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What’s age got to do with it?

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Sachin Tendulkar and AnjaliDoes age really have anything to do with the way or with whom people fall in love?

Scientists have definitely played spoilsport with love, taking all romantic notions and dashing them on the shores of rationality and reason. We’ve always believed that the human heart was the epicenter of love. Songs have been written, ballads rendered, odes sung to the human heart. The source of all-powerful and most endearing of all human emotions—love. Or so we were naive enough to believe.

Recent research has proven otherwise. Falling in love, and love itself, has something to do with chemicals, yes, chemicals, in the human body. Researchers may have desensitized love, but looking around at the scores of couples ‘in love’, it’s still possible to be romantic about romance. Though it also makes us wonder really hard at what it takes to make certain marriages and relationships tick while others look doomed from the start. Is it similar professions, upbringing, the same age, or what is the perfect age difference between couples?

Does age really have anything to do with the way or with whom people fall in love? Take Hollywood actress Catherine Zeta Jones and her beau, fellow actor Michael Douglas. There’s over two decades between them, but do they care? Apparently not, judging from the reports of their sizzling romance and a marriage that has been stable so far. Could the big age gap be a bad omen? We’ll probably know in a few years from now. But for now, age is certainly not a constraint for the couple. Indian society has traditionally favored an older man-younger woman marriage.

In 18th century Bengali society for example, it was almost customary to wed young girls to men who were not just elder, but older by decades. Modern Indian society too favors an older man-younger woman marriage. Maybe it’s a hangover from the past, a feeling that a mature, well-settled man can ‘take care’ of home and hearth. But remember another celebrity marriage which had the makings of a perfect fairy tale and caught the world’s fancy two decades ago? The marriage certainly had all the trapping to make it one for keeps. The man was certainly older and mature, a prince to boot, in comparison to his blushing not-quite-20 bride.

Also of royal blood, but soon to be crowned the Princess of Wales - Diana and Prince Charles. This is one marriage where lots of things went very wrong from early on.

Though still not considered the norm, couples are breaking the age barrier and falling in love. Amrita Singh and Saif Ali Khan did it years back. Theatre and ad man Alyque Padamsee’s first wife, the late Raell Padamsee, was several years elder to him. The maverick Padamsee actually left home to be with his wife. Sachin Tendulkar and his wife Anjali are a more recent example.

Ordinary folks are doing it too. Most still don’t want to talk openly about it, but they have no regrets either. Take Vibha and Ashok Singh, a couple who work at a foreign bank. They met at the workplace and fell in love. “Actually, at first we just hung out with a group of colleagues. That’s how we got to know each other,” says Ashok who is almost four years younger to his spouse. “Since we were good friends, the age difference between us really never came up. We were just two people who were good friends. In fact, it was some time before I knew that I was younger to Vibha,” he says. “When we decided to marry, our families were initially concerned about the age difference between us,” says Vibha. But she admits that was settled once each family got to know the other. “Age didn’t matter to us then, and it doesn’t now,” says Vibha after almost five years of marriage.

Another much older couple, is Arjun and Arti Khanna. Arjun is a businessman, while wife Arti stays at home and keeps busy with her friends. The Khannas have two grown up children. “Arti is two years elder to me, and when we were married it was a big deal,” reminisces Arjun. “Probably things would have been easier now,” he says. The Khannas met through common family friends. “We were attracted to each other and actually got many chances to be together since our families knew a lot of the same people. When we decided to marry, our families were very distressed,” says Arti.

When the two finally married, most of their families stayed away. “Of course that was a long time ago and things have changed since then,” she adds. Both Arti and Arjun shrug away the age factor. “It made no difference to us all these years,” says Arjun.

What is age after all? A measurement of time perhaps, of our years on the planet. And love may be all about some unromantic mundane chemicals in the human body. But it is undoubtedly also above things as trifle as age. That’s one thing no amount of research can take from us, chemicals or no chemicals.

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