Thursday, October 28, 2010


The rain was drumming up a happy rhythm on the café window, but the mood inside was rather gloomy… and awkward. Chhaya had her head in her hands. Kohl-lined tears ran down her face and her whole body shook as if a deep emotion from the very core of her being wanted to tear itself away from her and let itself out. I thought it best not to interrupt the catharsis and waited for her to calm down.

And while I waited, a montage of moments danced in front of my eyes. Th is inconsolable woman sitting and sobbing in front of me was so different from the radiant little pixie I had met more than a year ago. Those days, her smile could light up your day. I vividly remember the day Chhaya had first met my good friend Rehan at his cousin’s wedding. You could tell from that very first moment that they had a connection. What began with stolen glances, shy half-smiles, and awkward introductions soon blossomed into goodnatured ribbing, some intense ‘oh you like this…? Me too, I just love it!’ type conversations. Then came the dancing, and just by looking at them glide along the dance floor, you knew that the music could stop but they would go right on dancing to the music playing in their heads, followed by the customary long walks into the sunsets, head on shoulder and hand in hand. We would watch their silhouettes disappear into the lengthening shadows of dusk and whisper to each other and say that this was a match made in heaven.

And yet, here I was, not long after, trying to think of the right thing to say to Chhaya as she sat in front of me, hurting and bleeding from that ugly hole in her heart. Rehan had closed the door on her. They had broken up!

“I don’t know what happened…it was so beautiful,” Chhaya was looking into the distance as she spoke, and in her eyes you could see confusion and despair mingling with anger and hurt pride. Th rough Rehan, I had gotten to know Chhaya a lot better and had been a witness to the highs and lows of their whirlwind romance. “I know…” she continued, “it’s not like I think… I actually know that what we had was something special. Tell me, where did we go wrong? Why did he do this…? You know him so well…you know both of us…all of you said this was so beautiful…so this and so that…couldn’t…couldn’t you do something about it? Can’t you see he is making a mistake? Say something… do something… please…” It broke my heart to see her like that. I wanted to comfort her. I wanted to say something… something sensitive and something to help ease her pain, so I said “Chhaya… er...I think, it’s too late…because you, and I’m sorry I have to say this, but it is you who pushed Rehan away. It just isn’t going to work anymore.” Yes, yes, I can hear you wince and say that it was heartless, tactless, and downright cruel for me to say that, but ladies and gentlemen, it was time for some tough love and honest truths, and if no one else was going to say this to her, I felt at least I owed it to her. After all, what are friends for?

What I’m going to say shocked Chhaya and it just might shock you too but really, nine times out of ten, if you, for the lack of a more emphatic word, were to get dumped, or even cheated on, it is going to be your fault. I’ve said this earlier on this page and I’ll say it again that most relationships, especially those we choose, are not bonds bound by contracts, obligations, and balance sheets, but organic creatures that live, grow, mutate, and die, and usually, if the relationship dies before one of the people in it, it is because the relationship was murdered. And the murderer isn’t usually the one who makes the break and walks away but the one we mistake for the victim…yes, the one who’s left standing, clutching the heart and hurting – the Chhayas of this world.

And it doesn’t just happen to women. If you had the time I’d tell you about every story I’ve heard from a heart-hobbled horse’s mouth, but for now, suffice it to say that almost every relationship I’ve seen go bust, went bust because of three classic poison darts – one, insecurity; two, ironically enough, complacency, and finally, the fatal assumption that once a relationship has begun, those in it are morally and emotionally bound, and committed to taking it to its logical conclusion and beyond.

Let’s begin with complacency. You see, partners in a relationship rarely grow at the same pace. So in every relationship, there are phases when a Chhaya worships a Rehan and puts him on a pedestal, and then comes a phase when a Rehan looks up to and is grateful that he is sharing his life with a Chhaya. These cycles can of course last for weeks, months or years, and sometimes, even decades. Th e longer these cycles last, the more the couple pushes the relationship towards its grave, because unequal partners rarely run a happy, fulfilling business. Such partnerships are reduced to mere leadership and followership. Chhaya, for instance, was so taken by Rehan’s charms that she submitted totally to his will. Everytime Rehan wanted to feel the rush he had felt when he had looked up to Chhaya, he found her at his feet instead. After a while, it was bound to get so boring that he felt compelled to look up to someone else. Love, especially romantic love, can only last between equals. Th e day you let that equation change and stop playing catch-up with your partner’s personal growth, love disappears and soon, so would the partner.

Insecurity, on the other hand, is a double-edged sword. Ideally, when complacency knocks you off your pedestal while your partner is evolving every day, it should drive you to rediscover, reinvent and recreate a better, more layered, and more interesting you, who surprises your partner and pushes him/her to play catch-up, and it is this dance of growth that makes life and love interesting. But that’s the tougher path. Instead we tend to deal with our insecurities by trying to control and micromanage our partners. When Chhaya got insecure, she tried to push Rehan into tying the knot sooner than planned and became suspicious. Others become jealous and possessive, and see infidelity in every word or gesture. This only makes the relationship bitter and claustrophobic…it dies of asphyxiation.

Lastly, the unspoken contracts - these darts are the most venomous of all, for they create expectations and a false moral high ground where none should exist. Th e only universal law in a relationship is that we, and the nature of our mutual needs, evolve constantly, and the only secret to a happy, loving relationship lies in our commitment to constantly try to understand our partners as they evolve and trying our best to keep pace with, and even outstrip their growth. It is this false sense of expectation that pushed Chhaya into asking questions of destiny and me instead of her own self.

Chhaya hates me for saying those things to her that day but I know that one day, she’ll understand, and in case you are wondering what gives me the right to get so preachy, my apologies, but I happened to make those classic mistakes…and survive, as did Samara and Rohit (see issue October 31, 2010). But more of that next week…


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