“For whom?” “For you and me. If you aren’t interested in gossip then what do we have?”
Last week, the psychologist Adam Grant wrote a piece in the New York Times, which made me sigh, take a karvat, and settle even more deeply into the state he described: languishing.
Languishing, Grant wrote, is that dull point in the spectrum of mental health, between flourishing and depression, where we feel meaningless, but not miserable—a condition the pandemic has put many in.
On Friday, I was catapulted out of languishing thanks to Lalit Modi’s announcement that he was in a relationship with Sushmita Sen. It was not yet 8 am, but time and tide wait for no manners. I called my friend S.
“You came to know now? He posted it last night!” scoffed S. “Well, I’m a little out of the gossip loop,” I defended. “Due to languishing.” Silence—which I misinterpreted as concern. S said coldly, “I’m not sure I see a future.” “For whom?” “For you and me. If you aren’t interested in gossip then what do we have?”
Lalit Modi, unlike S, sees a future. He announced—in all caps—that Sushmita Sen and he were in love. Marriage? Not yet, inshallah soon, and put it in his bio. Did Sushmita Sen see a future? I hunted for clues in her last post about planting seeds, in vain, until Instagram started showing me ads for planters.
Twitter revealed that SushLit (you read it here first) had brought Indians together, even if in federal formation. Indian Gents were aquiver. As soon as anyone gets a girlfriend, Indian Gents brim up with saat pushton ka resentment and misogyny yaniki why not me? “All girls are gold diggers” they were muttering, as if money was all that came between them and Sushmita Sen. Go make a reel bois.
Optimistic romantics were in full force. Frontline investigators who find old tweets for new memes had found Lalit Modi tweeting in 2013, “@thesushmitasen reply my sms.” People were now, hope dar badar, making the same appeal to Idris Elba, Shah Rukh Khan and Meenu of Gupta Coaching Evening batch. There was frolic and forgetfulness.
Someone said ewww, how could she, Lalit Modi is a sleazoid. But milaad, love is love whatever lines it wants to colour out of. Also, she can do what she wants (as she always, impressively, has).
Love and gossip go together like gin and tonic because they are both about the unexpected and the improbable made real. Romance has become about calculation and caution. Our utterances are politically correct, our photos filtered. Predictable, pre-approved matches abound—Janhavi Kapoor said Alia-Ranbir are #goals because it’s wholesome. If even our vicarious lives are going to be respectable, then yeh jeena bhi koi jeen hai, Lallu? What fun is a match that’s already fixed? (I understand this statement may not resonate for Lalit Modi). An unimagined combo is like pineapple pizza—a hit whether you hate it or love it. Is there anything more lively, more life-like than surprise? It suggests there is still much to discover in the world. And guilt-free gossip —not paparazzi scraps or PR plants—but served by (one of) the protagonists. Sush, though, was still shush #sorrynotsorry
Filled with purpose, I stalked her insta page until a cryptic post appeared. Unconditional love, no ring. No confirmations, un-clear clarifications. What could it possibly mean? I immediately dialled S. Life chalu hai.
Paromita Vohra is an award-winning Mumbai-based filmmaker, writer and curator working with fiction and non-fiction. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org