The easiest thing to do in the age of Generation Z is to fall in love. Easier done than said. It’s as casual and inconsequential as tripping over on a rugged pathway. To dust down your suit and move on isn’t such a big deal. Love is no more a ceremonial chariot awash with emotional confetti; it’s a racing car dashing down the fast lane of the temporal highway.
Romance isn’t as all-consuming as in classics. Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay’s Devdas is no more a quintessential romantic character, but a hopelessly crude double timer. The modern love-wreck wouldn’t drown his or her life in a maelstrom of alcohol. They would either say good riddance or just acquire a gun and maul down a few in a shopping centre, depending on which part of the world they are living in.
It isn’t anybody’s fault. It’s the times, stupid. Passion has lost its currency during generational transition. As civilisation progresses, homo sapiens lose some and gain some, both in terms of their physical and intellectual attributes. Individualism is the hallmark of the new generation. Their priorities are different. While Plato sees emotion and reason as two horses pulling us in opposite directions, the new gen identifies more with their head than with their heart. And the rest of the Baby Boomers and Gen X seem to swim with the current.
Going back in time, love was the most difficult thing to happen and maintain. While movies and literature glorified love, the reality on the ground was different. In places like mine back in India, to fall in love was almost blasphemous. Though socialising and bonding among college-going youths were allowed to a certain extent, to take such a relationship to an intimate level was considered inferior. Even anti-social.
Even if love grew at some point in time, the mindset and the social milieu were such that to express it was like leading the Cuban revolution. And those Fidel Castros and Che Guevaras who finally attained their romantic nirvana would be looked down upon as they strolled down rural roads or attended social gatherings. Rain or shine, housewives would discuss the size, shape and colour of the couple over the fence. In paddy fields, tea shops, and constructions sites, such marriages would undergo an inhuman postmortem. Their genealogy chart would be pulled down from the backrooms of memories to see if the love cancer ran in the family.
“Didn’t I tell you her great grandmother was a runaway case?”
“No wonder, it runs in the family, man.”
“So shameless they hold their hands and rub their shoulders publicly.”
In the eight years yours truly courted his present partner prior to marriage, he might not have met her more than eight times. That’s once a year. Emotions changed hands — er, hearts — through snail mail or scented chits hidden inside book covers. And such hard-earned moments never happened in the hamlet we hailed from. We met on the sly in a town 25km away. We had an operational readiness as meticulous as a multi-phase rocket launch. My friends would eject her from the bus she took to the college at 8am. They would go stealth on a road less travelled to the meeting point inside a zoo. Love bloomed in a beasti-ful ambience with lions and tigers harrumphing behind our backs. The lone giraffe would crane its neck over the fence to snoop on our love bites. We had no choice with scores of people from our neighbourhod working in the town. The tehsildar, the watchman, the weaver, the professor et al.
And finally, when we decided to get married, again on the sly, my team ‘kidnapped’ her from the campus, drove her all the way to Kochi, a city 60km away where a friend worked in a registrar office. He declared us married as we signed the papers in a jiffy and distributed sweets to the office staff. My bride was back on the campus before the last bell rang out.
“See, this is why I always say I love you to the Moon and back. You are back on Earth now,” I teased her as she took leave at the college gate after squeezing my fingers. Love used to be more than an emotion; it was an adventure that gave you a zest for life, with or without the first night. It was a feeling closest to mounting the Everest. How long you can stay at the summit, weathering the icy blizzards, depends on the warmth of the emotions you are able, or willing, to share.
The Gen Zs seem to be either stuck at the base camp or undergoing never-ending acclimatisation. There is no time to waste in the journey to conquer love. The weather could never be better as climate change in human relationships is making the trek more perilous. The mount is melting at an alarming rate and Noah is not available to make another Arc.