Love is many things, it is sweet, it’s caring and understanding, it helps you get on your feet, it protects you, it completes you, it is everything you need to live a happy life but unrequited love is a bit different; it slaps you, wakes you up and teaches you a lesson you can never forget. This story is my tryst with one such “love” which was more like a kick in the groin. I was a dreamy, starry-eyed romantic who was looking for a fairytale romance. It was a #facepalm moment for cupid as Satan laid his trap to get me.
Akriti and I had broken up on good terms. Yes, both of us were very unhappy doing it but it was inevitable. She was tired of my antics and had started liking this guy from her class. I could have stopped her but I let her slip away. It has always been my problem- I assert myself when it’s not required and let it go where it’s really needed. I am anyway of the view that a sacred emotion like love needn’t be asserted. If it’s meant to be, it’ll happen. Well, it wasn’t. Anyway, it had been one month since my break-up and I was ready to move on. Love is a strange emotion. It is more complex than any other feeling in the world. In its nature, it has more similarities to a drug than an emotion. It needs constant attention. Like a regular dose regime, love needs to be expressed periodically. Unexpressed love either withers away or becomes a topic for sad soliloquies. Love is laced with several other emotions that follow, like a drug’s undesirable side effects. Jealousy, insecurity, suspicion and paranoia, to name a few, are the vices that love invokes. It all stems from the misplaced sense of possessiveness over another person’s mind and body. Love corrupts like no other. Having said that, only a few get to love and be loved. True love actually frees you from all boundaries and makes you a better person. It’s the road to true love that I travelled and experienced and yes, I’d not let go of this experience for any treasure in the world.
It’s very easy to make someone fall for you but, there is no way to get someone to fall in love with you. After the mandatory month-long period of mourning over lost love which consisted of growing a beard, having sleepless nights, introspection and the eventual realization that she was never mine, I decided to start dating again. This new girl was an old facebook friend with whom I never really attempted to acquaint myself. I must have added her on a whim. She was in my friends’ list for no reason at all. I must have added her believing that she and I had some cosmic connection due to a particular coincidental match between her profile and mine. I used to look for coincidences. Her elder sister’s name coincided with the name of my big time crush in college, her name began with an “A”, her interests included reading, travelling and anthropology. These coincidences didn’t mean anything but I sought for a meaning in them. After she added me back, she just sat there like any other facebook connection I had. No real conversation happened except “Hey! How are you?” and “Where have you been?” I had never tried to get to know her. Maybe because there was never a connection or maybe there was, I never really tried. Instead of loving the person, I used to love the idea that this person has been handed to me by the universe. “Wasn’t it the same way with Akriti?” I shuddered. I felt like I was stuck in a loop. I had met Akriti online too and felt a cosmic connection. There were dreams, hopes and ambitions intertwining hardly after our two or three conversations. I was fresh out of a breakup and I just wanted my heart to heal even if it meant breaking some innocent girl’s heart by my false promises. I led her to believe that I was head over heals for her while in reality I was just incredibly sad and lonely. And here I stood again! Fresh out of a breakup, looking for a rebound, and again flirting ruthlessly with this girl who is actually attracted to me.
I decided to give this girl a fair try. I was not going to make the same mistake this time. I didn’t look up and thank the universe for “handing” her to me. The battle for me had just begun. She liked me a lot. She thought I was some awesome dude but, she never got to know the real person in me till now; but all that was about to change. She had fallen for me because of my talent for cartooning and my romantic nature, now it was time I courted her like a man would. I had to make her fall in love with me.
