The Tale of Four Hearts (Part 2)

[Continued from here.]

Sheetal had never been a very close friend of mine. We had each other’s phone numbers – just in case – and our communication was limited to forwarded SMSs, a few times a month perhaps. So I was taken aback when one of these difficult days Sheetal messaged me asking me to remove all her photos and other traces from Rahul’s computer. “It’s over,” She ended.

“But …what the….???” I was immediately on the phone with her, desperately looking for explanations in my stupid, blundering, bundle-of-nerves way.

“That’s none of your business. Who are you to this relationship? No one! What do you know about what I have been through over the last three years? To you he’s your “best buddy”, your “saviour”, the embodiment of virtue, isn’t he?” Sheetal was on a frenzied roll. The truth that was tumbling out of her was what I’d suspected it to be all of these years.

Rahul was an emotional abuser. Hours of mental torture, extreme possessiveness to the point of not letting her talk to other boys, name-calling her parents – Sheetal had seen it all. In fact, Sulagna, when I read your article on emotional abuse, it was pure déjà vu. Manipulation, lies, presenting a charming face to the outside world and to top it all – when push came to shove, blaming it all on the victim. I saw it, you see. I witnessed it, right in front of my eyes. But Rahul was…Rahul. My best buddy. My saviour. The embodiment of virtue. I had tried to look past it every time I found myself face to face with it. Now I felt responsible. I had failed Sheetal.

Love storyPhoto by *Lie … off for a while … !

“Don’t do anything. We’re OK.J J ;) ;) ” That’s the next message I see from Sheetal, as I scroll down my inbox archives today. I know. Women!!

In spite of being ineffective in splitting up the couple, which I knew – and still know – is what Sheetal needed, this hiccup in their relationship holds a huge significance to me. This was the genesis of a deep friendship between me and Sheetal. My depression wasn’t getting any better. I was desperate to trust someone, to open up to someone, to have someone croon me a few words of sympathy. I held on to Sheetal like a drowning man to a straw. She didn’t hold back. We became the best of friends, sharing everything about Ranja and a tiny little bit about Rahul. (Sheetal is a Bharatiya Nari, remember? ;))

Months passed by. Our exams ended. Rahul travelled to another university in a different city for his internship. And then one day I received a call from him.

It fills me with anger, pain and shock as I relive that call even today.

“You think I’m a fool, don’t you? You think I don’t know anything about what’s going on? I’ve checked out all of the messages that were exchanged between you and my girlfriend you son of a b***h! You see, I had plenty of time when you were deep in sleep, probably dreaming of her naked body. I can’t stoop to the level of “battling this out with you,” so to speak. So let me tell you this once and for all – you’re free to get as close to my soon-to-be-ex girlfriend as you want, but do not contact me ever in this life again. For you, I never existed.”

I sat on my bed, shaking, with tears running down my cheeks even long after he’d hung up. I had no idea what had just happened. I had never, ever thought of Sheetal as anything other than an understanding, trusted friend. How could I? Ranja – and the pain of losing her – occupied every square millimetre of my heart. More than the pain of losing my best friend of three years – the pain of feeling wronged overwhelmed me. I wailed and wailed for what felt like hours but was in reality 15 minutes. And then I popped two Avomine tablets and slept the whole day.

“Tujh se naraaz nahi zindagi, hayraan hoon main…”

Yeah life is ironic sometimes. That’s the painful tune which woke me up next morning as I peered at the screen, barely recognizing Sheetal’s name through my groggy-eyed haze.

One more deluge of tears. Rahul had used up his entire dictionary of teenage slangs in an hours long call he had had with her the previous day, Sheetal informed.

“I almost hate myself now. Even though it never crossed my mind that you could be anything but a very close, very dear friend to me, maybe he’s right. May be it’s impossible for a male and a female to be just friends. I’m sorry for everything Rana … ” The trauma had left her out of her senses.

We talked. For hours. Sharing our sorrows. Our pain. The hurt we felt for being misunderstood by someone closest to each of us. And in the end we agreed he was beyond us. He had something in him that was tearing him apart. And honestly, neither of us had the capability to handle it. From this point, we started avoiding him.

Love storyPhoto by jacobblack_luver

“Missing you…” That’s the next SMS from Sheetal currently showing up on my phone.

“Rana you understand me so well…I feel I’ve known you for many lives…” Reads the next.

I smiled. To my utter surprise I started feeling the first few puffs of that sharp, heady, intoxicating thing inside myself again. It all fell in place. Sheetal?? But of course! We were both survivors. We both wanted the same things in a partner – truly-deeply-madly real love, a pure heart and absolute honesty. And hey – we could share anything and everything with each other, even our deepest fears, pains and stupid hopes. I did it again.

Sulagna, you know, sometimes such tiny things affect our lives in such immeasurable ways? Like you couldn’t find your wallet in the morning, so left for work 5 minutes later than usual and when you arrived at the station you found out all trains were running an hour late because your usual train – which you missed because of the delay – has just met with a terrible accident?

Sometimes, it’s the reverse. Something huge happens and shakes up your tiny, mundane life in ways you never expected. Or deserved.

Rahul’s dad died in his office of a sudden heart attack just a few weeks after we fell out. Long story short – Sheetal went back to Rahul. “I’m sorry, but I can never forgive myself for what happened. I feel guilty. The least I can do is be by his side now…” She sobbed into the phone.

I pretended to smile.

What could I do? I know the world is not fair. Good things happen to bad people.

