Is this what you call love?

Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

Meet Aaryaa,with four As and a Y and an R, a nineteen-year-old, girl or woman, depending on the mood or company you happened to catch her in. She enrolled in to the arts (this term should not be confused with ‘arts’ despite all appearances. In India, an arts student is hardly an aspiring artist, but mainly pursues social sciences, or worse, with a couple of languages to go along with it. we are currently reviewing viable explanations for using the term ‘arts’ for this stream of education. for aspiring artists, see ‘fine arts’)

Anyway, so Aaryaa enrolled in to the arts (in a college that is a brand name) because she genuinely wanted to become an artist, and because her parents were more of a staying-along-a-beaten-path type, and would not allow her to apply to a fine arts course. At least that is the explanation that she gives to rare souls who ask deep questions to her.The true reason is a very well kept secret, kept so well, that even Aaryaa isn’t conscious of it anymore. The true reason is that Aaryaa herself is very much afraid of committing herself to the pursuit of fine arts, and deep down she suspects she doesn’t have the talent for it. And so, perhaps, she didn’t insist on pursuing fine-arts as much as she could have, had she tried. But that is quite enough about her education, since that is hardly as important as a parent of a teenager would have you believe. Popularity is far more important.

Aaryaa is semi-popular, with 1484 followers on Instagram, and other outdated or yet-to-become-the-new-trend-social media websites. But as Hans Rosling has tought us (whose books Aaryaa most certainly has not read, but applies the principle accurately and unknowingly occasionally), an isolated number does not convey accurate information, only when the number is accompanied by a relevant friend number, the first number becomes relevant (unlike humans, who are relevant when alone, and irrelevant when in a group). So we are obliged to mention that only 423 people are followed by Aaryaa, leaving a thousand-and-something people who follow Aaryaa, not for a follow-back, but for a genuine interest in Aaryaa’s posts. This conveys a very important piece of information, at least to those who know these highly important matters- Aaryaa is semi-popular.

Aaryaa likes to think she’s semi-popular because of her charming personality, and her friendly nature, as well as a flair for writing meaningful yet non-cliche captions on her dance videos that practically ooze talent. That is partly true. But what is entirely true is that Aaryaa has a very symmetrical yet slim face, and even slimmer body. This makes Aaryaa very attractive to the brains of her fellow chimp 2.0s, since symmetry is a good indicator of health, and they’ve all grown up watching romance flicks, or in the stereotypical boys’ case, action films sprinkled with romance, in which the heroins are very slim (probably because they are bulimic). Or they’re heroine addicts, or both. But Aaryaa maintains her physique with a lot of exercise and all the dancing helps.

In any case, the fact remains that Aaryaa has much more followers than followees. And that’s what is important. It does not matter that Aaryaa follows back her followees and then meticulously and conscientiously un-follows them after three to four months time, depending on the popularity and social media presence of the said followee. But Aaryaa is quite good, far above average at dancing, and that has led to her popularity as well. That is enough about popularity, which is far less important than a teenager (or an adult who never grew up psychologically) would have you believe.

Popularity is not important, because when asked what gives their life meaning, most chimp 2.0s, even Aaryaa herself and her classmates, college-mates, city-mates, dance-partners, roommates, friends with benefits, friends, best friends and family members would not say that it is popularity that gives their life meaning (if a rare deep soul or an existentialist asked them this question because they read it somewhere). Nevertheless, and ironically, all these groups still rely on popular answers when faced with this question. Most popular answers include: God, Dog, gods, Goddess, goddesses, gender defying god-goddesses, friendship, fighting communism, or fighting capitalism- or some other ism, using another but better ism as a weapon, their careers, dreams and aspirations and the most popular one- as you might have guessed from the title of this lovely article- love. And this last one is quite undeniable. If a self-proclaimed nihilist paradoxically assigns enough value to denying love as a valid meaning to life, that person is called heartless, or worse, heart-broken.

Aaryaa believes there is certain divine power in the universe, and she does not call it God, ridiculing people who believe that a humanoid entity created the universe, but she does not call them out, because her certain divine power in the universe is susceptible to ridicule as well. And that is partly the reason for Aaryaa’s answer: Love.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Okay, so first of all, we must recognize that this one is a big one. It includes ALL the other ones, love of gods, dogs, friends, family, you get the idea. So Aaryaa loves her family, her father who stopped her from pursuing fine-arts, whom she is afraid to tell her inner-most thoughts and feelings, who forces her to study harder than she wants to, so that she may pass the examinations with flying colors or pass out from exhaustion, especially on top of the exhaustion from all the dancing. But she loves him- despite his insistence that she learn how to cook, and his tendency of hardly speaking to her except to give her advice or give her an order- Because he’s one of her parents, and he provides emotional and financial security, even though ‘he’s quite middle-class really’, as Aaryaa whispered to one of her friends once or twice. Her grandparents that she pays a visit every couple of months and whom she gets money from on her birthday are also loved deeply by her. Her other family relatives live in an obscure part of the outskirts of the city which she considers ‘not very nice-looking and smelling’. She meets them and smiles, and engages in small-talk when she meets them at a wedding, or another ceremony, but hardly remembers their names. They follow her on outdated social media websites and send stupid post on the FAMILY Whatsapp group, all caps with couple of happy emojis. but of course she loves them all, they’re family.

