Profiles, Christian Jaeger
By: Christian Jaeger
GianCarlo and I met at an OTC meeting in early February. His calm energy drew me in, but it was his warmth that permitted me to stay. For the “Chaos” issue, Gian wanted to include the subgenre of “Love,” either in an interview, a story, or prose. My curiosity on the topic, and familiar, laid-back vibe interested Gian; he suggested sitting down one night to discuss the broad subject.
I was unsure of what to think, but I was fascinated by love and glad to know someone else was too. The grand discussion took place in his Allston apartment—a step up from the stereotypical “Allston crawl.” Gian was excited to bond with unfamiliar members of Off The Cuff; it was there that I met Saumya Chugh, a fellow OTC member. We came as peers—
strangers, even—but left as friends.
In a multiple-hour conversation, we would pick apart the concept of “Love,” analyzing both knowledge and experience to try and capture a mere fraction of the enormous topic. Each with their own take, we would share, compare, and leave agreeing on one thing: three strangers, sitting down, talking about love, is most certainly love itself.
GianCarlo Lobo, 20, from Sausalito, CA, has some opinions about love. His cool, Californian nature seems fitting for his curious personality, open-mindedness, and search for the bigger picture. In his Allston apartment, filled with photographs from his worldwide travels, we sat, unprepared for the candid magic that would emerge. Our topic: love.
Before we even began our conversation, I could sense an evident passion for photography and appreciation of travel. Four black-and-white photos rested on the wall of the living room: a street scene in Berlin; a girl on a train in Hong Kong; a hotel lobby in Suzhou, China; and a couple cliff-jumping in Yosemite.
When asked what the word “love” meant to him, the artist described a perfect Thursday night: escaping the cold weather in a warm restaurant, eating soup noodles, and listening to music. No talk of soulmates. No puppies. Just warmth, music, and noodles.
“No moment is ever above another moment,” Lobo said. “Every moment should be cared for with love.”
His words reflect his photography, each image a moment in time that will never happen again. Besides, life is just a series of images—rather, memories—equally deserving of love and the click of a camera.
We began to discuss self-image and how we’d want to be remembered on this Earth. Mentally debating the concept, Lobo agreed that he cares about a loving self-image; however, it was evident that image and love are two separate entities to him, a refreshing take in a society where image can lead to worrisome and overwhelming feelings.
“You’re never finding love or faking love—it’s just there,” he said. “You’re releasing it.”
With 20 years in the game, Lobo is aware of the man who he strives to be, loving naturally and living genuinely. Teenage years, however, were a different story. Friendships came and went, discouraging the teen; social climbing and the cliquishness of high school allowed image to surpass inner love, an unfortunate but common trend among young people.
“‘Are these people temporary or are they permanent?’” he recalled thinking. “I didn’t know what the point was to make friends—something in your life that may not be permanent.”
Today, Lobo has done a 180 in terms of his attitude: “If you’re my friend now, you’re fucking staying my friend.”
He’s begun setting the example he wishes to see, from acknowledging all familiar faces on the street to sitting down with a complete stranger—myself—to talk. Point of story: there is always love to be spread.
“One of the most chaotic things about love for me is having that balance between being fully immersed in it and knowing there’s a risk of being hurt,” Lobo said.
His words bleed both the beauty and devastation of love; it truly is a force of chaos.
A bizarre circumstance: “I’ve never been in love, but I’ve experienced true love.”
Only a few years ago, Lobo lost a brother-figure, whom he refers to as his “true love.” The death rattled Lobo, easily explaining his interest and complex views on the subjects of life and love.
In regards to relationships and dating, Lobo has never been in love; he proves that dating is not directly correlated to falling in love, another view often misconstrued by society.
He even gave an unusual, thought-provoking answer when asked how food and love were related.
“Food is love, but it’s also a distraction for love when love is not going well,” Lobo said, flipping the simple question on its head. “My guilty love is my late-night food: microwavable chicken nuggets.”
No response from this artist was simple—in fact, the exact opposite was true, and I was eager to find out where this complexity stemmed from.
“I think philosophically about everything,” he answered.
“Overthinking” would be an understatement. Rather, a force hinders his decision-making and, at times, controls his life. It’s hard for Lobo to make decisions without hearing a variety of mantras playing in his head.
“LITTLE BIG, BIG LITTLE, LITTLE LITTLE, BIG BIG,” “NOTHING’S PERFECT, YOU’RE ALWAYS GROWING, SUFFER SUFFER SUFFER,” repeating “HUMAN PHILOSOPHICAL” five times over again, using numerals to rate the productivity of his day—these are just some of the phrases and patterns ingrained in his mind and daily behavior.
“I’m trying to cut down on the compulsive thinking,” he said. “I need to focus more on the love.”
Rather than shutting down, keeping quiet, and isolating himself, he embraces the inner chaos, sharing it with friends and turning it into love. After all, we must communicate with one another. How else could we possibly get through life’s most chaotic moments and episodes?
“If you really do only live once, then you need to live every single moment,” he shared. “That’s the thing though: if you overthink it, you can’t live it. It’s always a balance.”
It was difficult for Saumya to keep friendships when her family would take off on their almost annual move. Love seemed so far away when her new bonds were so regularly broken.
Saumya Chugh, 20, from New Delhi, India, has some interesting takes on love.
Growing up in a family with work that required frequent relocation, Chugh had a unique childhood filled with constant movement and come-and-go relationships; Boston was her 18th estimated move. The many moves led to damaged emotion and broken friendships—polar opposites of love.
“In the beginning, it brought a lot of hate—self-hate,” Chugh said. “Whenever I created connections with people, I would always move, and it felt like they were being ripped away. It’s like negative love was happening.”
Finally, when she was a late teenager, she could understand what the moves had done to her and what lessons there were to be learned. She even began to appreciate it; she began to see the love.
To Chugh, love means “mutual respect.” This characteristic is seen in the relationships with her boyfriend, her family, and her friends; however, love is lacking in some areas of her life.
With pressure at home, Chugh needs a positive escape from all of the negative spaces in her life; she turns to her boyfriend and best friend, two fellow college students, when in need.
“There’s still love,” she said. “I make it work.”
“Mutual respect” became a definitive part of love when Chugh began dating her first and current boyfriend, Sameer Hiremath. The couple has a rare story: they had an instant connection on their first date—the first time they’d ever met—and were officially going out by the second.
“It was really fast, but it felt right,” she said.
Chugh even compares the quickness of her relationship to an arranged marriage, a familiar tradition in her Indian culture.
“In American civilization, the perspective of love is that you get a piping hot bowl of soup and your goal is to keep it hot for as long as possible,” Chugh said. “In India, you get cold soup and warm it over time.”
Chugh seems to highlight and defend the famous tradition. Divorce is also less common in South Asian cultures, encouraging couples to work through their problems.
Chugh and Hiremath have been together for almost two years now. Incredibly, they’ve never had a fight.
“We have not fought once in the two years that we’ve dated,” she said. “We’ve had conversations about disagreements, but we’ve never raised our voices; we’ve never gotten angry at each other.”
Either they both hit the jackpot, or they know something that many couples nationwide and globally do not.
Chugh’s chill energy and creative individualism allows her to view all of life’s possibilities as positive experiences.
“We were both into the idea of seeing where it goes, and being open to having it fail or succeed,” she said. “We both have mutual respect and we’re willing to put in the effort.”
Though Chugh is currently in love, that doesn’t eliminate the potential for future chaos driven by love. Besides, something as chaotic as love can turn an ordinary life into a living heaven or hell.