I think I can trace it all back to 1992.
Like a lot of you, I think my first glimpse of real TRU LUV was the romance between Aamir Khan and Ayesha Jhulka in Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikander. We didn’t speak Hindi at home being a weirdly all-over-the-place Indian family whose only common language was English, and I didn’t have very much in common with any of the characters, but Pehla Nasha (which I am playing again right now as I’m writing the story) still elicits in me this feeling of great, growing excitement, butterflies in my tummy, and the innocence of first love. How adorable is Aamir Khan flinging his 90s pattern sweater around? I was 11 when the movie released, and for me it promised a glittering shining adulthood: love would conquer all, a man would skip through tea plantations because I loved him, and all would come right in the end.
This was also the same year that I became fully cognizant of The Sound Of Music. I loved that movie for the middle bits—the bits between the nunnery and the Nazi shadowed romance—the bits where she makes clothes out of curtains and they all sing Do A Deer. 1992 or thereabouts, was when I began to stop drumming my heels waiting for High On A Hill Was A Lonely Goatherd and pay attention to the romance between Maria and Captain Von Trapp. Sure, even my young mind could fathom the romance between Liesl and Rolfe, but Liesl was the silly character, a side-note to make the film’s interludes more entertaining. I took her sixteen-year-old love affair as seriously then as I would at any other age but when I was sixteen, rolled my eyes, and enjoyed the song. However, Maria and Captain Von Trapp, now there was a romance. The beautiful Baronness sent packing, the children who finally had a mother to “manage” them, all that sounds very prosaic, but they too got one song, set in the same gazebo as the younger lovers, but this love was true and mature, and he cups her face as they sing to each other. Love will conquer all, even the Nazis.
Maybe I’d be a different person today if I had grown up on a diet of cartoons or Star Wars or something. But these were the 80s and the 90s, even our Disney movies had romance in them: deep, lasting romance, romance that was the reason for people doing things. We tended to watch movies with songs in them—blame Bollywood—and all the songs featured pyaar in some sort or the other. In 1995, Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge released, and with it, that other song of yearning: Mere Khwabo Mein Jo Aaye. The man who comes into my dreams. I was 14 by then, and that movie was all it took to urge me closer to wanting the kind of love I had been watching. I dreamed about various floppy haired boys in my class, doodled their names up and down the pads we kept next to the phone for taking down numbers, and hoped that every blank call was them declaring their love in a sort of silent love song.
And even as I grew, and became more aware of the different kind of love songs—both in movies and outside them—a little part of me stayed faithful to the Pehla Nasha school of thought. The first intoxication of love. Is that bad? No. I like that life still has the ability to give me butterflies just by the first chords of a movie soundtrack I was crazy about when I was young. I like that the butterflies represent romance, and even though I know that real movie-style romance doesn’t happen unless it’s scripted, my delight when my partner’s romantic move IRL pans out perfectly is totally dedicated to that preteen I used to be, all awkward angles and buck teeth.
I’m still thirty three going on sixteen.