Love Without ‘Conditions Apply’

I collect sweethearts. Some of them become family. Some of them drift away with time. Most people who know me call me a cynic.

I collect sweethearts. Some of them become family. Some of them drift away with time. Most people who know me call me a cynic. But, as I get older, I think I am becoming a romantic. I am also rediscovering love. All kinds of love. Selfish love. Practical love. Convenient love. Selfless love. Platonic love. Lustful love. Kind love. Deep love. Spiritual love. Familial love.

And, I recently witnessed once again the ‘Unconditional Love’. I saw it at a Party. And it reminded me again of the promises that I had made to my self at the beginning of this year in my previous note. My promise to myself that I will make my world larger, yet smaller. I will collect bigger and kinder hearts. I want to write down my experience of this party so that I can relive it in future when the world around me starts putting barriers between my heart and the world.

It was just like any other party in many ways. A quaint cottage in Lonavala in the middle of the monsoon. A cottage hosting a group of close friends and two dogs. Lots of delicious food. More alcohol than most people can drink. Foot tapping music that ensured everyone danced to its beat. I met some girls here, with magnanimous hearts that will remain etched in my mind forever.

This wasn’t a regular party. Someone joked that this was like a ‘Kitty Party’. It was full of women. There was massive excitement even before the actual party started. Most of the girls were taking time to dress up. There were two girls who were also professional make-up artists who patiently worked on making some of their friends look gorgeous. Some of the best make-up brands were getting passed around. Heels were being tried; dresses were being discussed at the last minute. A lot of us had opinions. In fact I made a blunder when I prevented a girl from wearing a really short dress, as she had not shaved her legs. I kicked myself later for that. Some of the girls decided to go casual. Some wanted to dress up formally. There were wigs and lipsticks to match the dresses.

And then the music started. Most of us were on the dance floor. One of the girls, flipped me in the air and I relived the joy of jiving once again. There was no dearth of outstanding dancers who could have given a run to any Bollywood actress in town. One of them was a professional dancer and every part of her body was lyrical. The other girl who works in the diamond industry matched her step to step on songs like ‘Dola Re’ and I saw Aishwarya and Madhuri come alive in front of me. They hardly missed a beat; they had the expressions of courtesans that could seduce any man. They had the delicacy of a peacock and the grace of a deer as they swirled around the whole floor. But the most beautiful thing to watch was that the one who was a professional dancer, happily and readily would step back to let the other friend take center-stage. She wasn’t competing with her friends; she wasn’t trying to show off. She just indulged other friends who were dancing and was trying to help them with their techniques. Some of the other girls were not even team players, yet she danced with them with a kind of generosity that was heart warming. But they were not the only ones. The rest of the girls danced with a passion that’s rare to see. I even found a girl who mirrored my passion and expression. We made terrific dance partners and she tried her best to help me teach some new steps. I immediately wanted to collect her heart. The owner of the cottage was the in-house DJ while his wife was busy taking care of minor details.

They have been together for 5 years or so. And they complimented each other beautifully. I watched them both from a distance. I could see that he fell in love with her for her caring and sensitive nature. As she went around taking care of all the guests. I could see that she fell in love with his kindness, generosity and sense of security. They barely touched each other but if someone noticed, you could see the strength of their love. While some of the guests spilled drinks on the floor, these girls quickly and discreetly would ensure that a mop appeared and the floor was clean. The evening ended with an impromptu fashion show, where all the girls did a ramp walk. Bed sheets quickly became a Mandakini saree for some, a sarong became a cape, vests became tank tops and I am not even sure how some of the dresses got draped around. Nothing can beat an impromptu creativity. We all felt like little girls, laughing and seriously figuring out how to put our best foot forward. Amidst cheering and whistles, the girls walked proudly. Without any inhibitions, without fear, without feeling the judgment of body shaming, without worrying about the notions of traditional fashion or beauty, filled with excitement, love and confidence, they shimmied on the floor. As I walked with them in my heels, I actually felt tall in my spirit. The joy was contagious.

