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Drowning In Love - A Valentines Month Reading List

5 books on big big love stories where love defined itself differently in different relationships.

Ishq comes in many shades and shapes kyunki intimacy is fluid. Kabhie sexual, kabhie emotional, kabhie super-intense and sometimes ekdum chill - the nature of a love story, tells us something about the essence of love. And often, love and desire meander, making their own paths, refusing to be boxed by what is ‘normal’ or even what is designated as ‘hatke’.’

Agents, here are some tales of big, big ishq narratives to bring tears to your eyes and open up your dil to see that love defines itself differently in different rishteys.

Amrita-Imroz: A Love Story

Author: Uma Trilok

‘Amrita-Imroz’ encapsulates the beautiful tale of deep and unconditional love in poet and writer Amrita Pritam’s life, beyond the norms of monogamy and even death. 

Pritam was married off young and had two children. She was also passionately in love with poet and lyricist Sahir Ludhianvi. Into this complex lattice of love, came Imroze, a painter, and 10 years her junior. While their age gap was prominent, it was the unique nature of their relationship that set it apart.

The pair never married, but lived together for over 40 years. Pritam wrote her beloved swan song, ‘Main tainu pher milaangi’ dedicated to Imroz. 

Romantic Encounters of A Sex Worker

Author: Nalini Jameela

This engaging memoir presents a fascinating story of the streets, the clients and life before and after the encounters. Jameel’s narrative brings to life an array of clients - landlords, forest officers, travelling salesmen, field hands, small-town lodge managers, police officers, supervisors and more, capturing humorously the pomposity, patronising behaviour and pettiness of her clients.

Filled with observations and anecdotes, this book overturns the moral binaries and assumptions about sex work, noting instead that sex workers have as much capacity for the deeply human experiences of romance, heartbreak and storytelling.


Authors: Nayantara Sahgal & EN Mangat Rai

Sahgal, a writer and political columnist, and Mangat Rao, a civil servant, were both married when they met. Their correspondence and growing love became an escape from their unhappy marriages, and a way to live and explore their most authentic selves. 

A study of tenderness and love in the turbulent political and personal times of a newly independent India, to read these letters is to discover that this relationship, as described by Sahgal, was “a revolution, not an affair.”

Sahgal eventually walked out of her marriage and lived with Mangat Rai for 14 years before marrying him in 1979.

It Does Not Die/Bengal Nights

Authors: Maitreyi Devi and Mirce Eliade

Eliade and Maitreyi met when she was 16.  Bengal Nights, Eliade’s semi-autobiographical tale is rooted in the colonial mindset of a European with fixed, even exotic ideas about India, sexuality and love, of which Maitreyi becomes a part.

Maitreyi’s response, written over 40 years later, is different. It describes an intense intimacy unfolding and finally succumbing to bitter  cultural differences. 

 These books portray just how much culture and race make a difference in even the same narrative. Their vastly different perspectives and accounts of a singular meeting point leave us wondering about how love and desire bear different meanings in different people’s minds.

A Handbook For My Lover 

Author: Rosalyn D’Mello

Unfolding over six years, this is a deeply sensuous affair between a young writer and her older lover, a photographer. 

While written as a handbook, it underlines the woman's demands and desires, her fantasies and eccentricities as she navigates their relationship without any destination in sight. 

This book is an exploration of a woman discovering her erotic inner self, even as she goes through messiness, rage and heartache. Playing with language and form, softening the notions of ‘absoluteness’ in love, D’Mello’s journey is a melding of pleasure and pain as she asks, ‘How do I arrive at my truth? How many layers must I undo until you can finally touch my core? Where must I begin?’

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