Early in a relationship, people act like Siamese twins. They somehow have similar interests, similar tastes and similar expectations. They are either pretending or are showing the most convenient side of their personality while hiding the footnotes. I was so happy with the new girl. She was agreeable to my life plans. She wanted to marry soon, have kids, travel a lot and join a hobby class just like me. It should have made me happy, right? Well, it got me thinking- Hadn’t the same been the case with Akriti? It’s when you desperately want it to work and you start agreeing more that the first seed of difference is sown. When you say “yes” to everything, you make yourself less readable to your partner. Now, coming to my love story, this new girl wanted to join me on my visit to a book fair in the city. I had proposed the idea to her and she said yes. I dreamed of showing her the books from my favourite authors, smelling the fresh pages with her, walking the aisles and having a great time. I called her up the night before and asked her whether she was looking forward to tomorrow. She paused and then went on to say- “Oh yes, the book fair! Yes! Of course…” That pause got me thinking. The plan was mine, she never told me she was excited about books. I also thought back on the times I used to bore my company in bookstores by totally getting lost in the books. All those waiting, tired faces flashed in front of my eyes. In my heart, I knew I didn’t need a company in the fair. I had asked her out of courtesy and expected her to decline. The same way I expected Akriti to decline my offer of a road trip on a scorching May afternoon. It was a Sunday and thought it’d be cool to smell the burning rubber of my bike on the highway. Akriti was more of an afternoon-nap kind of person. She came with me and got sun-burns all over her face and arms. I will not speak about what the wind did to her hair and throat. I think she held me accountable for this and rightly so. She never really complained but I think it must have gone as a check mark against “Inconsiderate” in my report card. Almost as if woken up from deep slumber- “So, you really want to go to a boring book fair? It’s ok if you don’t come, there’ll be nothing much to do for you there.” I said to the new girl. She hesitated, held on to courtesy for a bit longer and then heaved a sigh of relief- “Thank goodness!” she said “I really didn’t want to go but I thought you’ll feel bad if I decline.” I had unlocked the next level in relationships. It was called- “Communication”.
Promises are fragile but they help validate a person’s credibility, even more so in relationships. You give her your word and it means the world to her. What are love and marriage but promises of lifelong companionship and trust. It all begins with the smaller promises and builds up to the grand one; like a drum-roll. The point I am getting to is that the next level to move up in a relationship is fulfilling small promises. New girl wanted me to take her on a nice weekend getaway and I had promised her that I will. She wanted a nice dinner and a long walk on the beach and then maybe a long ride along the ocean on the bike. I had helped her visualize the whole thing and then shelved the whole plan by putting no deadline to it. So the other day, when she asked me when we were actually going to do what we had planned, it got me thinking- Akriti wanted to study with me as she was finding it tough to study alone. She wanted to clear out some facts and I had promised her that I will. When? Whenever I get time and guess what? I never got time. She had planned that she’d bring her slambook and show me how she had decorated it with my photos but we never found time to do all that. I sometimes wonder how many great moments I just missed by not committing myself to them. I smiled and made bus reservations for two to Goa that weekend. The new girl loved it and I loved it too. The whole weekend was awesome. I fell in love with her as she ran on the beach like a free spirit- laughing, giggling, smiling- Gosh! So this was what I was missing!?
There is also a flipside to promises; as we promise someone a lifetime of happiness, we forget that there’s only so much that can be planned and although we all need some structure in our life and relationships, things need to move at their pace. It was seven days into dating Akriti that I started naming our future kids. No, not in a funny or romantic way where a dreamy eyed lover looks into some far away future skyline and makes a wish, but in a way a square husband makes rigid life plans, like a teacher dictates the syllabus for the academic year to his student. I was way off the mark. When you commit before actually feeling that you want to commit, you are actually lying to yourself and it’s a white lie. She didn’t catch my lie but she felt like the walls were closing in on her. I was dragging her in a fairytale she wanted nothing to do with. She had not asked for a sweet never-ending romance, she wanted some sincerity. Three weeks after dating this new girl, I took her to the movies with my friends and it got awkward when one of them asked- “So, the families of you two are open to intercaste marriage?” I looked into her eyes, she wasn’t ready for the question. It was one of those proverbial gun to your head questions that make you say stupid things. I smiled and said- “Sure but first, let us reach that point where we can ask that question to ourselves.” She smiled. Calamity averted. I’d rather be planning where we want to eat dinner or how I can please her better than plan about something that’s way into the future.
True love empties you and fills you at the same time. It takes away all your vices and fills you with virtues; it makes you a better person. A lover guards you from all that’s evil, he protects you. The problem arises when definitions of evil differ. When you think you are protecting a loved one, you might actually be crossing a line. Being in a relationship consists of spending a lot of time with that person, giving them special privileges that they can trespass on your privacy anytime but trusting that they won’t misuse their rights. In trying to make that person perfect for you, you start training them. Knowingly or unknowingly, we try to change the person sometimes and it leads us to be skeptical about their personality. We start looking at the other person with a magnifying glass, we start presuming stuff. My next lesson came when my new girlfriend and I went to a birthday party together. It was one of my friend’s party, and she had told me that she wasn’t really sure whether she’ll be comfortable. I just wanted her to mix with my gang. The party had just begun and she came to me requesting me to take her back to hostel. She said she was having a bad headache. I wondered whether it was just an escape strategy, whether she just didn’t want to give the party a chance; I was having fun and didn’t want to leave. Anyway, we excused ourselves from the party and were on our way back. I had two options- ask her whether she was really having a headache and invite an argument or just be bitter about it. None of the options seemed right. I thought back on the time when Akriti had made a snide remark about one of my female friends. She just thought that my friend was selfish and annoying. I found it very unacceptable. I couldn’t let it go. I went on to say that maybe the problem was in her, that maybe she should stop judging people and reflect on her own personality traits. I only stopped when I heard her sobbing. I now realize that sometimes when you think there is a “problem” with your partner and it can be “fixed”, the real problem is in you. So, as I dropped the new girl to the hostel, I patted her cheeks and asked how her headache was. She smiled, gave me a sweet peck on my cheeks and said “I love you”.
