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Romantically challenged
Finding the courage to love and love again

By Ali Khalili
April 23, 2002
The Iranian

I was kicking around the soccer pitch yesterday at a local park with a bunch of friends. I turned around and looked at the most awesome sight in quite some time. It wasn't anything new. I had seen people like that before, but being swamped with work and studies and other activities I have embarked upon and feeling a bit dejected and confused lately, it caught my eyes.

There was a girl, with a beautiful face but disabled and there was her husband or boyfriend or whatever right next to her, helping her out of the car, changing her ordinary wheelchair to a racing wheelchair and setting her up to go for her ride around the park.

I was left in awe, not just by her amazing courage to do what so many enabled people don't even bother to do, but more by his amazing love for her. The love seemed surreal, out of this world, unusual, as if it was untouched by the many of the strings and strains of everyday life, the kind of love I once dreamed about when I was in high school.

I have always been mesmerized with the concept of love. Partly because I have never encountered the kind I wished for and partly because I am not the greatest at all the games that are played in various cultures to get to it. I have always found it intriguing and judging by how much literature there is out there on it, I guess I am not the only one.

But isn't it funny that so many writers and philosophers later, love is still the most complex, unpredictable and challenging part in life? At first sight, it all seems so sweat and gentle, until you are bit by its rough sides and experience its rougher edges and then you realize that it can be the most dangerous and at times, emotionally draining experience of your life.

I still recall my few encounters with cupid and the pain and agony I suffered. In my university days, attending my school which at the time had very few Iranians meant that love had to be "farangi". But loving a farangi was always difficult. The emotional incompatibilities and different standards that different cultures judge the other person in, more often than not meant that seemingly good friendships could never lead up to anything.

Off course, the one and a half experience of my college days, led to more reflecting and pondering than anything else. So, by the end of school I had arrived at my first formal conclusion on love: no more farangi love! But what totally changed my view of love was the encounters of other people I knew with cupid and the way it seems that the whole world or at least the world that matters to a person, treats them based on the end result of their encounters.

I have had many a friend or acquaintance, crying about their failures in love and speaking about the pains they felt when the person they loved so dearly, left them in the cold. I have had to endure listening to people (both Iranian and non) who judge an entire family or household or an individual person on the basis of failed relationships. I have seen many friends and acquaintance taking a lot of flack for their failures and others taking a lot of credit for their successes.

I have seen people telling me about their loves, only to fall in love with another person days or weeks or months later, reminding me of that line in that famous Persian song "Khodaaye Asemoonaa" which goes something like "Eshghi ke emrooz taa farda bemoone too ghalbaa bemoone, peydaa nemeeshe". I have seen women falling on doctor's and dentist's feet and girls who speak of the importance of love, forgetting all about it when the zeros in front of the $ increase. And I have seen guys, who just change when they encounter a rich girl.

I have seen romantic love affairs that have ended up in one of the two eventually having an affair and leaving the much talked about relationship with another person and I have seen some simple arranged marriages (arranged to a degree of course), succeed in ways one could never imagine.

Ironically, my post college years thus far have been more or less taken by watching others play the game, more than myself ever daring to try again. And to this date, aside from being crippled by geography, I have found the most daunting task is finding the courage to love and love again, to find the courage to enter in a journey that so often has tricky and unforgiving corners, turns and twists.

Looking at the disabled girl and her love and the sheer simplicity of their world, I sighed in relief. At last, I have once again seen a love so simple, so pure, in so long!

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