Love’s Labour Lost
As I walked into a quiet, dimly lit Tibetan restaurant in North Delhi’s Majnu ka Tilla area, I found the man— after whom the place has been named— sipping Coke and enjoying tingmo (a Tibetan delicacy).
“As-Salaam o alaykum, Majnu sahib. All well?”
“Wa ‘Alaykum as-Salaam, Wise Bachelor sahib. Jab life ho out of control, honthon ko kar ke gol. Honthon ko kar ke gol, seeti baja ke bol. All izz well!” Majnu suddenly broke into a jig, startling everyone else around.
“Allah tauba, yeh aap kya kar rahe hai?” a lady rushed in to control Majnu. It was Layla.
“Come on, jaan-e-man, I’m happy today. Wise Bachelor is here. I remembered my bachelor days,” a visibly pleased Majnu said.
“Honey, you died a bachelor,” Layla quipped.
“I died a virgin! I died a virgin!” Majnu cried out.
“Quiet, my love, this is not the Arabian Desert that you would shout aloud like a deewana,” Layla tried to calm him down.
“You witch! You charmed me and then you left me for a rich man. You had all the fun in life, but what did I get? Eternal virginity! Youngsters today lose their virginity first when they fall in love, but look at me: I’m still carrying it like a beast of burden,” Majnu shot back.
All this while, I was a mute spectator. I thought I should say something.
“Relax, guys, calm down. You are the icons of true love; our readers look up to you. Should you behave like this, our readers will be disillusioned,” I said.
“Disillusioned? I’m already that. I died for nothing and got nothing in this world. And it was all for this woman. She killed me. She is my murderer!”
“What? She murdered you? But we thought she loved you a lot. She had sung koi patthar se na mare mere deewane ko to defend you. What about that?” I asked.
“Paah! That song was a farce. You know, she threw a shoe at me the other day when I was talking to Juliet, Romeo’s love, in the Heaven’s Cafe.”
“A shoe?” I was scandalised.
“He deserved much worse. You know, WB, he was openly flirting with Juliet behind my back. A casual chit chat is always fine, but he was doing liptam chipti chipkam chipki with her. No woman can tolerate that,” Layla’s face had turned crimson with anger.
“Majnu sahib, is this true? It certainly doesn’t speak great about the eternal love you professed for Layla,” I was peeved.
“That’s not true, WB sahib. I admit it was a weak moment, but I’m still a virgin. She doesn’t let me touch her. So, I was just trying to make her jealous,” Majnu was on the defensive.
“Layla? Is that true?”
“It’s his fault. Look at his dressing sense. He is still dressed in tattered rags, while others have switched to trendier gear. How can a sophisticated woman like me be with him for long?”
“Juliet sees it differently. She is classier than thou yet understands what true love is,” Majnu retorted.
“Did you see that? Did you see that audacity? He talks about Juliet like that in front of his love. Didn’t I tell you something is cooking between him and that home-breaker Juliet?”
“Tauba tere jalwa, tauba tera pyaar, tera emotional atyachaar,” Majnu said with a sigh.
“Emotional atyachaar? Oh yeah, do you know, WB, what happened to Heer and Ranjha recently? Ranjha wasn’t behaving nicely with Heer, so she doubted him. She contacted UTV Bindass’ Emotional Atyachaar team to run a fidelity test on Ranjha. He failed!”
“What? Ranjha failed it? How is that possible? Tell me more about it,” I was aghast.
“Yes, he failed it. He was found coochi-cooing with Mahiwal’s girlfriend, Soni.”
“And now, Heer is coochi-cooing with Mahiwal. They are both nursing their bruised egos,” Majnu quipped.
“That’s only a rebound effect. She will return to Ranjha again,” Layla said.
I couldn’t help my curiosity: “What’s the point in having a fidelity test if you intend to go back to your significant other? Was it not a waste of time and emotions?”
“That’s all bloody crap! It was just a pretext to swap partners and make the other person feel guilty. Both Heer and Mahiwal will have some fun for a while and then return to their spouses. All of this is bloody naatak,” Majnu said.
“Nice, Majnu, very nice. You call it naatak, huh? Maybe that’s why Shirin and Farhad are fighting a child custody battle in court. They just want to entertain the public, right?” Layla said.
“Shirin and Farhad too?” I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.
“Ya. You know na how they used to be ‘together together’ types before. They married and had a child. Trouble started after that,” Layla continued.