She does not own a dog, and therefore does not love it yet, although it is already out on the street somewhere, or its mother is. but she loves dogs in general. And she loves animals and birds, except chicken, because she loves to eat that specific race of birds, and implicitly supports their confinement and killing, encouraging it through her demand of it in the market that either puts consumers, producers, or the state first, but most definitely puts humans first. She has been meaning to watch a vegan documentary on Netflix, which, if emotional enough, would convert her into a vegan without a second to spare. And she loves her friends, after all she gets drunk with them, and high with them, and goes to parties and concerts with them, and chatters with them (with many ‘you know’s and ‘I know right’s, and ‘like’s) about the latest fashion, or her dance videos, occasionally circling back to their hobbies, to like, be polite, you know.

she’s also got a couple of friends, the before anyone elses, or the best-friends-forevers. She tells them almost everything, , including her crushes, and the tale of how Sameer broke her heart a couple of years ago. She loves these two (their names are not relevant, let’s call them BFF-1 and BFF-2) truly. Because apart from giving her validation like the rest of her friends, these two also provide emotional support, crying shoulders, if you will. They also provide the latest gossip, Aaryaa and these two have the same enemies. She often feels a warm wave of affection when BFF-1 says ‘she’s such a bitch’ referring to any other person on the planet, with the exceptions of BFF-2 (whom she has friend zoned), her mom, herself, and Sameer.

Another person has recently made this list- her quasi-boyfriend Amey. it’s a relationship status somewhere in between the committed relationship, and friendship, because Aaryaa (and perhaps Amey as well) feel that they could do better. This is the subtle way of saying that they consider that they deserve a more attractive, more intelligent, more popular, and more in general- human being to bind themselves with, in order to increase their self-worth, their social status, their happiness and all the rest of it. This probably stems from the fact that they found each other on a dating app, and deep down, they consider presence on a dating app as a sign of desperation.

But it’s been a few dates, and good physical chemistry, and Aaryaa feels a general boost in happiness when she thinks that she is loved by a boy/man (depending on your definition of growing up) who is attractive enough, popular enough, intelligent enough, and in addition talented and brave enough to enroll into a fine-arts school- something she couldn’t do. Although pompous post-impressionists and anyone with some uncommon sense recognize that talent has nothing to do with success in the fine arts world, since most succeed by creating something new and different for the sake of it, without taking the effort to make it look like it took effort. They call it ‘abstract’. But he has the talent for both abstract and impressionist art. He also uses words like ‘nuances’ and ‘sublime’ to describe Monet and Manet. And so Aaryaa has already announced her love for Amey, although he has only one A in the name that he identifies himself with and Aaryaa has four of them.

And Aarya says to BFF-2-much to his dismay, rubbing salt on his friend zoned wound-that she finally knows what true love is. Because her new almost-boyfriend knows boxing and has big muscles, so she feels safe when she goes out with him to places slim,symmetrical girls wouldn’t feel safe going. And despite his artistic talent he supports Barcelona, and knows his cars and bikes, and although he has grown his hair and keeps a man bun, he also keeps a beard that either takes 500 bucks a month to maintain or he’s got one hell of an electric trimmer at home. All of this proves that he’s not cliche, he’s deep, with a contrast in characteristics. But it also proves that he is a man, a guy’s guy.

Of course, Aaryaa hasn’t thought out all these reasons for her so called love for Amey, since she spends most of her time making dance videos on a new trending app, but if anyone asked her why she loves him she would probably tell them most of it, honestly and truthfully. Because Aaryaa is very much honest. And if she took enough time away from a screen or another distracted person to sit alone under a tree, on a lazy Sunday afternoon, she would probably figure out that what she calls love is simply a need to be part of someone, and someone to be part of you, and getting from that person what you want, be it money, security, validation, self-worth, pleasure, or entertainment. And then she would ask herself,

“ what is it that I call love? and if all of this is love, then what is that unconditional something that my mother feels for me, and I for her? because no matter what I do, and what she does, we feel that something for each other, and it will continue even after one of us dies, even if one of us stops giving safety, security, validation, (all those components of what I call love) to the other. And she will most probably ponder what is the difference between this love and that love. the selfish love and the selfless love. The conditional love and the unconditional love. Because Aaryaa with four A’s one R and one Y is quite intelligent and sensitive when she wants to be. She has always been intelligent and sensitive. It’s just that she’s distracted right now. But all she needs is that one lazy afternoon under the tree, in solitude, without the rest of her life.

(Aarya is a hypothetical character, but she is still very much real. She’s human. she’s humanity. what will we say to the aliens when they ask us, “what do you mean by love?”)

Student of everything, precisely articulating to learn constantly