For the love of a woman

MAGNIFICENT OBSESSION The Taj Mahal, is an enduring paean to love

MAGNIFICENT OBSESSION The Taj Mahal, is an enduring paean to love  

Man's love for woman has given rise to the greatest splendours of the world, changed history and scripted tales of heroic valour

It's a fascination that's incurable. Man's love for woman has spilt much blood down the ages, razed many a city to the ground, and changed the face of history. Yet this very obsession has also given rise to the greatest splendours of the world, monuments and tales of heroic valour that we grew up on.

And so like Virginia Woolf, you wonder, `why are women... so much more interesting to men than men to women'? But, then such is the wonder called woman. Helen of Troy may have launched a thousand ships, but her contemporaries and successors accomplished greater marvels.

Centuries before Shah Jahan conceived the Taj Mahal, in 600 BC, Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylon (modern day Iraq) was troubled on seeing his wife miss her maternal home. And so for her, he created the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, a paradise to make her forget her fertile native land, an edifice that became one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.

Does a woman bring out the best in a man? The greatest painting by an American is not the portrait of a President. Or a sylvan landscape of Virginia. In fact, the greatest American painter is said to be James Whistler, and his masterpiece is a painting... of his mother. Whistler's Mother is a national art treasure of the United States today.

Mothers often have that magic. To every man, the beauty and grace of his mother is a benchmark for all the women he meets in life. Naturally, Frederic Bartholdi modelled the face of his most famous sculpture, the Statue of Liberty, after the face of his mother, thus immortalising her for eternity. But sometimes, eternity is too short a period to express a man's love for a woman and no means too right to gain her affections. Perhaps, if he were John Keats, he might write `A thing of beauty is a joy forever'. Were he Adolf Hitler, he might turn vegetarian for life. Were he a Mohammed Quli Qutab Shah, he might erect an entire city (Hyderabad) and name it after his queen.

Whoever the man might be, his love demands to be expressed and can be an overwhelming power. The love of a father for his daughter can be quite compelling. More than once, it has changed history. It is said that the love of Jaichand for his daughter, Samyukta, and his hatred for Prithviraj Chauhan, who stole her as his bride, were responsible for Jaichand siding with the Afghan invader, Mohammed Ghouri. This changed the history of the Indian subcontinent forever and laid the foundation of the Delhi sultanate. King John IV of Portugal was another such father. When the Portuguese princess, Catherine of Braganza married King Charles II of England, the loving father, gave away Bombay as part of the dowry to the English. If not for that incident, Bombay would have remained Portuguese colony like Goa till 1961.

Other fathers' love was much less subtle. An Austrian businessman, Emil Jellinek, loved fast cars. He became the first client of a company called Daimler-Benz and gave them large orders for a new model. He sold these cars most profitably, under the name of his daughter whom he loved dearly, Mercedes. Thus was born the Mercedes-Benz. In fact, the car was such a hit that he changed his surname to Jellinek-Mercedes, commenting, "this is the first time that a father has taken his daughter's name".

Yet another father's zeal to educate his daughter in the wisdom of the world, gave us three works of art in literature, Discovery of India, Glimpses of World History, and Letters from a Father to his Daughter. Indira Gandhi never forgot neither what she learned from them nor her father who wrote them.

One often hears about how a woman changes a man. Perhaps, it would be more apt to say that `a woman changes a man forever'. Her love compels him to greatness. As Jack Nicholson says in As Good it Gets, she makes him want... to become a better man.


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