I wonder, as always, at the beginning of February what it really means to love and to be loved. In today’s world of hyper connectivity and instant online love, is there really a ‘thing’ called love? Love in its purest form, without any adulteration and editing, existing around us? Is it the same globally, or is it different on every continent? Does it surpass all the limitations and boundaries of language, colour, religion, and/or culture? This four letter word has baffled us from time immemorial. Poets, artists, and writers have been intrigued and fascinated by it since the dawn of this civilisation. It has been the cause of many a war and peace treaty, too, and has served as the driving force behind many of the greatest achievements and feats of mankind. Scientists have tried to analyse it from all possible angles, but it still remains a mystery - so simple, yet so profound. All religions start and end with love. Everyone seeks it in some form or the other. Everyone needs it – and that I realised quite early on. All living organisms need a dose of this elusive love, to survive and to flourish. History is the witness. Growing up in India as a teenager, getting my overdose of Bollywood on a regular basis made me believe that love is all about looking into your beloved’s eyes, love-sick, singing, and dancing around the trees. The promise of candlelight dinners, beautiful bouquets, rainbow-colored balloons, heart-shaped candies, cuddly toys, poetry, sweet kisses, moonlight walks, sunset cocktails, and all those countless dreamy fluffy things. You fall in love with everyone, everything, the whole feeling of love. You are in a constant state of rapture, and you get heartbroken every so often. As a young girl, I was always falling in love, always in love with the feeling of love. But one day, you do actually fall in love, quite hopelessly. It becomes difficult to concentrate, and then love becomes a heaven and a hell of sorts...and it becomes your only saviour, too. I was an incurable romantic, and I still am to a large extent. Fast forward a few years, and I am a young woman who realises the package called love includes heartache and tears, too. I learn one has to make willing sacrifices along the way, let go of the ego, to grow up fast and overcome envy, jealousy, insecurities, and face one’s own big bad demons. As I got older, I realized love is a life-long journey and is directly proportional to one’s own true happiness, contentment, and peace. I realized how fortunate and blessed I was to find my soul mate. This is the person you meet that makes you feel a sense of total freedom to be just yourself. You can remain silent for hours together, feeling no need to talk. You know in your heart, mind, and soul that you have found a true friend and life partner. The journey of life seems easier, bearable, and less exhaustive because you have someone to share it with you. The joys and sorrows, ups and downs, highs and lows along the way keep you thoroughly amused and you laugh at yourself, at each other, and at this strange but exhilarating journey. You two have your personal jokes about life, words and the punchline are not needed anymore, just a fleeting glance and you get each other. It all somehow makes sense. Togetherness gradually becomes one-ness. Before you know it, you are suddenly a grownup - a worldly, wise, intelligent, resourceful, mature woman. Of course there are days when you want to hit someone in the head with a big piece of wood. Instead you mope around the house with messy hair, stretched-to-the-max pyjamas on, resembling a beggar. You may use bad and abusive language in frustration, and find faults with everything and everyone. You may have drunken daytime ramblings about the dire and sad state of this world, becoming a walking source of negativity with a grey cloud hanging over your head. There are even worse days when you are insensitive to everyone’s needs around you, and there are days when you desperately need to be left alone. Despite all this, you realise there is still someone who loves you, someone who gives you your space, who puts up with your numerous mood swings, who smiles amidst all the madness and chaos, and busies themselves with work while you are listening to your gloomy music with your head phones on. You thank your stars, and consider yourself the luckiest being alive on this planet. As you two spend more and more time together, you take on each other’s interests and likes. You find yourself trying new things, like listening to jazz or watching news for hours or playing the guitar. You taste vegemite and try to understand its lure, you try to understand a totally different culture, learn and understand the language of your partner’s parents, learn about their family’s religion. You realise you are changing, growing, becoming a better version of yourself. Making love also becomes a spiritual experience, intimacy takes another level of fulfilment - spiritually, emotionally, and intellectually. Of course, there are times when you two fight like cats and dogs and argue non-stop for the sake of it. You get enraged because you care enough for each other. You know in your heart of hearts that everything is going to be okay. You both hold power, the power to make each other a better person. You learn that acceptance is true romance. Romance is feeling accepted and loved, even when you are behaving horribly and unconventionally. You know that you have someone by our side when the whole world is sitting in the judgement seat. You let go of the desire to be in control, your desire to dominate. You are free of everything and you start seeing the bigger, more colorful, love-filled picture. You start accepting and loving yourself, too. Your love extends to everything and everyone around you. The decision to build a little nest with someone becomes easier and comes naturally to you, like a dream. Love teaches you how to be a parent, how to take care of little helpless, fragile beings. You become less selfish, more willing to sacrifice your own comfort so that your little miracles of love can flourish. You don’t mind sleepless nights and the total take-over of your lives by little tiny beings. There’s no greater joy than when your little miracles look at you with complete trust reflected in their big, twinkling, shiny eyes. You start to see beauty in everyone and everything, your definition of beauty becomes broader and broader. Somehow the world doesn’t seem such a gloomy place after all, and you see hope on the horizon for humankind. You start to fall in love over and over again, love becomes an all-consuming feeling and you have faith again in everything under the sun which seemed so doomed when love was a non-existent entity in your meaningless life. And that is why I am a believer in a thing called love.