But the highlight of the whole evening was my friend’s parents. The ‘Birthday Girl’s’ parents and an uncle were attending the party as well. I thought maybe the parents will be around briefly, or will show up when the cake gets cut. But, my friend’s parents and uncle were integral to the success of a rocking party that did not see a slump in energy even for a minute. They cooked an awesome pepper chicken dinner for all the guests. They were serving snacks and drinks to everyone, they were taking photos. They were proud parents as their ‘Girl’ and they danced and celebrated her birthday with her close friends. They complimented all the pretty girls around, they made song requests, they wanted to see them dance. When their ‘Girl’ made a showstopper entry for the fashion show, they nearly had tears in their eyes. The ‘Dad’ took photos while she walked and blushed, they cheered, they smiled and most importantly I could see their sense of pride. They were proud of their progeny. They were delighted to see her blossom confidently. They felt blessed that so many people who love her unconditionally surround their child.

These parents moved my spirit. I told them that they inspired me and my husband. I know parents love their child. But these parents are different. Their child is different. Their child is biologically a man. In fact, all the ladies in this party were biologically born as men. They all have a different face for the world, which mostly cannot accept them for who they truly are so they have created their own tiny world that doesn’t judge them for having a beard and yet wearing a lipstick. They all have a woman’s heart and her soul. I am not even sure what defines a woman. But, the beauty, kindness, acceptance, generosity and love they contain inside are all virtues of a woman.

I have often attended gay parties. I have a lot of close friends who belong to the LGBTQ community. I am aware of the complexities and problems in the community. One of the girls at the party told me how difficult it is to find a committed partner in this community. Various apps and sites have made it difficult for people to not give into temptations. That’s why the party didn’t have an open invitation. They didn’t want to invite random gay men as they didn’t want a night of promiscuity. They just wanted to be themselves. They just wanted to be a bunch of women having a great night together. I discussed the problem of acceptance with some, the issue of LGBTQ community being judgmental when two ‘Queens’ date each other. We discussed how orientation should define relationship dynamics instead of outward behaviour. We discussed the difference between a lady and a slut. We discussed long lasting love. We discussed body image and duality with identity. There were a lot of things we discussed. Most of the issues are common to heterosexual relationships as well. But, in a country, which still follows archaic laws like SEC 377, being a homosexual or having a homosexual child comes with its added problems.

In a country like India, where people can be killed for their food preference or religious differences, I saw a Hindu, a Muslim and a Christian sharing a lipstick. I saw parents who have decided that their child’s happiness is far more important than the law or societal acceptance. In a community that faces backlash for often being bitchy and petty, I saw friends from the same community who accept each other’s flaws and support each other without the desire to compete. I saw people who crave to have long lasting and committed relationships. I saw a couple who have chosen to stay committed to each other inspite of all the temptations that the environment might throw at them. Maybe some of them are not perfect. Maybe some of them get petty sometimes. Maybe some of them get jealous. Maybe none of them do. None of them have a religion. None of them are cowards. They want to love. They want to be loved. They are not perfect. Yet, they are perfect as they imbibe the best of both worlds and fight to survive and blossom in spite of all odds.

In a world where we demonstrate our inability to love unconditionally with pride, this was a lesson for me to remember. If we introspect, everyone loves each other with ‘conditions’. Even the purest of love – from our parents comes with the condition that we marry within our religion or community or follow a career that doesn’t embarrass them in society. Our spouses can abandon us if we don’t give them a child or whatever else they want. Our friends can disown us if we disagree with them socially, personally or professionally. Our neighbours can harm us if we differ from them culturally. As a news addict, the growing hatred around the world also affects me. I feel heartbreaks, and I often shed a tear because of it. And consuming news often prevents me from believing in love. The world around us is full of so much hatred that it’s impossible to ignore this hatred. The Orlando shooting, the Paris attack, the Uganda killings, the Nigerian bombers, the Indian and Pakistani fundamentalists, the Bangladesh attacks or the recent Baghdad bombing, there is a never ending list of violence, murders and hatred around us. Hatred is spawning from religious conflicts, intolerance for sexual orientation, racial and cultural differences, language barriers or just inability to love and accept different types of human beings. Maybe the world should learn a lesson from people who are marginalized. Maybe we should stop following the traditional definition of human beings that is usually divided as men and women. Maybe we should all become a man and a woman inside – so that our hearts can expand properly, to accept and love each other without conditions.

In this world full of hatred and conditions, just one night like this can overthrow all the heartbreaks and hatred. Just one night can give us hope that the world is actually a great place. And that love was so strong that it touched me and my husband – Marcus Hough. It also taught me that I need to hang on to my belief of love. Just one night – where love can blossom without any conditions. I hope the world around me has similar nights and day all the time.

Thank you God. Please keep sending more lessons my way.

Amen.

About the guest author

Mitali Srivastava Hough