‘Love at first sight is a myth…’ said the tacky dressed late teen to her equally tacky dressed late teen friend in the crowded bus she was sitting in. How apt a statement to overhear today, she thought. And that started her off on one of those long “What must have gone wrong…” flashback sequences.
It was the 3rd of August 2010 and she had recently left an extremely well paid job to pursue an M.Tech. She belonged to that overcrowded non specific genre of professionals called engineers. On having joined a new college and hostel, she was shopping in the local market with her girlfriends. That was the first time she noticed him, particularly how tall he was. For most guys didn’t make it to her ‘noticeable’ list for being shorter than her. That’s when, Prerna, her newly found neighbour pointed out that he was an ex class mate at her coaching institute. Something about him kept her staring at the talking couple. He seemed carefree, like an innocent child, unaware of the world’s evils. His smile was devilishly handsome. And his hair, a thick mop of black wavy mass. He seemed to be the perfect portrait of the “Tall Dark and Handsome” prototype that they heard in stories, that rode on white horses, sweeping beautiful young princesses off into neverlands.
She was smart. One of those academic minded creatures that are placed one in a class of sixty, whose sole purpose in life seems to be to top in every subject thrown at them. He on the other hand was both smart and cool. He knew the subjects he liked and topping was never a desire. He had come to terms with the fact that creatures like ‘Her’ were omnipresent and he could reduce his work by a factor of ten by merely taking all her assignments in subjects of lesser relevance and reproducing them in his again devilishly beautiful handwriting. And thus, started a partnership of sorts. For her, it was a crush, a rare event in her busy uninteresting and monotonous pursuit for the 1st rank, for him, a source of easy grades. She was not ugly, but neither was she keen on dressing up and flaunting her looks. She was marginally fat, but could play and run more and faster than most girls of her age and profession. She did have fair skin and long black thick hair but she hid her large brown eyes behind unusually thick grandma style always ‘tedha’ spectacles and chose to wear clothes that seemed to be picked up from stores in 1980s. He on the other hand, as said before, was extremely good looking. With a body that spoke of high priced gym maintenance and clothes picked from the best possible sources available to the upper middleclass.
It all started when a nice cute guy, Sanjay, in her class found her alone in the library and mustering up courage enough to have sent him to the border to fight, asked her if she could help him and a couple of his friends out with ‘Signals and Systems’, a scary 3 credit course that gave you free round trips into N dimensions where you usually either slept off or never returned. She, not having been approached by any cute guys in 25 years ever for a dance, date or walk, thought, maybe teaching was all she could do and knowing that her latest crush used to hang round a lot with Sanjay, in hopes of seeing him more often, agreed to this unusual settlement. It became five of them, Prerna, Her, Sanjay, Rahul (cute and highly sarcastic guy) and Him.
They were a fun group. All five different, all five new to the place. They started hanging out together a lot. This gave Her a chance to flirt with Him. He was extremely good at all sports, and specifically passionate about cricket. Their entire batch was. He inevitably became the captain of their team. This said a lot about him. He could lead well. Smart and good looking with a penchant for winning, he could charm people easily. And he was a team player. A selfish team player if there could be one. She, on the other hand, loved to play but was a dunderhead in sports trivia, and cricket was not her forte. They did enjoy basketball together. Everyone told them, they had some rare chemistry that could be felt on the basketball field. They could read each others’ thoughts and would win any game if pitched together.
And so the partnership flourished. His boyish zeal to take over the world with his attitude and her super ambitious run to get the gold medal of the batch. They started working together on assignments, projects, home works. They played together, had meals together, studied together. She was head over heels in love with him. The attraction phase had definitely gone. She had found the one person to spend her life with, and all who knew her knew that. He on the other hand had no lack of beautiful proposals. He had been approached several times in the past few years by pretty accomplished single women to date. But he was straight forwardly Indian at heart where romance was involved. He found love to be a synonym for marriage. She texted him a lot, as he was introvert at a personal level and it was easier to get to know him through texts. They always met each other in company of their friends.
One day, he called her casually, and she found the courage to ask him to have dinner with her in the mess. She asked her friends, discreetly to leave after the dinner and invited him for a walk. That was a first in her ‘oh so unromantic’ life. A walk on a winter night, at eleven in a beautiful campus, with the guy she had a severe crush on. It was very special for her. And from that day on she started flirting seriously with him. She did all things out of character, went to cheer him for his badminton and cricket matches which she loathed seeing and considered a terrible waste of time, except that it gave her a chance to stare at him for hours without being called weird. She started wasting loads of mobile balance on talking to him on phone at nights. She started going for a lot of walks and pani puri visits outside campus, just to be with him. She lost all interest in anything vaguely academic. And finally after a semester of self doubts and inhibitions and sleepless nights and cyclic infinite thought cycles when she realized she was losing her mind, she finally blurted it out and proposed to him.
His reaction was phenomenal. He took her for a grocery shopping trip to the nearest extremely dirty and crowded market and talked of all the 4 ( to her infinite ) proposals he had had since school time. By the time they got back on campus, she was seriously reconsidering shifting him from the smart and attitude wala guys’ section to the extremely dumb and egocentric useless fellows’ category. The point He was trying to make was simple, that he took commitment seriously and flings were not an option. To Her at that moment, it seemed he was boasting and challenging her to win his affection.
Ideally, things should have cooled down a little then. He should have spent some serious moments thinking of his future and She should have been shrouded in a rug of extreme guilt and shame for having been stupid enough to ask. But, as you must have guessed by now, both were categorically weird. And so they continued their so called ‘friendship’, the bond grew stronger as everything hidden was now out. ‘He’ probably was trying to gauge the depth of her feelings and ‘She’ was just madly in love and insanely hopeful that things will work out. Time should have stopped then and destiny should have appeared before them to warn them of the disaster they were getting into. But it didn’t, and so, eventually, after tonnes of hours of hand holding and talking and speculating, he accepted her proposal and they started dating.
