Alysa wrote about her favorite love story of all time in a movie – Cyrano (I agree, the story is very romantic). There are so many love stories that picking one out from a Hollywood movie is difficult.
The one I would choose is one that is a love story about a child bride and her shy husband, both with eyes to see their future as a good thing, rather than one they inherited by accident. Their story is not seen as a love story when people hear it, but it is one of endurance, strength, dream sharing and surrender to the greater good of the world, not just their family.
It is the story of two kids from India, who then became British, and finally South Africans, when they decided to move back to India to step into their destiny.
Mohandas Gandhi is commonly known as Mahatma or "Great Soul", an honorific given before he left South Africa for India in 1914. In India they call him Bapu (Father), the honored Father of the Nation. October 2, his birthday is commemorated as a world-wide as the International Day of Non-Violence. You know what they say about all great men: behind every one of them is a woman…shaking her head and rolling her eyes; “Yeah, I know who you really are, dude.”
In May 1883, the 13-year-old Mohandas was married to 14-year-old Kasturba, in an arranged child marriage, something that was not uncommon in the Hindu culture at the time. In the process, he actually got behind in school, distracted by the ceremonies relating to marriage and family obligations of a husband.
"As we didn't know much about marriage,” Ghandi once said, “for us it meant only wearing new clothes, eating sweets and playing with relatives." However, as was prevailing tradition, the adolescent bride was to spend much time at her parents' house, and away from her husband. Their marriage was meant to begin when the family began to see attraction in either partner begin to blossom – for anyone.
In 1885, when Gandhi was 15, the couple's first child was born, but lived only a few days. The grief given to the young couple so early in their marriage was not a common one, even if child mortality rates were more prevalent then. Imagine losing your first child so early in your marriage. It caused a strain on the young couple, particularly because Mohandas’ father had also died earlier that year.
Not long after the Gandhis had another son, Harilal, Mohandas boarded a ship bound for England to study law. He followed in his father’s footsteps becoming a barrister, but leaving his bride to mother their child without him for quite awhile. Upon returning as a barrister, Mohandas found that his mother had died. He and his wife had three more children, and moved to South Africa, during the height of Apartheid.
In the movie Gandhi the unique story between this husband and wife, was one of self-sacrifice. I found it completely in the face of what we see as romance. In the movie, their eye contact was the substitute for the sex scenes… primarily because the Hindu see open displays of affection as obscene.
Much has been written about the Mahatma’s sexuality, especially in the west. All of the ones that have survived until today, kept in a family trust, are written in English, but filled with Indian idioms. Because of this, much has been misunderstood in translations. Recently, a deep friendship he had with Hermann Kallenbach, a German friend and business associate, was taken and distorted by a Western author, alluding that Gandhi was gay or bisexual. It’s enough to make you ask: was this love story really a love story? But it was. I have grown to realize that what people say about another couple outside of the marriage is speculation: especially a couple as private as the Gandhis.
Their story is particularly romantic for me because you could see the movement was a family one: to change a nation, it takes more than good ideas, it takes families working together against injustice. It begins with the team of husband and wife, standing together against adversity, usually at the cost of their freedoms, comfort and possibly even their family togetherness.
So many of us see romance as candlelight dinners, walks on the beach, love and sparkles in the eyes….great sex that follows. Real romance? Try fighting an unjust cause with your soul mate who regards you as a powerful equal. That is a true aphrodisiac…. Also, each partner may feel, at times, neglected by the other. Second, even, to the cause in front of them. A romance that endures is forgiving, patient, supportive through all of this. That is what makes true love be true love, as opposed to Hollywood’s version of it.
I look at these two kids, stuck together by culture and family, and see (at the end of their story) the love that lasted through decades of loneliness and change and discomfort. That is real love, and with it, at times, comes romance…not the other way around.