On love, time, and my current obsession with Korean dramas

The most unbelievable thing happens when you least expect it.  I fell in love. 

It’s been a few months and I still can’t believe I am saying this. I fell in love. 

How could I, a mature woman inclined towards intellectual pursuits and obsessed with productivity, go down the slippery slope of love, an endeavor that makes unreasonable demands on your emotions and time? 

My head knew all this but my heart was taken.

In love with whom you ask? 

Not a person, but a thing. Actually a global phenomenon. 

I am not the only one. In fact I am quite late to the game, having resisted it for so long despite the tremendous pressure.

Want to know who has made my heart flutter and taken over my waking hours?

The culprit is Korean dramas

The first step is the hardest

For almost two decades I watched very little TV. At first, life got in the way – struggling with an unhappy marriage, moving back to India from the US, followed by a painful period of separation and then piecing together my life as a single parent had taken all my energy.

When things finally settled down, I found that my eyes, fatigued from sitting in front of a laptop all day, preferred to do other things – read a print book, go for a walk or have real-time face to face conversations. I preferred to watch movies in theaters because it involved an outing and was a different experience from one at home.

Then came Covid-19!

Everything switched indoors. Yet, I resisted the lure of passively watching a screen for hours, and switched to audiobooks instead. 

In mid-2022, I heard rave reviews for a new Korean show. I had resisted previous waves of recommendations for shows such as Crash Landing On You and Squid Game. Yet, this time I was unable to resist. 

Three very different individuals spoke excitedly about Extraordinary Attorney Woo, a show about a young woman attorney on the autism spectrum. Perhaps I was at a loose end or my determination was weak but I felt strangely drawn towards the premise. Having thoroughly enjoyed a wonderful Korean novel, Kim Jiyoung Born 1982, a must-read for women all over the world, I was keen to see how women in contemporary Korean society were represented on screen.

Just one episode, I promised myself. 

The slippery slope of infatuation

I watched an entire episode – One whole hour!! 

It drew me in effortlessly, the story and characters seemed true to life and invited me into the unfolding drama of their lives. Not bad, I thought to myself.

The next day I watched the second episode plus a little bit of the third one – don’t judge me, the preview was too riveting. Soon it was two episodes per day until it got to the weekend and I was done watching all sixteen episodes – in less than ten days!!

Was it binge watching? It was certainly an overdose. One that I thoroughly enjoyed.

The show is fabulous – I highly recommend it. I loved the story, the characters and of course, Korea itself. It felt great  to watch women playing powerful  roles. But it was also good acting and great storytelling. I can see why K-dramas enjoy global popularity!

And I finally understood the undeniable pressure to binge watch a show. But how could I come to this state?

Am I not a person who is focused, disciplined and always, always practices moderation? How could I slip into this time-sucking whirlpool of binge watching shows? Was I infatuated, afflicted with a strange condition or simply addicted?

There’s something about love

“It is by going down into the abyss that we recover the treasures of life. Where you stumble, there lies your treasure” ~ Joseph Campbell

It would be wrong of me to say that I have never been addicted. As a child I loved reading. Books were my happy place and an easy escape. I would read for hours oblivious to the time of day (or night). Life as an adult was more complicated. I did not have large swathes of time to devote to one solitary task but if I really wanted to, I could always room for what was important – a one-month residential yoga teacher training program, a weeklong detox retreat, an extra day added on to a  business trip.

As I look back on those carefully planned and well-deserved breaks from daily life, I now see a pattern. Each trip was a tiny attempt to put my needs at the top of a list where the must-do’s always won over nice-to-do items. Life as a single parent was demanding but if I truly put my mind to it, there were ways in which I could make space for myself and declare that my time could be deployed towards myself. And those small rebellions helped me breathe, survive and grow.

My life is very different now. With an empty nest and a career path that doesn’t hold as much fascination as it once did, I can choose what I do each day. I could fill it with things to do, learn, study. But I watch Korean shows on Netflix instead.

Not thrillers, fantasies or science fiction, but romance dramas. There is something particularly soothing about watching young people fall in love, tackle obstacles and misunderstandings until they find their happy ending. It doesn’t tax my brain. It fills it with happy hormones. I walk away with a big smile feeling rejuvenated, a small part of my cynical psyche repaired by simple moments of kindness and generosity that mark early courtship rituals.

Being open to love makes life bearable. 

Whether you love a person or a pet, a place or a sunset, a hobby or a sport – when the part of you that is open to possibilities is ignited, it generates a special feeling.

As I write this, I feel that familiar feeling of joy arise in me. It is the thrill of creation, not knowing what comes out from the minutes I spend writing at my desk. There’s a feeling of mild excitement and anticipation akin to the early emotions of love. 
I want to fully experience this moment but alas, I am pulled in another direction.

There is a new episode of Crash Course in Romance that I must watch. Right now!

Photo by Debby Hudson on Unsplash

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Ranjani Rao is a scientist by training, writer by avocation, originally from Mumbai, and a former resident of USA, who now lives in Singapore with her family. Ranjani Rao is the author of Rewriting My...