This Indian Life by Shoba Narayan:

Hearts, flowers and cuddly teddy bears are not the only way to express affection

Shoba Narayan
Hindustan Times


How do you show your love? Nick Jonas signalled a love sign to Priyanka Chopra during a concert, which went viral. A book titled The Five Love Languages said that love could be expressed through acts of service, words of affirmation, physical touch, gifts and quality time. Most of us begin our love journey longing for physical touch. Later, it becomes all about quality time. In India, though, we have so many love languages. 

Bickering Buddies

What about the constant bickering that is the love language of every elderly couple I know? The steady thrum of their long-lasting marriage is non-stop bickering. They may never say, “I love you”, but their relationship is rock solid, as constant as a sunrise.

Feed you so you’ll need me

The previous generation’s notion of love is being the bedrock of relationships, not being surrounded by flowers

What about the non-stop feeding, which is how some spouses show their affection? It used to be women cooking their mate’s favorite meal. Nowadays, more and more young men cook fancy meals with aplomb: as sexy as it is enticing. I know one young woman who said she would not learn how to cook on principle. So that she is forced to find a spouse who can.


Most of us begin our love journey longing for physical touch, which later becomes all about quality time

Most of us begin our love journey longing for physical touch, which later becomes all about quality time(Photo imaging: Parth Garg)


Love your whole family

Shah Rukh Khan in Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (1995). Need I say more? But this is a unique Indian love language. Remember those of us, both men and women who say, “Now her family gets along better with me.” Or, “Now his mom and I talk every day while he is clueless about his family’s happenings.” It is still true. We marry into each other’s families. It ain’t an individual proposition.

Love as a project

Are you one of those lovers who take on your partner as a project? You buy clothes for him? Or you make fitness concoctions for her? You encourage her to go on that protein diet. Or you make him go to the nutritionist? Your spouse or lover isn’t just a person. He or she is a project that consumes you.

The enabler

This species is rare, especially among men. I hate making generalisations based on gender but hey, correct me if I am wrong. Which among you enables your girlfriend or wife or lover to be the best they can be? To go out and win that contract or apply for that job? If you are a self-starting man, as many men of today’s generation are raised to be, you want to “support” your wife. But you expect her to figure out what she wants. Which most Indian women of a certain generation are not taught to do. So hey, if you are a man and can enable your wife, you are one in a million. If you are a woman that enables your man, just stop. Do for yourself what you have been doing for him.

The couple who don’t believe in quality time

Again I turn to the previous generation for examples. Most of our parents, even those who are busy with work and two careers, don’t believe in this whole notion of expressing love, let alone PDA (public display of affection). I know one aunty and uncle in Delhi. She is an ob-gyn in her ’70s, he retired from corporate life. She worked full time, raised the three kids, took care of in-laws. He did a little less with the kids, but took care of his in-laws too. They lived a life of duty, they quarrelled constantly, had very little in common and the notion of going out on a date night was anathema. As for quality time, it was all with family and a gaggle of relatives. I ask my mother-in-law and mother about this. But their notion of love is endurance not elegance. It is being the bedrock of relationships, not being surrounded by flowers.  

The sigh-producer

Most relationships, no matter how long or strong, force each person to change somehow. You know your spouse hates surprises and so you curb your spontaneity. You know your spouse likes order so you modify your messiness. But there are some lucky couples who allow each other to be themselves, warts and all. This isn’t so much out of overwhelming love.  It is more a matter of acceptance of chaos (and of people who are different). This is the type of spouse who lets you exhale. You come home and you don’t have to be “on.” Ever.

Do you like being touched, hugged and kissed constantly? I do. But I don’t know many people this way. Do you like gifts, thoughtful or just-like-that? Somehow that doesn’t do it for me. Do you like a foot massage when you come home or when watching TV? Do you require or demand quality time? I used to. Do you want compliments or give them as a show of love and respect? I do.  

What is your love language? Feeding? Jewellery? Gifts? Getting along with in-laws? Bickering with impunity? Or just being?

(This column addresses the issue of parenting our parents and other unique facets of This Indian Life and our culture. If you have stories about the weird and wonderful relationships that enrich or enervate your life, write in.)

This Indian Life appears every fortnight

From HT Brunch, Sept 15, 2019

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BRUNCH Updated: Sep 14, 2019 22:37 IST

Shoba Narayan


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