*** SPECIAL FEATURE - March'14 ***
Away from their unreasonable demands, Piali strives to find peace in the mountains. But within six months, her lover tracks her down. Once again, she betrays the one by trusting the other.
Will her labor in the name of love be in vain, or will love transcend all differences?
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The Story Behind The Story
Love’s Labor has its inception in the last decade when it was discovered at home that a cousin had had the audacity to fall for a gent from another community. All hell broke loose and the poor girl was subjected to the worse possible form of blackmail starting from her mother threatening to swallow sleeping pills to the matriarch leaving home were the offender to not change her decision. The man in question was well-placed and even offered to take the cousin away to his place of work; she vehemently refused citing filial duty and social disgrace as reasons. And in an unexpected twist of events, one day, she disappeared from home. While initially it was suspected that she had eloped, the lover himself was at a loss because he was very much at home!
This incident, a legend during my young adulthood, left a disturbing influence on me. As a thinking individual, I replayed it in various forms in my imagination, giving it a happily-ever-after ending. As a literature student, love was sacrosanct to me, and I hadn’t yet learnt about the various shades of gray. It was simple, I thought. If two people were in love, they had to marry. The reality around me in the small town that I grew up was very different though. There was a fanatic emphasis on same-caste-same-class alliances; love marriages were almost unheard of; and if there was a stray one, the adults almost waited for it to go wrong so they could be proven right. While the metros in India were opening their doors to MNCs, the small towns were still grappling under the narrow confines of caste and community in the name of tradition. Films like Mohabbatein only made it worse with their depiction of the ‘humein parivartan pasand nahi’ theme while the blockbuster DDLJ exemplified how love was only ‘allowed’ with parental consent.
Love’s Labor, a story of Piali Roy & Sathya Nair is about two young people falling in love, fully aware of their different backgrounds. Piali is the quintessential small-town Indian girl, torn between her love for the lover on one hand and her love for her family on the other. As with many youngsters, she is plagued by an all-consuming guilt of hurting her parents and being a disgrace to them. Jamshedpur, the Steel City of India, where the plot is set, is urban in many ways and children are encouraged to follow liberal arts along with their curriculum, play a sport and participate in competitions. When it comes to marriage though, the traditional household is ruled by the parents’ choice. Love, the very basis of human existence, is considered taboo and anybody daring to tread that path is made to feel like a sinner. Gender discrimination dictates that while Sathya can speak his mind, and his family even bows to it, Piali does not have the same luxury. This, of course, is a specific case and cannot be generalised.
As an author, my story ends on the note I would like to see most love stories end. With time, I’ve (sadly) come to realize that it does not always happen that way. Such is the illogical deference to parental dream that a youngster is not let to have a say in matters of the heart. Surprisingly, even in this decade, I come across youth who say they’d like to marry by their parents’ choice. While there is a certain ‘nobleness’ about the sentiment that, on the surface, reflects respect for authority, at a subtle sub-level it is actually indicative of Indian society’s inability to embrace changes and open up to the broadening world scenario.
Does Love’s Labor offer a solution? Does it appeal to the rigid traditionalist? Or is it a mere reflection of the society we live in? Read it to find out.
Andy Paula is a corporate trainer, an avid reader, a near-passionate blogger, and now, a writer. When she met her editor during the writing of Love's Labor, she realized how ruthless she may have appeared to all her enthusiastic trainees who nurtured creative dreams. "Never again," she thought, "am I going to correct another article." And she proceeded to make corrections in her own manuscript.
She confesses to never having made a kaleidoscope with broken bangles or taken apart a clock and put it back together, in her childhood. Two things that she did cherish were reading and falling in love. To the question, ‘What prompted you to write?’ Andy gives a tongue-in-cheek reply. "They say there's a book in each of us. Just wanted to check if they were right!"
When she is not making stories in her head, this Thinker does her pranayam and tries to meditate to keep a grip on her wandering mind.
10 Digital Copies of Love's Labor by Andy Paula
5 PDF copies of Love Across Borders, an anthology of twelve heart-warming narratives