Ironically this is the one freedom that we specifically do not give to our young.
I must confess that when my team and I met to finalise the 13 topics for Satyamev Jayate, I wanted to drop the one on “intolerance towards love.” I felt there were more important issues facing society. But I was in a minority, perhaps a minority of one. I was beaten down by most others in my team who felt differently: India is changing; a vast section of our population is young, and young people need to have the right to make their own choice, and are beginning to assert themselves like never before — from Kashmir to Kanyakumari, urban, rural, this is an issue that every household is facing, or will face in the near future. I laid down my arms.
So what is love?
An endless number of poems, songs, stories, novels, essays, films and plays have been dedicated to love. Each one of us has our own interpretation of love, and to different people it means different things, but few can perhaps disagree on why it probably exists in the first place — for procreation. Of course there are different kinds of love, but right now I am restricting myself to attraction towards the opposite sex. Attraction towards the opposite sex is perhaps the first step towards procreation, and therefore, it should be quite clear to us, that love is essential to our very existence. It is what nature intended. Isn't it strange that, despite this, most parents in India are most alarmed and disturbed when their children fall in love?
Probably one of the most important decisions in your life would be whom you chose as your life partner. This one decision will decide the fate of more than perhaps two-thirds of your life. It will decide how happy or sad every day of your life is. It will decide how exciting, enriching and fulfilling, or how dull, boring and insipid your life is. It will decide who your children will turn out to be. It will decide how safe your life is or how insecure or sometimes even dangerous your life is. Isn't it strange that 90 per cent of us in India don't take this one most important decision ourselves? Instead we leave it to our near and dear ones, who, no doubt want the best for us. But why should we leave this decision to them or to anyone?
“I know what's good for you so shut up and do as I say” is one of the scariest lines I've come across. I can understand that elders are concerned about their children and want the best for them. But do you want the best for them, or do you want to choose for them? If you truly want the best for them, you will encourage them to decide. Marriage is an important decision, and like every other important decision of your life, it should be your own.
I think there is merit in the advice that elders have to offer and certainly the young should make full use of it. Why not learn from their mistakes? And certainly, our elders have seen much more of life than us.
But if this one decision is going to impact me in such a deep and essential manner, shouldn't I have the freedom to make that choice? Ironically this is the one freedom that we specifically do not give to our young. In fact we diligently guard against it. Why are we so frightened about our young falling in love? I should think we should be worried if they don't! When I think back of the delicious joy, and the tender and delicate emotions I felt when I first fell in love, I look forward to the day when my children feel the same agony and the ecstasy. Why on earth would I not want my children to feel something as beautiful? Each one of us has felt this feeling, no matter how conservative we are today, no matter whether we are ready to admit it publicly or not. Then why deny our young that essential and primary emotion that nature intended for us to feel? Doesn't it make more sense to share in their joy, support them to make the right decision, allow them to share with you their hopes and fears, and be there to guide them when they need your help?
A number of us are willing to accept a young male member of our family falling in love. But when a young girl from our family decides to assert her choice we suddenly experience a “loss of honour.” Why does our sense of honour rest in the sexual or emotional freedom of our girls? Shouldn't it rest in our behaviour, our ethics, our values, our character, our honesty and our sense of integrity? I guess a number of issues in India finally boil down to our patriarchal thinking, and our inability to allow our women to be empowered, in fact, our specific attempt to take power away from them.
May be our young can teach us to feel differently.
(Aamir Khan is an actor. His column will be published in The Hindu every Monday.)