Hrishita Rajbangshi writes about finding love and companionship despite a raging pandemic and digital life.
Falling in love with a fellow human, with the equal amount of passion, dedication and commitment that books and cinema tell us about becomes tricky for the younger generation. This generation has learnt how to draw boundaries and prioritise a career over love. This generation has also learnt how to break toxic cycles, which were previously considered part of everyday love stories. But love has also not necessarily been allowed to slip past. The young cohort has tried to take charge and find love through apps, instead of waiting to meet someone's eyes across the street. And this generation of lovers has, most importantly, tried to give mental health counselling a chance – to grow as an individual – and to recognise the problems, resolve them and to eventually let love go, if the problems prevail.
But how does a young population, simultaneously trying to break so many wheels, deal with the matters of the heart when a health crisis takes over the planet? With an uncertain future and time coming to a standstill, records speak of a large number of people being pushed to a deteriorating stage of mental health.
The years of 2020 and 2021 changed the course of many people's lives, further leading to newer discourses on human interactions, as well as love. While some ended their relationships because of the distance caused by the pandemic, some did it because of attachment issues caused by the same reason. While some took refuge in dating apps because they were simply bored, some chose to go ahead with them because they genuinely missed intimacy – of the mind, heart, as well as of the body.
For a generation which is blessed, as well as cursed with pragmatism, love still transcends logic and reasoning, but not necessarily at the cost of self-sabotage.
Keeping the names and a few details under the garb of anonymity, here are three short tales of love and life during a pandemic…
Ankur came back to India when the country was at its peak of COVID-19 outspread. The first wave of the virus had already made him test positive, and had made his body weak and perpetually tired. But another situation was brewing inside, which didn't make Ankur feel any differently – a break-up.
After graduating from one of the finest institutes of journalism, Ankur chose to come home in 2020 and work here. "I joined dating apps eventually. But I had been through a break-up not very long ago and I am an introvert. I take time to talk to people. Also, more importantly, I had to wait to get vaccinated to start going out or meet people again."
Ankur is fully vaccinated now and has less chances of catching the virus again. But all thanks to the mercies of new advents of technology, he has probably found someone again – a 'curly-haired and cute' love interest who makes him laugh all the time. "I am ready to wait and see where it goes. No rush," he said.
A postponed wedding
After the trials and tribulations that love makes all of us go through, Sahiba finally found the love of her life and decided to get married.
"Guys, I have tested positive for COVID-19. Wedding has been postponed indefinitely" – read the text message that Sahiba had to send all her invited friends, 12 days before the wedding day which had a guest list of 100.
So, just when Sahiba was happily ready to take the plunge, she was compelled to face something that she dreaded the most – a long-distance relationship.
"The emotional backlash was on multiple levels – a wedding cancellation and a health hazard. I was also in the process of switching jobs. My partner was supportive throughout but eventually, the distance started to take a toll.
"Once we had a huge fight and I can't even remember anymore what it was about, and then I realised that I am not being able to communicate properly. How much can you express over a call or message anyway! I knew that I needed to seek help from a professional," Sahiba said.
Seven months of mutual understanding and maybe a little bit of help from Sahiba's trusted counsellor later, the couple got married with an even smaller guest list. They are now ready for the next phase of trials and tribulations that love makes one go through – marriage.
Putting myself before another
How does one cope with the aftermath of a long-term relationship just when the world begins to collectively experience a different kind of uncertainty?
Esther is a young researcher who is working towards what every 20-something-year-old from this generation strives for – a stable career. And she has chosen to give the matters of the heart a break for now.
"More than the pandemic, it is my unwillingness to participate in relationships. But also had the pandemic not happened, maybe I could have looked for other prospects, I think it definitely added to an already deteriorating interest in looking for someone to be with."
While the popular assumption about the younger generation suggests that they never stop looking for love, Esther and many others like her are creating their own narratives in the larger picture of 'finding love'.
On being asked if she would like to find love again, she said, "I am someone who loves to find peace in my own self. But maybe, someday, I would want some form of company, with the hope for an understanding where both of us give in and also provide space for each other to move ahead in our respective careers."
Ankur, Sahiba and Esther are figuring their lives in and around love. Alongside them, so are millions of other young people – who, too, might have had a heartbreak and eventually gave love another chance; who, too, might have had a wedding postponed or even cancelled; and who, too, might be preferring to work on and for themselves first, before approaching love immediately again. But if anything, the world has realised in the past two years of the pandemic that life is uncertain. And amidst uncertainties, we need to learn how not only to survive, but also to take care of what we feel. Love – whether for our ownselves or for someone else, is as much delicate a feeling as it is meant to be strong. And such a feeling of juxtaposition can endure only when we take care of it. With frequent discoveries of new variants of the fatal virus lately, the year of 2022 might have to brace itself for more uncertainties. But as long as we take care of ourselves, alongside this intense, heartbreaking yet unreal feeling called love – this too shall pass.