Thank You, Next: I’ll Pick the Beauty of Everyday Affections Over Grand Romantic Gestures

Love and Sex

Thank You, Next: I’ll Pick the Beauty of Everyday Affections Over Grand Romantic Gestures

Illustration: Shruti Yatam

Until about 10 years ago, our idea of romance rested on the theatricality of grand gestures. It was similar to Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge’s London-bred Raj flying down to spread his arms in the mustard fields of Punjab for Simran. Jai frantically rushing to the airport to stop Aditi from leaving, by announcing his love in Jaane Tu… Ya Jaane Na. Jack helping Rose on to a wooden platform to save her life in the middle of an icy ocean in Titanic. Or Kat from 10 Things I Hate About You tearfully reading out a poem chronicling her feelings for Patrick in front of the whole class.

Back then, when life never got in the way, expressing the feeling assumed greater importance than shielding the privacy of the emotion. Love had to be declared to be felt.

But today, in the age of unlimited options, hectic lives, and burdening responsibilities, love is no longer a singular ambition. At a time when it is more often than not perceived as a hindrance, it is also improbable for the language of romance to not be infected by everyday life. For so many people in love today, expressions of love aren’t counted out in flight tickets, surprise proposals, airport dashes, or persistent wooing.

For instance, one of the year’s most affecting big-screen romantic gestures played out behind closed doors rather than as a declaration in front of many eyes. In Sui Dhaaga, when Mamta informs her mother-in-law that she can’t attend a wedding because of an ill-fitted blouse, her husband leaps to her rescue. Mauji tells her (through his mother) that he’ll tailor it for her. As the blouse is handed to Mauji’s sewing machine and he gets to work, Mamta lets out a faint, coy smile that lingers on her face for a fleeting second before life gets in the way. It’s one of those impossibly intimate moments that the couple – victims of an arranged marriage and lack of privacy – share with each other, without even planning to. After all, life happened to them before love could even find their address.

Small affections like these mould companionship by fronting our idea of romance. The beauty of these intimacies are that they don’t announce themselves to the world but demand a keen familiarity: Like your partner knowing the amount of sugar you like in your coffee without requiring a reminder or your hands instinctively reaching out for theirs during a Netflix binge. There’s so much thought behind your partner clocking in their care in non-verbal ways – waking up at an ungodly hour to wake you up or giving up the last slice of cheese at breakfast.

These intimacies don’t just have the ability to remain private but also fiercely personal. They crop up at the most unexpected hours. These gestures might not be for the books, but reserved for your memories.

I’ll pick everyday intimacies over grand romantic gestures any day. In baring yourself to each other instead of the world, in feeling comfortable enough to complete mundane tasks in each other’s company, love is articulated quietly: It is impromptu, stripped off of any trace of rehearsed ostentation. And it’s only then that romance ceases to be a performance.