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Why The Touching True Story Behind 'Love Is...' Comic Strip Should Inspire Indians

14/02/2016 7:58 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:26 AM IST
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A pretty young girl stares at the eyes of a smart young man stands close to her.

One of the earliest comic strips that I remember seeing in the newspapers, alongside Garfield, Peanuts and Hagar the Horrible was an innocuous single panel called "Love is". It always began the same way. The words "Love is" would be written on the top corner followed by a drawing of a sweet childish couple and the end of the phrase at the bottom. I am sure many of you have seen it too.

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Image Source: LoveIsComix

Seems like a one-trick pony, doesn't it?

I mean, how long could you possibly keep completing the phrase "Love is", right? Well, a lot more than you can imagine. You see, the "Love is" strip has in fact been in print since January 1970.

But do you know the love story behind these cartoon strips is just as inspiring as their sweet words?

When Kim married Roberto in 1971, he asked her what she wanted from him... She told him "Whatever you do, don't die on me.

As a teenager, New Zealander Kim Grove used to draw these cartoon figures based on love letters she had written... to a husband she had not even met! When she did meet the love of her life in 1967, Italian Roberto Casali proved to be the perfect inspiration, encouraging her to consider a wider audience for the cute cartoons she drew at the end of their love letters.

The comic strip achieved almost instant international success, thanks in no small measure to the release of the iconic 1970 movie Love Story, at roughly the same time. Though there was no relation between the comic and the movie, the theme of love and its many hues made a mark on hearts in love across the world.

Now here is where fate played its hand, deriving its own cruel inspiration from the above mentioned movie. When Kim married Roberto in 1971, he asked her what she wanted from him. With the memory of her late father in her mind, she told him "Whatever you do, don't die on me."

Four years later, Robert was diagnosed with late stage testicular cancer. Less than a year later, at the age of 31, he passed away.

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Image Source: LoveIsComix

But even death is not the end of this love story.

Four months before his death, when Robert asked her what she wanted for Christmas, Kim told him that she did not want diamonds from him but did want another baby.

In July 1977, 16 months after Robert passed away, the 'miracle' child, Milo Roberto was born... the couple had stored Roberto's sperm in a sperm bank.

In July 1977, 16 months after Robert passed away, the 'miracle' child, Milo Roberto was born to her. Knowing that they had very little time left, the couple had stored Roberto's sperm in a sperm bank before he died. With the aid of artificial insemination, Roberto Casali became a father more than a year after his death.

Kim's actions were met with anger by those in power, with even the Vatican condemning her act of having her husband's child after he was dead. Lawyers and barristers screamed foul, claiming that her child had no right to her husband's inheritance and actually demanded that Parliament decide the future of her baby.

With both religion and the law spewing condemnation, this single mother of three would find courage not just from her love for her late husband but from a source she herself perhaps did not anticipate -- the thousands of letters of support from people she had never met but who had been inspired to love via her comic.

Kim had this to say:

"Milo is here because of the love of his mother and father. If that is judged wrong, the world has lost its sense of proportion."

Eventually, the church and the lawyers had no other option than to leave her alone as even they -- the final authorities on all matters, social and religious -- simply could not compete with the power of love, both within her and the public.

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Image Source: LoveIsComix

Kim never married again, devoting her life to looking after her family till she passed away in 1997. To this day, her comic strip, "Love is..." appears in over two dozen languages across thousands of newspapers, spreading a message of love that originated from a young girl's love letters in 1967.

Today, artificial insemination is considered routine. But back in her day, Kim had to go against the government and religious heads for what she did.

Today, artificial insemination is considered routine. But back in her day, Kim had to go against the government and religious heads for what she did. She stood her ground against tremendous odds and fought for the one thing she believed in - her love for her husband and their dream of having another child. There is an obvious lesson in there for us too.

You and I live in a world that has seen 41 summers since Kim asked her husband for another child. We live in a country that knows to fly rockets into space but still does not know how to respond to people in love. We discuss hatred and bigotry openly at the dining table but love is frowned upon.

We find endless reasons to prevent that emotion from even developing: caste, creed, religious ideology, cultural differences, gender, bank balance, too young, too old, eating habits, height, weight, even the alignment of planets billions of miles away at the moment we were born. The simple fact is that none of this will matter unless there is love and respect in the relationship. It is not a Western thought, it is just simple logic.

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Image Source: LoveIsComix

Love.

In that one word, even without me having to say anything more, you have already revisited memories of your life. They maybe sweet or bitter; they may bring a smile on your face or place a weight upon your heart, depending on the final outcome. But I always believe it is not the destination that matters but the journey; not whether there was a happily ever after but whether your heart has been lucky to experience the magic of love.

We live in a country that knows to fly rockets into space but still does not know how to respond to people in love.

Celebrate your love this year rather than sitting in fear of what the world or fanatics think.

If your past experiences have been bitter, take it as a lesson learned and open your heart once more.

Someone, somewhere is waiting to fall in love with you.

Couples in love, take the time out to think of how you will surprise your loved one and make him/her feel special... at least for the 24 hours of Valentine's Day, if not the whole year! Because when the journey is over, you will find that the moments you were happiest in life were when you were truly in love.

Be remembered for the love you inspire in others.

Happy Valentine's Day, India.

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Image Source: LoveIsComix

The above article can also be found at Godyears.

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