What is love?
Is it a constant release of oxytocins or a woeful struggle to become the best version of yourself? Is it a cheaper substitute for cocaine? An attitude that lands you a starring role in every Bollywood blockbuster? Most importantly, is it the premise of every Beatles song?
Love is a lot of things.
To celebrate Valentine’s Day with my refrigerator full of wine, I spoke to six different LGBT couples about romance and its sweeping presence in their lives – as a day, as a feeling, or as a constant state of being that doesn’t make them want to kill their significant other. Through text, long distance phone calls and two really hot cups of coffee, here’s what we talked about when we talked about love:
Twenty-something Subhashish met Jahangir in Pune, five and a half years ago. A common friend couldn’t have boys over in her building, and she asked the young casting director if her friend could crash at his house. A few glasses of rum, and they realized they had a spark.
The rest goes down in ‘meet-cute’ history. Subhashish and Jahangir aren’t your conventional boys – their ideas of love are more Wes Anderson, less William Shakespeare. They don’t believe in grand declarations of love – bottles of Old Monk still suffice. Sometimes, something as subtle as a post-coital smoke would do. Does anything stand apart; make them fall in love over and over again?
‘There was this one time we went out to a restaurant, and Jahangir took a picture of me with a banana. I thought it was cute.”
‘How is that romantic?’ I ask, confused.
“It said, ‘I am bananas for you’,” he says.
I look at it. It really is cute.
I leave, craving my own picture.
Ram, a project manager at an MNC met his boyfriend, Sohail, a SAP consultant eight months ago. They didn’t meet on Grindr, but on Scruff – a dating app for gay men who loved their partners fuzzier and funnier.
Their first date was at a coffee shop, but they didn’t meet at Starbucks, like most rom coms would like us to believe. Ram realised it was special when a twenty-minute walk by the park, turned into a two hour heart to heart. Things picked up soon enough, and the boys have been in their honeymoon period ever since. In fact, they’ve never had it better – love is at an all-time high, and it’s pretty inexpensive.
Ram believes that love is an everyday thing, so every day has the potential to be Valentine’s Day – I’d want to be able to eat cupcakes every day, he jokes – and he does, it’s the beauty of being in the puppy dog stage of your love. It’s about making every day count, making every day equally special – go visit the amusement park. Have a ball at a photo booth. Take yoga classes every alternate morning. Hike every weekend. Or simply cook a home cooked meal from scratch for the first time ever.
Which is exactly what Ram plans to do today. It’s a surprise.
When Nisha met Pooja on Tinder two years ago, she had no idea how whirlwind their romance was going to be. After all, it’s not about falling in love at first swipe – especially when there are all of twenty lesbians using Tinder.
Months of playing the court, the two girls decided to take the plunge and go steady about a year ago. They’ve had many great dates so far, but I don’t find it surprising. Nisha, who runs her own digital production house, is a bundle of energy – she’s like a weekend on steroids – the happy, nice ones. Nisha likes planning things, dates and surprises, including a thoroughly researched, ridiculously adorable treasure hunt she organized for Pooja’s birthday last year. It was the stuff that Instagram posts are made up of. Pooja, on the other hand, is the more subdued, quieter one.
Last Valentine’s Day changed everything. Nisha woke up to home made cannellonis, stuffed with Nutella and strawberries in bed. They lounged around all day; a Sunday that was a mindless fug of movies and wine. They were both high on life, and food. It was perfect.
Love’s never been tastier, Nisha tells me, and I can’t help but agree.
Yash and Raghav met in December 2015. It was a cousin’s birthday party, and Yash had to force himself to go. In retrospect, it was a great idea. Somewhere over birthday cake and red solo cups of beer, they hit it off.
‘Love is not something you find overnight, in fact sometimes you don’t even find it all – I guess we just got lucky,’ Yash tells me. He runs his own wellness startup, and is only 27 years old. He’s got lucky multiple times over.
Yash agrees that Valentine’s Day is just another excuse to be cheesy and romantic, but unsurprisingly, they’ve not needed any excuses yet. Raghav is going to be out of town, but Yash is bringing in the night with a few close friends over dinner. ‘There are different forms of love, and it makes more sense to celebrate the platonic ones on Valentine’s Day,’ he broods.
They’ll have multiple dates to make up for it, no excuses at all.
Pradeep, a thirty something architect from Goa met Kabir, a businessman from out of town, at a nightclub one crazy Friday night. Even though they locked eyes over the dance floor and had a great conversation over the blaring music, Pradeep thought it was his single malt talking (and it was doing a great job). It was something else, though – the chemistry was undeniable. Unsurprisingly, they didn’t part ways that night.
This was ten years ago. It’s been a rollercoaster ever since, but one with mostly highs.
Pradeep believes they are old souls, so the concept of Valentine’s Day seems too alien, too millennial – they didn’t celebrate it spectacularly back in 2007, and they don’t have anything planned this year. ‘There’s performance anxiety that kicks in closer to the 14th of February,’ he says to me – ‘Which is why we keep it simple.’ The real beauty of their relationship lies in how well they understand each other.
‘We’ve reached that stage, where we can finish each…’ Pradeep starts off.
‘…other’s sentences!’ Kabir quips in, right on time. This is when Valentine’s Day hangs its head down in shame.
They both laugh out loud. It’s a good life.
Six thousand miles away, life is no different for my environmental scientist friend Bikram and his Human Rights consultant husband, Wren. Their ideas of romance are kitsch, but their ideas of mass commercialization are not – Valentine’s Day is a Hallmark holiday, Bikram sighs, and he’d rather buy his greeting cards at the local gift shop down the road.
They’ve said it before, and they’ll say it again – love is a state of being, one that they can vouch for, considering they’ve been in the state for four years now. They’ve been married for fourteen months. It’s been surreal, having ‘husbands’ to complain about, but they’ve settled into their love story – it feels like a giant, comfortable blanket.
Bikram believes that grander gestures are for the more important days in life – birthdays, anniversaries, promotions and the occasional day when they both make it back from work before 6 pm.
That’s when they go out for a fancy dinner. Or enjoy a bubble bath. Or sometimes, bake a cake. So what about today?
They’ve got some leftover cake from the weekend. It might be a bitter cold February, but it’s going to be a warm Valentine’s Day –
Especially with hot caramel sauce.