“At the sets of reality show Sach Bol Baliye, Shirin made friends with Romeo. They became real good buddies in a short while, which was seen by Farhad with suspicion. Later, when they had the child, Farhad alleged that it was Romeo’s child. They would often quarrel and throw things at each other. Finally, Shirin took the child for a paternity test, which proved that it was Farhad’s child. That shameless man forgot all the ill-treatment he had meted out to his wife and started behaving as if nothing had happened. He didn’t even apologise. This was too much for Shirin. She refused to stay with him. Today, they are fighting a custody battle in court,” Layla was exhausted. She had spoken without even pausing. I gave her some water.
All this while, Majnu was surprisingly quiet. When I looked at him, I found him checking out a firangi woman sitting two tables ahead of us.
“Majnu sahib, all of this is very disturbing. What will our readers say when they come to know of all these scandals? People still die in love citing your example. They will be so disillusioned if they come to know how complicated and bizarre relations have become in your next life. Are you not worried about your reputation?” I had to ask him that.
“Saari umar hum mar mar ke ji liye, ek pal to ab hume jeene do…give me some sunshine give me some rain give me another chance I wanna grow up again. Have you ever tried to understand the travails of my life, WB sahib? I lived my life in the vain hope that Layla would be mine someday. I lived like a lunatic; gave up all comforts, slept out in the rain, yet Layla put me down. No woman warmed my bed, neither did I warm up to anyone else in this mad frenzy. I wasted my life, WB, I wasted it,” Majnu broke down. I didn’t know how to console him. But he sobered down and continued: “Now, I want to have some fun. Meet new people, see new places. That’s why I have come here.”
“But what about your image, Majnu sahib? What about the society?” I asked again.
“Who cares about the society? The society had no problem in accepting Lord Krishna’s dalliance with over 16,000 women. Why will it be so biased against me? The society has no problem in accepting infamous wife-basher Rahul Mahajan as a naya navela dulha making a mockery of the traditional Indian system of marriage or swayamvar. Why would the society then have a problem with me?”
I had no logic to counter.
“I will give you more instances. The Mughal Emperor Akbar had a taste for women. He had so many wives in his harem, yet the society never questioned him. But the hapless Aurangzeb, who didn’t share his great grandsire’s fondness for women, is seen as a demon. You see, my friend, in India, which will soon became the world’s most populated country, what matters is how much prowess you can show off. We have produced more than one-sixth of humanity. No one is more capable than an Indian in bed. But look at me. What I have produced is a name that has come to be associated with madness. Anyone who goes mad in love is referred to as a Majnu. Is it something to be proud of? It’s disgusting!”
“See, Majnu sahib, I get your point. Whatever you have said is mostly right. However, we still believe in love. The world believes in it. Look at Layla. No matter what she says, she still gets jealous when you talk to another woman. Relationships bring with them a lot of complications and issues. However, we are supposed to resolve them if we love the people we are involved it. Am I right, both of you?” Layla and Majnu nodded.
“How will you react if your Layla coils up in Romeo’s arms?”
“I will snap that son of a gun’s neck! I will kill him. I will…”
“Control yourself, jaan. It’s ok. I’m not going anywhere,” Layla held his hand and tried to relax his nerve. That was my cue to continue.
“Having ‘fun’ is a different issue, Majnu sahib, but being there for someone is the most important thing in this world. Look around you. There’s love everywhere. You too don’t want to be with anybody else. So why pretend? It is these pretences that kill relationships. Why can’t you guys accept each other’s flaws and try to improve on them? Is it so hard to be in love? Is it so hard to keep those promises and vows that you exchange with your love?” I knew I was sounding preachy, but I couldn’t keep the Agony Uncle in me under wraps. I solve relationship problems, don’t I?
“So, what do you suggest, WB sahib?” Layla and Majnu asked in unison.
“I would suggest you go on a long vacation together. That way you could know each other all over again. You can go to the Northeast and there you will get your sunshine and rain and everything else that can act as a band-aid in your relationship. Are you game for that?”
“I think I am,” Majnu said.
“I think I can’t resist such an opportunity, too,” she said.
“All right then. I will try to fix up an itinerary for you guys. See if the cooler climes of the Northeast can enliven your spirits once again. My best wishes are for you,” I prepared to leave.
“Tell us one thing, WB, why are you yourself single? This is the month of love.”
“All is well, folks. Wish you a very Happy Valentine’s Day!” I threw a smile at them and left. There are some questions that cannot be answered. For everything else, of course, there’s Wise Bachelor.
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