Movies and Television confuse us about the way to true love. We start assuming that the hardest part is getting the girl or saving the damsel. Love is not in the moments of passion when you temporarily stop thinking and just let go, it is in those moments of tranquility when love wraps you, surrounds you and stays with you. It was our anniversary, the day we had met online. My guy friends used to boast about how they don’t believe in celebrating anniversaries and how the henpecked ones bought gifts and spent time with their partners while the cool ones hung out with the dudes. The cool girlfriends were those who didn’t mind this arrangement. New girl was slowly trying to fit in my world, so when I told her what the dudes thoughts, she said she liked the idea- the idea of not spending time together. Akriti and I used to scoff at couples who used to talk on phone till late in the night. “God, these people must have no life at all!” she used to say and I used to agree- “I am so sick of these sugary sweet ideas about romance, I just love it that we don’t act like complete idiots in love.” Turns out, if you’re not a complete idiot, you’re not in love. So, on my anniversary with the new girl, as she smiled and waved, and I left with my dude friends, I realized how big a jerk I was. I made an excuse, turned around and swept her right off her feet. She was pleasantly surprised. That night we went on a dinner and she told me tales about her family, I shared my funny anecdotes and we laughed our hearts out. We looked like total idiots. That’s the way to be in love, I guess.
I can count the number of times I had said “I love you” to Akriti in the span of one year of dating her. I used to feel that if I say it a lot, the words will lose their meaning. Truth is, love needs to be expressed. It’s the beauty of the emotion that it blooms like a spring flower and is on display for everyone to see. Akriti wanted to hold my hand in public, kiss me in a park, and whisper naughty and sweet nothings in my ear during dinner. I always used to hold her back. It was embarrassing for me. Well, if you’re scared to hold her hand in front of a bunch of strangers, how will you fight for her? How will you hold her hand through life’s most difficult situations? I wanted to set it right this time; this time with the new girl. I held her hand, lent her my shoulder looked into her eyes and was there for her whenever she needed me. I tried to talk to her, try to know how she felt about me, love her and express my love. I said “I love you” to her every time before hanging up the phone and it made her smile every time. She felt loved. I was happy.
Now, let me tell you a few things about this new girl. She had come out of back-to-back two bad breakups. She was losing faith in love bit by bit. Her first boyfriend used to be a selfish prick who would rather hang with his gang than spend time with her. He did everything wrong, he messed it up but it wasn’t entirely his fault. She was dedicated toward him, she wanted to bear through it all and finally have a happy home with him. She had total faith that she could change the guy one day but she had a problem; a guy friend who pretended to be her well-wisher but secretly wanted to break her relationship up so that he can have her all to himself. He was there whenever she felt dejected. So, one day she just left the first boyfriend and went with him, confused, looking to be happy finally. Alas! That wasn’t the end. She soon realized that the new boy in her life was just a selfish prick too. The first boyfriend, realizing that he had messed up, came back in her life. She welcomed him back in her life and fell in love all over again. Now, to a rational person, this must seem like a huge mistake. How can they trust each other again? Well, love is irrational and there is no “point of no return” in love. Love comes calling when you least expect it so, they got back together. Yes, the new girl is Akriti and the first boyfriend happens to be me. I had introduced her to you as the new girl and told the pre-breakup and post-breakup stories as if they were with different people because in between the two stories, I had a month to think. Akriti and I had met online. I never really fell in love with her but we got into a relationship. Slowly, as love bloomed, I realized how late I had been in knowing the amazing person that she was. Before I could make things right, she was gone but she came running back to me. I knew I had to do it the right way this time. It has been four years since then and I must say I have come a long way following my heart and ignoring what everyone else says. So, this is my story. As soon as I finish typing this, I will pick up the phone and narrate it to her; not because I have to but because I don’t know how not to. I love you Akriti.