Well, dating is a term with a hell lot of definitions all around the world. To them it just meant a couple of good morning and good night texts, an occasional dinner at the local eateries and a walk. It was all very nice and simple when it was new. Gradually they made the mistake of involving their friends, assuming things were becoming obvious. But later, a couple of years later, they found out that no one was even vaguely considering the bizarre idea of the (greek godish) Him dating the (Oh so boring) Her. But as things stood, they became the one couple in their friend circle.
As always happens at least in Indian love stories, the romance started pretty strong with intense feelings on both sides. Initially, she didn’t act like a typical ‘Girlfriend’ demanding his time money or attention. And he acted uncharacteristically romantic, giving attention to her smallest desires, taking her out to places she loved and he loathed, doing everything to make her feel special. Somewhere, I believe these first few months were the beginning of the end. Two individuals, attempting to overcome their differences to make the other happy – Pretensions.
She started to grow more used to his attentiveness, her expectations rose. Her major drawback, and one she had openly confided in him was she was prone to clinical depression and OCD. Her excess intelligence also made her susceptible to unnecessarily complicated thought cycles that she had no power over. Most love stories have an element of physical attraction added to them and she, having been a social outcast all her life, was genuinely surprised at her giving into his romantic desires. They didn’t do it. Because they were strongly against premarital sex, but late night assignments and a beautiful campus did have them bend the rules a little. And somehow, those few moments played on her guilt complex and got her started on her depression pills. Thad did affect the relation. He was understanding, but her crying attacks left him feeling extremely uncomfortable.
But they got on with it, and the relationship survived. However, as happens with Indian males, and yes, I am generalizing, he started getting comfortable and used to the idea of having a girlfriend around and other things started finding his attention. He returned back to sports and cricket trivia and surprisingly, studies. More serious things in life started occupying his free time, like placements and thesis. And instead of taking her out or rather, as she always insisted, they earned the same measly stipend, going out with her, to restaurants and for walks, he preferred sitting at room and finishing projects or saving time for watching cricket matches. She, on the other hand, had started taking the relationship pretty seriously and was already making wedding plans. Having had done the stupidity of introducing him to half her family as her boyfriend, she was now frantic about making things work. And so she became a typical nagging, suspicious over enthusiastic ‘partner’.
And so they hit the rock bottom of their life together. The same movies that he used to love watching with her and the same theatres and bowling alleys became ‘a spoilt girls over priced lifestyle’ and the same restaurants became debate podiums. The walks became an overload of conversation and the romance turned boring. They were drifting apart, arguing without reason, attempting to hold onto something that was dying. He probably wanted to end it then and there, less than a year after it started. But he had promised himself that he would not have a relationship that didn’t end in marriage and so he was pushing. There were other things beside their difference that played in his head, the big one being her ethnicity. She was from a completely different caste and region with a completely different family background, and somehow he resented the fact that he had agreed to date her, so easily as on second thoughts, there was barely a chance of his family accepting her happily. It sounds weird, but yes, in this day and modern times, some Indian parents and communities do not allow inter caste marriages, in fact they oppose it so vehemently that life becomes a living hell for those who attempt it. And so, it died. The bond.
They missed the bond. In spite of being on the same campus, in the same group, emotionally they had drifted apart. He often wondered what made her resent the same cricket matches she once smiled watching him play for hours and she could not fathom when she stopped being his morning sunshine and night’s sparkle to a detestable weekly walk.
It was beautiful, while it lasted. It had passion without madness and romance without glamour. It had an honesty and simplicity that everyone around admired. But it died. And I, in all my philosophical reasoning and psychological analysis, cannot point to the exact reason. In fact, the root might probably lie in the reason of it’s being born in the first place. A bond between two people with nothing in common, no common ideas and no common likes, just an attraction and opportunity.
They tried to go on with it. Till college lasted, they went out, studied together, ate together, walked together. But the dinners became more quiet, the walks more lonely and the outings more of a duty. Both were extremely good friends and knew that they could not let go of each others’ friendship, and they hung on to that one element to revive the love. But it had died. And it took a lot from both when it went. They never officially broke up. They did not have to. They wanted to spare each other from the agony it causes. For those of you who think this is an overstatement, break up does cause severe pain. It is almost like a physical injury, when it is true. The sad part is, the world doesn’t recognize it and laughs it off as a mishap or sometimes worse, rebukes it as a mistake.
The point of telling this story was to describe what happens in many love stories these days. It is heartbreaking, to see two very good people suffer so much. But then they say that’s where you learn. What I personally believe is, the problem lies in a single word ‘Expectations’. Love has been sensationalized so much, that even before puberty, little girls dream of knights on white horses and guys about fair princesses in long black hair and white ball gowns. Reality stands that there are no knights and princesses. There are people, shades of gray, with a little good a little bad, and no two individuals are ever alike. Tolerance for the differences and more, a readiness to accept the differences and enjoy them should exist. Relationships should be forged not out of attraction or appearances or riches, they should be born out of friendships and understanding. She lacked the understanding of his obsession to work for a good life and his disregard for prototypical romance. He lacked her passion for love and romanticizing life. She was a poet, at heart and him, a realist. And so it ended, breaking two hearts and leaving a scar that would change their lives forever.
“Shivajinagar….” shouted the bus driver. That got her out of her flashback. It had been a year since their break up and he had texted her saying he was in town working for a company there. She couldn’t resist the desire to see that devilish handsome face again and maybe re-live some of the best moments of her life… And so she was on the bus, to see if she had the magic to bring life into something that was dead.