Pramod Muthalik has said that he opposes Valentine’s Day because, among other things, it is about lust, not about love.

To begin with, if exchanging cards and roses is a sign of lust to Muthalik, all I can say is that this man has had a very, very sad life! He needs help. And I don’t mean in his chaddi-retailing business.

But even if it is about lust, so what?

I think lust is good. I also think love is a tad overrated. Just a tad, mind you.

Why is lust seen as something undesirable? I mean, ‘only love’ is fine when it comes to parents, siblings, friends, offspring, pets, friends, abstract concepts, mathematics, art, vada-pav – you get the gist.

But when it comes to the real thing, isn’t it actually lust that makes the world go ‘round? Isn’t it really lust that kick-starts love?

There are many myths about love. That could be because no one can really define, or even describe, love. Many, it seems, don’t know or realise what love is – but in the same breath will tell you that they are, or at some point have been, in love. On the other hand, lust is so much more, well, tangible. Everyone knows and realises what lust is. It’s kind of difficult not to.

So what are the myths? Let’s start with the most enduring one – that love endures, while lust is fleeting. Complete drivel. Let me stand that question on its head. Without lust, can love endure without degenerating into glorified companionship? And, allow me to add, by the time lust stops to matter, I am sure love does as well. Then, all that one craves is company – any company, comfort and care. And a safe distance from incontinence.

There’s also this whole thing about true love (as opposed to the false variety!) not asking anything in return, being unselfish, putting the other person first. Isn’t that exactly what a traditional Indian housewife does, or is supposed to do? Is that true love? Because if it is, I know most women would not want love! And – be truthful now – how many of us are truly unselfish, not asking anything in return, and putting the other person first? Not too many, I’d wager.

This is not to knock love off its lofty pedestal. It’s just to point out that regardless of which one comes first, or which one outlasts the other, for most of our lives, love and lust go hand in hand. And my submission is that both, lust without love as well as love without lust, are necessarily transient and incomplete experiences. For anything less fleeting and more fulfilling, both need to co-exist. So perhaps it’s time to stop not just trashing lust, but also lauding love at its expense.

Besides, does ‘pure’ love, as glorified by the scriptures, literature and the religiously orthodox, exist? Or is it just a pleasant, companionable feeling in the head, initiated by a chemical reaction and sustained by a biological urge?

Do tell.

Remember when you were young…….and train journeys in most parts of India meant you saw this ubiquitous ad by the tracks everywhere: “Rishte hi rishte. Milen Prof Arora 28 Ragairpura, Karol Bagh, Nai Dilli…”

Remember the matrimonial ads in the newspapers: ‘….wanted suitable decent match for 19, 150 cms, tall, fair, milky-white gori, convent-educated, homely, comely, status family girl father having own house in South Delhi…..’? Or the slightly edgier ones, but as hilarious nonetheless: ‘Wanted suitable match for 27, innocent divorcee, sharp features……..’ Innocent? What does that mean? That they didn’t get past second base?

Well, how times have changed! Here’s an interesting picture, clicked by Mid-Day reader R Sridevi, that appeared in the Mumbai Mid-Day on Saturday.

Photograph by R Sridevi, from Mid-Day Mumbai

I wonder how this works. Do they teach people how to fall in love and then get married? Do they do the Indian version of a ‘dating game’, with all the various kinds of Aunties as chaperones? Do they match ‘attributes’? Shouldn’t their slogan be “Come fall in love…..with someone in our database!”? Have they dispensed with horoscopes? How the eff does one facilitate a ‘love marriage’? If indeed they fix you up with someone, can it still be called a ‘love marriage”? Or is this ad meant for the intrepid couple that, in the face of all kinds of opposition, elopes? Do these guys specialise in weddings for eloped (and on-the-run) lovers? All of the above? Some of the above? None of the above?

People?