08 November 2011

A final note on love, doors and door-less love

This is about a continuing conversation sparked by a random comment I made about eyes, their transparency and issues of trust.  The spark did not erupt into flames but rather chose to transform into embers glowing on the topic of love, requited and otherwise, doors that are kept open and those that are slammed shut.  My friend and partner in the crime of love-reflection, Rasika Jayakody made an observation: ‘Can a slammed door stifle love? I don’t know. Slammed doors an test patience and resilience, but not love.  Love cannot be tested and detested’.  

There were lots of comments prompted by his assertions and in the midst of it all, I interjected the following, in general agreement:

No impediment is too formidable.  Doors and walls, made of wood or brick or iron: they become porous when love grazes them. Decency lies in knowing where to go and where not to.  Love does not intrude.

Somewhere in the thread there was a question about victims, which in turn provoked the following contention: ‘But are we really victims?  Can there be victims and victimization?  Does love have the eyes to see villainy and if indeed it does recognize villainy, isn't that the point where love dies?

Unconditionality is an easy claim but the unwritten, unsaid, underlying whisper that is drowned in the shout is a thing called expectation, the need for love to be requited.  Except in the love of a mother for her child, perhaps.  Rasika put it thus:  

‘This unconditional love is somewhat similar to a mother’s love which is explained in Buddhism as “appamana love” (endless love) which has no limit. When an infant is hungry, the mother would notice iteven with a very slight glimpse and that sight itself will turn her blood into milk.  When the child is facing danger, she will have no second thoughts about risking her own life and protecting him. His smiles will make her smile and his tears will make her cry and there will be no ulterior motives behind it. Even if a son stabs his mother to death; she will accept it with a smile and forgive him. She will not hate him.’

Such love, he claimed, ‘has no boundaries and restrictions and doesn’t depend on doors; whether the doors are open or closed, love will remain intact: it cannot be touched, harmed and stifled, but it can be felt.’

A few weeks ago, I got an email from my sister.  She and I exchange children’s stories; our children, mostly.  This was a child tale but with a double-thread running through it relating to mothers and mothering.  My sister lives in the USA and commemorates our late mother’s death anniversary and birthday is her own special way. This year she had decided, along with her three daughters, Duranya, Hasadri and Kisara to pick bulbs to plant on what would have been our mother’s 75th birthday, the 17th of November.  

She reports: ‘Hasadri picked one that we "had to get," because she felt it was like Ammi. "It has a bright color but it isn't one of those BOOM colors. It is so pretty but it is still sort of contained and orderly. Just like her." 

She sent a link to the flower.  I have seen it but never knew its name.  Alliums, they are called; nangi’s kids teach me something new all the time.  There was a description too: ‘Densest flower, deepest hue:  A colorful naturalizer. These wonderful spheres, packed with hundreds of tiny flowers, will enhance your summer garden. Excellent for cutting and lovely in dried arrangements.’

My mother was not ‘excellent for cutting’ and she didn’t need to be part of dried arrangements to be lovely.  Like all mothers.  But Hasadri, my beautiful 10 year old niece, so much like her grandmother, could not have failed to notice her and herself, I believe.  She, like her grandmother, is not a ‘BOOM person’.  Pretty, incredibly.   And yet contained and orderly.  Just like the flower. 

Ammi, 'Madam' to all her students who were sons and daughters loved as much we we ere
Her observations made me think that perhaps we could bracket ‘grandchild’ (in the general, of course) with ‘mother’ in the matter of ‘unconditionality’.  I remember how my mother once got annoyed with my daughter, who is a few days older than Hasadri.  I can’t remember what it was all about, but Ammi was so annoyed that her agitation did not subside for hours.  That evening, when she came home, the little girl ran to her, laughing, thrilled to see her grandmother.  That’s unconditional.   The logic could of course be extended to ‘grandmother’ or ‘grandparent’.  Speaking strictly for myself, I can’t remember anything about my grandmothers and grandfather except ‘love’.  No door, no walls, nothing could stop their love or my love for them.

I would not describe my mother the way her grandchildren would and do.  Maybe my love was conditional.  I can’t help feeling, though, that Hasadri was spot on.  And I think it is some unconditional element that gave her the eyes to see and the words to describe my mother in ways that neither my sister nor I would have.  Ever. 

And of my mother, I remember among other things, something that her favourite student, Arjuna Parakrama said at her funeral: ‘she was incredibly proud of her three children’.  After she died, and as nangi eloquently described in a note ofremembrance two years ago, we found that she had carefully saved every little piece of paper that had anything to do with her children, especially notes that my sister, her daughter, had written from the time she started to write.  She must have been immensely proud when nangi’s debut novel, ‘A Disobedient Girl’, came out, not too long before she left us. 

Mothers.  They are the last word in love. And the first too.  They don’t speak the language of doors.  They don’t engage in heart-reflection. They are heart. Through and through.  And that, my friends, is all there is (for me) to say about doors and love.