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Can't find love? See the big picture
Merril Diniz
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August 29, 2006

Last Friday I saw Karan Johar's Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna. A few of us liked it. Some of us simply detested it. But this isn't a movie review; there's enough raving and ranting about how good or bad the film is already.

The more important issue the film raised for me is: are we using our heads or our hearts when deciding whom to marry?

A close friend, after viewing KANK, posed a very relevant question. She wanted to know, "Why is Maya (Rani Mukherjee) not attracted to her hubby Rishi (Abhishek Bachchan)? He's smart, affectionate, funny and good-looking."

Her words remind me of how a traditional arranged marriage works. You make a list of pros and cons and then make a choice based on which list is longer. But, as Amitabh Bachchan's worldly-wise character Sexy Sam (Rishi's dad) puts it, "Love and death are uninvited guests." They tend to sneak up on us, catching us unawares.

Is it romantic or platonic love?

In KANK, Maya develops a 'connection' with a complete stranger (Dev played by Shah Rukh) while being seated on a park bench on her wedding day, pondering over whether she should marry her groom and friend of many years, Rishi. She loves him, but in a platonic way, like she would, say, a girlfriend. She wonders whether the friendship can evolve into love if she tries hard enough. What if she finds the real thing after marriage? On the other hand, what if she does not get married, never finds love and ends up alone?

She plays it safe and marries Rishi. But her 'connection' with the stranger on the bench eventually reaches fruition and the two fall in love. They have an affair. Soon, however, she ends it and confesses to her hubby, not anticipating for a moment that a 'settlement' may not good enough for him. Rishi ends the marriage and they go their separate ways.

Now, you may think KANK encourages post-marital infidelity because the two protagonists find love outside their marriages. However, there's a postive way to look at it: lucky singletons (lucky because they are not in bad marriages yet) could learn a thing or two from the mistakes made by the characters in the film. Maya, for instance, has a real-life equivalent.

Playing it safe?

Celina*, a 27-year-old boutique owner in Mumbai, has been dating her current boyfriend, Jai*, for two years. She feels there's something missing in her relationship, a spark maybe. "He's nice, caring, even smart. But he does not mentally stimulate me. I wish we could have more deep, fulfilling conversations," she laments every now and then. In fact, she has broken up with him on several occasions. It makes me wonder why she is still dating him.

"What if I never meet anyone else after breaking up with him? At least this chap is decent and he really loves me," she says.

Jai does indeed love Celina to distraction and wants to spend his life with her. Celina has decided to play it safe and has 'settled' for Jai. But she isn't living with him yet, a situation that's inevitable post marriage. What happens then? Will his lacklustre conversations get on her nerves? What if she meets someone who really fuels her mind; will she leave Jai? Could it be a recipe for disaster and go the KANK way? Only time will tell. 

Self-awareness helps

"I think it is important to be self-aware before tying the knot," says Noushad*, a 27-year-old film editor. If Maya had possessed this bit of wisdom, would she have married Rishi?

We cannot stand in judgement about whether it's right or wrong to play it 'safe'; doing that is a personal choice. But Noushad thinks it must be a conscious one as well. "Don't expect a 'settlement' to evolve into all-consuming love, though if it does, lucky for you," he says.

Secondly, during the courtship, don't brush niggling doubts under the carpet. Introspect, discuss things openly with your partner and save yourself the aggravation of a messy break-up if possible.

Megha*, a 26-year-old fashion designer, did exactly that. She cites 'incompatibility' as a reason for her break-up. "I would define incompatibility as wanting different things, having different needs, or moving in different directions," she says.

Megha is an expressive young woman, a 'people person', while Arun, her former boyfriend, is a loner who shies away from social get-togethers and people. "We had things in common which we enjoyed -- like meditation and spirituality. We also connected fabulously on the mental and emotional plane, but he was more focussed on meeting people only in relation to his work, while I enjoy meeting people socially," she says.

Such opposing temperaments, interests and lifestyles may seem like a small issue while the iron is still hot but could escalate into a bone of contention in the long run. In KANK, Rhea (played by Preity Zinta) is the life of a party while big social 'dos' make hubby Dev cringe. Megha is now single (and looking) but convinced that she did the right thing.

When it comes to marriage, I look to my lawyer friend Dana*, 27, for inspiration. She has been married for two years now and seems blissful in her marriage.

Marriage: It could be a bumpy ride

'How did you know that he was the one for you?" I ask her.

She says, "I told him EVERYTHING about myself, the good, bad and ugly and he didn't flinch, not once. We balance each other -- he's staid, I'm skewered. He's a home boy, I like to keep my distance. He has a heart of gold, I don't. We share our profession, we both enjoy movies and long drives, we hate cats and loud people, we're both amazing snobs!" she says.

"And what about the ride? Is it bumpy?" I ask.

"Well, we fought like cats and dogs right up to the night before the wedding and we still do. Marriage would be too boring with no making up to look forward to," she says.

Many singles may wonder: How long can one wait to experience the lovebug? 

Karisma*, a television producer by profession, actively tapped the Internet, the classifieds, real life, etc, hoping to meet that one special someone she could share her life with. No, there's nothing wrong with her. She's attractive, smart and successful. During her search, she would sometimes feel disillusioned, but I admire her persistence. Now, she's tying the knot in December at the 'ripe old age' of 33.

So, do you want to be a Karishma or a Celina? The choice is yours. Either way, make sure your choice is a well-informed one.

* Names changed to protect identity.

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