I said to her dryly, watching our husbands on their mobile phones while we mothers ran after our children.

 

“But how can they fall in love?” I asked my Qatari friends, growing desperate for realism as the book entered a seemingly endless cycle of revisions.

 

“She has to be hot,” one of my male beta readers said, all honesty.

 

Chemistry. Right. I forgot that part, somehow, instead settling into comfortable domesticity.

 

Abdulla and Sangita did eventually find their way in the story. The sequel to the book is in progress, and it explores an equally murky area: What happens after the spark? Are the chances for survival of ‘falling into’ love greater?

 

I grew up with the idea that no, falling in love did not guarantee romantic success; making allegiances between well researched partners was stacking the cards in your favor. My parents’ anti-falling in love argument was the 50% divorce rate in America.


We’ll see what happens for Abdulla and Sangita as they try to grow their spark into a fire to heat their home.

 

What do you think? Do you fall in and out of love? Or do you choose to love?

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Comments
  • Mohana Rajakumar

    Yes, I see by the strength of the responses that there is a variety of opinion on this, the most intimate of life decisions. The human heart and mind are organs but the spirit behind them are difficult to quantify! Hope this Valentine's day found you with those you love. There are three kinds of love in this world: apage, phileo, and eros; only a fool would think we could survive with just one.

  • Liz Gelb-O\'Connor

    Falling in love isn't something you choose - it chooses you. Your brain chemistry commandeers your body and propels it in a direction you may or may not want. There is no substitute in life for the feeling of falling or being in love. There isn't. My heart goes out to those who will never get a taste of it in their lifetime for cultural reasons or sheer circumstance. The reason people read romance is to recapture that experience, so creating that chemistry on the page is critical. That said, love sometimes isn't enough. Sometimes people fall in love with the wrong people, and it doesn't end well. Good character, common bonds, and compatibility are essential ingredients to long-lasting loving relationships. Also, love persists - whether you marry that individual or not. And sometimes it's only in hindsight that we realize the love wasn't 'true'. 

  • Michelle Welch

    People so desperately want to believe that love is something that "happens" or that we "fall in love" which means we are victims of our circumstances and unable to control it. That gives many a great excuse when the passion of a new relationship ends and we are left with the daily life that can be monotonous, challenging, painful.  But the truth is we give loving behavior to whom we choose. We all enjoy a good "love story". Romance is something that many women thrive on and wish for, and thus we have an entire industry of writers of books to fill us up with endearing thoughts about our dream romance.  But the truth is that we are able to give out of a full heart to those around us, if we choose to. Its not such a mystery. Love is a choice, not an incident. Its the dailies of life, being deliberate in how we treat others. In marriage, its living intentionally to give of self to our mate, and not falling prey to the green eyed monster of someone else we fantasize be better, richer, kinder, etc. Intentionally loving others, whether in marriage or in your public life, is a choice. I recommend it. Happy Valentines day!  

  • Patricia Robertson

    There have been studies that show arranged marriages can be happier than "romantic" marriages, yet we here in the US hold on to idea of romance and falling in love. Interesting to hear this from a different perspective.

  • christine paulino

    I think that it is a combination of the two things. We have an attraction then we decide if we will follow through.  There are many factors that contribute to where it goes.  Having values but then falling to the pressures of modern life creates many reasons for divorce. Being realistic in relationships helps to tie the people together. Being willing to work at marriage is the key. Safety, openess and honesty sustain love longer than heated passion.  Passion is important but it's not all of it. Love is knowing your partner and loving them good and bad alike.