Are we living in the times of dangerous dark love? This is where one of the most fascinating discussions of our Women Writers Festival went. Love, sex aur dhokha all made it to the table in the discussion on what romantic writing in India is exploring. And perhaps pushing boundaries with. What’s the romance India story? In a panel that had some of the country’s top publishers and authors writing on love and relationships, a few questions were asked many times. Is love the same as lust? Do you need to love and lust after the same person? How is the Indian reader of romance changing? Do they have the guts to take it volatile and sublime relationship putting the lids on happily ever after?

I think love, sex,marriages are totally different and unrelated concepts – Shuchi Kalra

What is love?

Bhavna Arora said, “Now things have changed a great deal. Women want affirmation from the men and men are trying to prove their masculinity.” She added, “It’s important that women are clear about what their priorities are.” She cites a person example about her break up with a guy and how he dumped her. “I was low until a week later my mom came and asked me ‘tum pappi le rahee thee don’t say mazaa nahi aa raha the.” She said that made her sit up and think. “We do need to put ourselves ahead of others in our love relationships.”

Shuchi Kalra says, “our expectations from love are very lofty based on what we see in films and in reality.” The good thing about writing is, she adds, the protagonists are evolving. “The guy is not the be all and end all of everything.”

Vaishali Mathur, an editor at Penguin India, has seen the transformation of writings on love. Many are writing dark and complex love stories, but how are publishers approaching it? “When I started some ten years ago, there was an exploration of love happening through books. There was romantic ideal love and forever after literature coming in.” She adds although there is a lot about love that’s in the public domain and the internet, “there is a question for the love coming back and people want to go back to that ideal world.” Perhaps the foundations have not changed of what people expect from love?

“I am the oldest in this group, and I am a die hard romantic. Coming from that perspective, I feel the way love is portrayed in contemporary fiction, it can be romance or a much darker story within in, just as it is in love,” says Aditi Mathur.

“I am the terrible person who married her first boyfriend,” she starts by saying about her writings in love. “With Saving Maya I am exploring that people don’t have to be in unhappy marriages. And that they can still find more love and happy marriages later in life.” She asks “What is love, it’s just a validation of one form from someone else’s eyes.”

I feel the way love is portrayed in contemporary fiction, it can be romance or a much darker story within in, just as it is in love – Aditi Mathur

Has love been replaced by lust?

“I think love, sex,marriages are totally different and unrelated concepts,” says Shuchi. “But we expect all three from the same person.” When it comes to romantic love, the lines between lust and love are totally blurred. For those speed dating, love and lust are different things. For some flesh to flesh is fine without love and for others they can’t have a physical relationship without love.”

Another perspective came from Bhavna Arora, “there are people who are segregating those two terms. If you can’t have sugar, who is stopping you from salt? So you can’t find love, who is stopping from finding lust?”

Romance India: Are we living in the times of dangerous dark love? – A panel writers and publishers look at India through what its reading

You must lust after somebody, then how will you find a deeper relationship says Vaishali. “Lust holds love together.”

Questions came from the audience about romance India, internet dating and relationships. “We are evolving as a society. It’s a slow process but it’s going to be so for sometime,” said Bhavna. “Don’t stress about it, but be careful.”

Is Happily Ever After Over?

“There is nothing like happily ever after, there is only happily right now,” quips Kiran Manral. “The thing is two people in love are most likely to work at it for the happily ever after,” Aditi Mathur gives her perspective.

“We say that in all marriages, happily ever after. But all those who are married know what it is like.”

Email us at connect@shethepeople.tv