Agents of Ishq makes love problems of the past and present relatable.

Hookups and dating dilemmas in the time of Tamil Sangam PoetryAll images courtesy Agents of Ishq
news Sex and Love Friday, October 28, 2016 - 14:23

Did Netflix and chill really exist back in 300 BC? Commitment phobia? Being rudely woken up by the call of a rooster after a night of sex-fuelled passion? Tamil Sangam Poetry says it did. 

Agents of Ishq has created a post which looks at Tamil Sangam poetry with a contemporary dating framework to note that resonances between the two time periods and experiences.

Unlike the inhibitions of present day, we were apparently far more comfortable with eroticism way back then. And these bite-sized translations of Kurunthogai, a poetic work that deals with love and separation, and the second volume of an anthology titled Ettuthokai.

If you think your anxiety over a lover not seeing your text message is new, 7th Century CE reminds you that Kurunthogai No.27 is not far from that feeling.

A woman who misses her lover, pines for him, and shakes her head over the time wasted to reply to her pretty much nails the anxiety. These aren’t modern love problems – the only difference is there’s a mobile phone involved.

How about the uncomfortable middle ground between “friends with benefits” and “serious relationship? Turn to Smooth Operator (Kurunthogai -25) to relate. So, the next time you’re biting your nails over a man or woman’s commitment issues, you can trust the Sangam era to get your pain.

Agents of Ishq's Paromita Vohra collaborated with Chenthil Nathan, whose Twitter account Old Tamil Poetry is popular. Nathan chose the poems to translate, and set out the timeline and simple introduction to classical Tamil literature, as well as explained how metaphors of the time worked in the poems and so on. Vohra says it is as much about drawing parallels between experiences. “He chose the poems to translate and we created the post together,” she says.

The voluptuous women in the illustrations are the work of Somdutt Sarkar, who tweets at @bongbelly. The images are also 'traditional' with elements of technology in them (hence selfies, tinder on the cell phone, the laptop, the tattoo on the woman's breast saying Rahul etc.)


“A false polarity of desire being a western concept is sometimes created. Every culture has rich poetic erotic traditions - India's diverse cultures more so. We have a series called Pracheen Agents of Ishq which looks at this tradition and invites people to reconnect with desi expressions of desire as well as creativity,” says Paromita Vohra, creator of Agents of Ishq. 

And for the generation that’s wondering what Netflix and chill is, here’s an explainer.

You can find the full post at Agents of Ishq.

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