Feb 13, 2012

Love beyond age

Recently I read a book called “Almost Single”, where the protagonist is a single woman in her 30s. One of its quotes made me pause and think. “The older a man gets, the wider is his dating pool. Women, on the other hand, come with an expiry date label: ‘best before...’“Do women really come with a limited warranty? I tried to relate the quote to real life. Every year, as senior boys left college, girls’ options dwindled, while the guys continued to check out every fresh(wo)man. Similarly, older men often marry younger women, but the reverse is rarely seen. Is romance really off limits for older women? In real life I could find few examples, so I decided to try literature. Here are some December-May romances I unearthed.


The Greek goddess of love had many lovers, but Adonis is probably the most memorable. Aphrodite found him as a baby, and fell in love with him as a grown man. Though Adonis and Aphrodite were happy in love, this story did not end happy. Adonis was killed young by a boar.

Unlike Aphrodite, Jocasta could not find happiness with a younger man. When Oedipus was born, it was forecasted that he would kill his father and marry his mother. To avoid this fate, his parents ordered his execution. But the killer took pity on him and let him live. Oedipus later heard the prophecy and decided to leave his parents, not knowing they were adoptive. As fate would have it, he wound his way home and did exactly what the prophecy predicted. When people found out that Oedipus’s wife Jocasta was also his mother, he was blinded and exiled from the kingdom.


We all know that Shivaji once reduced Kamadev to ashes. What happened after that? Kamadev’s wife Rati pleaded with Shivaji and he was reborn as the son of Krishna and Rukmini. Pradhyumna was reared by his nurse Mayavati. Some obscure sources tell the story of how Mayavati fell in love with an adult Pradhyumna. Pradhyumna rejected her, claiming she was like his mother. But this mother had a happier ending than the ill fated Jocasta. Lord Krishna vouched for Mayavati, stating that she was actually his wife Rati, disguised as an old woman to deflect attention from her celestial beauty. Mayavati regained her original form and Pradhyumna happily accepted her.


Ganga was the stuff of legends in Ikshvaku dynasty. Shantanu’s ancestors proudly told of how their forefather Bhagirath had literally moved heaven and earth to bring this maiden to the planet. And when this very Ganga of legends sashayed into Shantanu’s life, he fell head over heels, not knowing that she was eons older than him. So much so that he could not object even when she serially drowned seven of their sons. But he would not let her drown the eighth child, after which Ganga left him!


In H. Rider Haggard’s novel “She” lives a mysterious sorceress called She. A motley crew of Englishmen accidentally land up at her door and are dazzled by her beauty and power. But for two millennia, She has been waiting for her past lover to reincarnate. She recognizes her past lover in Leo Vincey, a handsome traveler. She takes him to an underground volcano that gave her immortality. Unfortunately, the volcano backfires and takes her age away, leaving her like a shrunken old monkey. She dies and the volcano collapses around the travelers, who escape with difficulty.


At twenty, Aragorn fell in love with 2,700 years old Arwen. The most beautiful woman of middle earth gave little thought to this ordinary human. Until one day when a mature Aragorn walked to her under fragrant Elanor flowers and she was mesmerized. But Arwen’s father was adamant that he would give his daughter only to “the Lord of both North and South lands.” Turns out Aragorn is that prophesied lord, he only has to prove it through his awesome leadership! Arwen and Aragorn marry (after a little skirmish with the evil lord), and Arwen gave up her immortal life for a chance to die with Aragorn. (Lord of the Rings)


The lady with the most lyrical name on the list can be found in “The King of Elfland’s Daughter” by Alfred Dunsany. This ageless princess fell in love with mortal prince Alveric who managed to breach her magical world. She went with him to the human world, but failed to learn its ways. She soon returned to her sorrowing father. But there she missed her husband and son. Finally her father integrated Alveric’s lands into the magical world, and Lirazel got everything she loved.

Sleeping beauty

Aurora fell asleep at the age of fifteen, but the world moved on. When she was awoken by her prince, she was a full century older than him. The prince even wondered at her old fashioned dress. However, he was very polite, and “took care not to tell her that she was dressed like his great-grandmother”. Despite their generation gap, Sleeping Beauty and her prince lived happily ever after!

Juta Kamainen
The underappreciated trilogy called “His Dark Materials” is populated with long lived witches. Witches often fell in love with mortal men, but since men die very soon, it causes the witches great grief. Among many such love stories, the story of John and Juta stands out. John spurned Juta because he loved his estranged wife. He changed his identity, but Juta found him nonetheless. Seconds after John found his estranged son, Juta killed John.

It was refreshing to read these beautiful love stories. However, one disconcerting trend in these stories is that the women are always beautiful. It is almost as if their relationship depends on their retaining or reviving their beauty. If that is the case, then older women may still have a long way to go before the dating pool opens up to them. 

P.S. Chandramukhi of Devdas deserves a honorable mention, but I ran out of space. Published in the Kathmandu Post


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