My Favourite Romance Novel Ever

My Perspective On Love

The book has aged well. At least till now.

It was released in 1995 and I bought a copy for myself somewhere around 2015 or maybe even a few years prior. I do not recollect when or why I got a copy for myself. I know it was before the advent of audio books in India at least.

As I have gotten older, my perspective on love, sex and relationships has had a paradigm shift. What was scandalous even a decade ago, is now, “Well, if it works for them AND they’re happy, who am I to have an opinion?” This has also opened up possibilities in my own head.

For example, just this year, I realized that I could love more than one person. And their gender / age / sexual orientation didn’t matter. Love is not sex and sex is not love.

It turns out, I also disagree with this quote : “It is better to have loved and lost, than to have never loved at all.” Love is love. There is no “winning” or “losing” in love. Even if I love someone and they do not love me back with the same intensity, it is, still, love. And I would rather revel in the feeling than feed bad about it.

After all, it is not my responsibility if someone else is in love with me. Similarly, it is not their responsibility if I am in love with them. I deal with it. I love & that is all I have control over.

Favourite Passages From The Book

“…If I didn’t fight to control myself with you, I feel like I might lose my center and never get back.”

As someone who knows either the extreme of indifference or the extreme of intensity, I felt the above line in my bones. I prefer to give either everything or nothing at all. And that’s not very healthy or balanced and it scares away most people. Most people prefer a secure, stable, convenient kind of love. I find that horrendously boring. I love stability, don’t get me wrong, but I love a little madness, a little magic.

“He believes that ‘IQ tests are a poor way to judge people’s abilities, failing as they do to account for magic, which has its own importance, both by itself and as a complement to logic.’…”

This spoke to me because of how I usually ascertain my self-worth and the negative internal dialog in my head. “That was dumb! What were you thinking?!” “Romance & magic don’t exist in the real world.” Things like “being practical” and “real” are given far more importance. Dreamers are considered not very successful. Especially while I was growing up and falling in love as a teenager and then twenty-something girl, I was constantly reminded that magic did not exist. That boys only want one thing and that girls should not give it away so easily. If only I had known what I now know. But then I might have turned out different and I quite like most of me right now.

The same things I apply to my work. Yes, I need to be practical as a photographer – photos need to be made for paying clients. But personal projects that make no sense, are freedom too. Sometimes, rarely, there can also be magic in work for a client. Remarkable moments that one cannot manufacture.

“…Eventually, he began to see that light was what he photographed, not objects. The objects merely were the vehicles for reflecting the light. If the light was good, you could always find something to photograph….”

Maybe one of the reasons The Bridges of Madison Country resonated with me so much was because I am a photographer – like Robert Kincaid. I can almost exactly get where he’s coming from. How he sees things. How he loves. Almost. To have an eye for somethings. I get that.

I so desperately want to photograph the people I love. When I am around them, I want to point the camera at them and I want to make portraits and images of them at their most relaxed, most vulnerable moments. Most of them are, unfortunately, uncomfortable with this, mainly because I publish my work publicly, online. I don’t see why beauty needs to be kept hidden away. And conventional beauty is not my beauty. My beauty is the beauty that lies in the eyes of the beholder, namely, me.

“I look down the barrel of a lens, and you’re at the end of it. I begin work on an article, and I’m writing about you. I’m not even sure how I got back from Iowa. Somehow the old truck brought me home, yet I barely remember the miles go by.”

This reminded me of Fleetwood Mac’s “Everywhere“. “I want to be with you everywhere. Something’s happening to me. My friends say I’m acting peculiarly.” Even as a young schoolgirl, I would stare out the window of my school bus, wistfully missing the friends that I had left behind when Dad got posted to yet another different town.

“It is clear to me now that I have been moving toward you and you toward me for a long time. Though neither of us was aware of the other before we met, there was a kind of mindless certainty humming blithely along beneath our ignorance that ensured we would come together.”

“So here I am walking around with another person inside of me.”

To be fair, the intensity of how I love isn’t always directed towards the person I’m in love with. Why bother them this much? Instead, I usually turn it inwards and enjoy the excruciating slow throbbing of the pleasure of my pain. A little like being addicted to the feeling of love but not quite. I don’t love all that easily after all.

“Francesca stepped off the porch and walked unhurriedly through the grass toward the gate. And out of the pickup came Robert Kincaid, looking like some vision from a never-written book called An Illustrated History of Shamans.”

If you know, you know.

“In a universe of ambiguity, this kind of certainty comes only once, and never again, no matter how many lifetimes you live.”

There are so many passages and sentences in the book that I re-read and they feel like I’m reading them for the first time. It is a simple book. I usually read it cover to cover with a couple of hours. Each time I pick it up again, I feel that I might have turned far too cynical and jaded to enjoy the book. That I will think it is too childish – or mawkish – or even trite. That it will require so much suspension of disbelief that I’ll probably just fling the book into the trash can.

Thankfully, that has not happened yet. And I hope it never does.

There is a simplicity in love. I choose to love someone. I have no control over whether they love me back. Sex can be part of the equation but it is not necessary. Company and conversations, too, unnecessary. Comfort in silences is just as well. I love in way that even if I see my love after months, the love somehow feels far more intense. There is no “out of sight, out of mind”. Love is what you decide it is. There are no rules.

Or as one of my loves would say, whenever I mention the rules & definitions learned from my conventional upbringing, “Kisne keh diya?”

( “Kisne keh diya?” is loosely translated as “Says who?” )

Buy the book here.

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