Like the rest of the country, I was heart-warmed by the gentleness of the narrative and performances in the movie Lunchbox last week. It has been crafted with such warmth, care and detail that it is matched only by its protagonist Ila’s preparation of the delightful meals that set the foundation for this unusual love-story. Much has been said in praise of the film itself and there is hardly any way in which I can possibly review this work of art as it demands a viewing. A relationship portrayed through the lives of Saajan Fernandes and Ila, who connect through a series of exchanged dialogues alone, never meeting each other through the course of the relationship. Though, theirs is a story of people brought together by fate, I was intrigued by other such scenarios in life, where people find solace and company without the presence of an actual person.
In the past decade or so, post the advent of the internet these anonymous relationships have been easy to forge and conduct. It became easier to connect with that best looking girl in your school, pursuing a masters degree across the globe who you never had the courage to even talk up in those days. (If things went well over the next year through chat conversations and phone calls, you could take the next step to holy matrimony.) It became easier to say things to strangers in chat rooms, that you’d never have revealed to you best friends. Easier to share your fears, dilemmas, and mistakes which had thus been the slaves of a few agony aunt columns in tabloids.
You could be proposed to on an email (if you were lucky) or could simply be staring at an ‘I Love You’ on your watsapp window, with emoticons added for effect. Long distance relationships, even marriages became viable over skype, facetime and such. Words replaced eye-contact, emoticons upgraded consistently to mimic facial expressions and heartbeats could be counted though the Last Seen on time on Watsapp as you waited in anticipation of your partner’s responses . In these carefully constructed relationships, everything could be curated and controlled much like our social network profile, we became a generation of Lovers Anonymous.
But I have wondered about this for a very long time- Can any of this replace an actual person? The good old-fashioned method of making eye-contact with someone across a crowded room and walking up to them for a conversation? Really finding out if there was any chemistry at all before we checked out their facebook profile? But life provides very little opportunity for such encounters and truth be told, most of us won’t take up the challenge in our social situations. Because chat windows/emails/letters provide the platform for dialogue unattached to social labels of age, marital or financial status and limitations of geographies.
Would Ila and Saajan ever have talked to each other if they met on the Mumbai local? Would they have connected through the emptiness of their eyes and exchanged their fears and hopes if not for the solace that anonymity provided? Probably not.