But still I stay awake at night. I haven’t been able to make peace with myself. Not yet. What should I tell myself? Any suggestions? What can I tell myself to make sense of what happened to me? Am I being oversensitive? Like most people should I pretend emotions don’t exist and the cruder aspects of life are its only real aspects?

I don’t know. 

The Tale of Four Hearts (Part 1)

[I won’t waste any more of your time by apologizing for the hideously long break in posting, than I already have by taking it. So just help yourselves to this instalment of a freshly-baked teenage romance.]

They say love at first sight is not real. May be it isn’t. But boy it’s heady.

Have you ever been on LSD for months, or years?

Forget it. That was a joke. And anyway, you wouldn’t know what love at first sight is even if you had.

That’s what Ranjini was to me – a psychedelic disorienting taste of first love.

We were neighbours in our sleepy town of Dhanbad. I used to watch her from my balcony as she made her way to the temple with her mother every Sunday. One day I smiled at her. She smiled back. Before I knew it we were scrapping each other away on Orkut (Facebook wasn’t around since beginning of time, remember?). That was back in my Higher Secondary days.

Good times don’t last forever. For us it ended as college life approached. It was time for me to go join my engineering course somewhere in the Southern part of the country, and for her to join hers in the East. I panicked. I proposed her.

Four HeartsPhoto by Our Enchanted Garden

As I look back today, everything that happened thereafter looks all normal, all too predictable. She was instantly the quintessential Indian good girl – “haven’t thought about that thing ever”, but would love to remain the best of friends. What choice does a hapless, smitten teenager have but to agree with the enthusiasm of a puppy at the first sight of its master after a month of separation?

I arrived in college. So did Rahul – the only other chap from good old Dhanbad – and was made to share his dorm room with three local students. He came running to me. He needed a quiet room for studying. Would I not help him out, coming from Dhanbad and all? If I didn’t let him share my room he’d have to go back to Dhanbad, and God knows whether he’d want live at all after that. I saw tears.

I melted. I went to great lengths to ensure he was allowed to shift to my room. Thereafter we became best friends.

Enter Sheetal – meek and shy, fresh out of a girls’ school and mortally afraid of boys. She just wouldn’t talk to a boy. What if he tried to make passes at her?? :D

Rahul fancied Sheetal inside his heart. But he knew she wouldn’t talk to him. So he came up with a cunning plan. He made her tie a Rakhi to him. (In most Indian cultures Rakhi is a symbol of sibling-hood.) For good measure, he also told her he was madly in love with some other girl from his school. I was aghast when I came to know what Rahul was up to. It was just wrong. He was just … fake. I felt I couldn’t take it.

When he finally proposed Sheetal confessing the whole story, she was as disgusted as I was. Rahul’s excuse – “You won’t talk to me unless I was your Rakhi brother. Or some sort of a brother. :D” When Sheetal turned her back on him he came up with a new plan.

When Sheetal was out with her friends in a local market, Rahul drove up to her in a motorbike – tears running down his cheeks – and literally begged her to come to a quiet place with him and talk things out. The entire locality was swelling with glee as they watched “real-life drama” unfold in front of them. It was too much for Sheetal. She hopped on to his motorbike without a word.

I would never forget that evening. When the door to my room burst open, I was playing Prince of Persia at my desk. Rahul’s terrified face was just about enough to jolt me back to reality. He and Sheetal had been to a park known as the “secret haven for lovers.” Soon a gang of local louts surrounded them, making rude remarks and threatening. Rahul somehow managed to send Sheetal back. Later the goons roughed him up and wouldn’t let him go until he gave them some money. While I felt sorry for him, I couldn’t but loathe him for leading Sheetal into this. Three weeks later Sheetal and Rahul were dating. Don’t ask me how or why.

Four heartsPhoto by oline221296

In the meantime I was happily chatting away with Ranja. Every phone/chat conversation with my girl would light up my day/night. But for Rahul it was the exact opposite. The more he’d talk to Sheetal the more negative, irritable, stressed he’d become. This puzzled me, but I let it go. Through Rahul I got to know Sheetal. We’d share funny texts. She’d tease me regarding Ranja. It was friendly and warm.

But good times don’t last forever. I started feeling ignored by Ranja. She almost stopped replying to my messages. I’ve never felt as hurt in my life as I did when she didn’t even open a beautiful slideshow of photos I’d created just for her. I lost control. I panicked. I proposed her on Valentine’s Day through a wall post on Facebook. I knew she might not have liked the gesture. I knew she might get angry for me taking it out in the open. But what I couldn’t anticipate in my blackest nightmare was to be ignored completely. A cold refusal to acknowledge the whole thing.

Something snapped. I did something which even today I don’t believe I’ve done. I called her up told her she had a black heart. I’ll never forgive myself for that moment of madness. Needless to say, we lost touch after this. There was no way Ranja was going to take c**p from me. In hindsight I feel she might have fallen for someone else at this point, but … anyway.

I entered the first phase of depression of my life. The numbness was a real thing. It really was. I’d open my eyes in the morning and find it impossible to leave my bed. Rahul would almost drag me out. He’d force me to eat. He’d coarse, cajole, scold me into attending classes. I’d never be able to repay him for what he did for me over this period. In spite of what happened thereafter.  

[To be continued…]

Q&A: How to Get Over a Devastating Break-Up?

Priya and I were friends. I loved her a lot. But she wanted a relationship. Gradually I fell in love too. I allowed myself, ‘cause she came across as an honest person who’d respect my feelings. But after only 4 months she broke up with me abruptly. Devastated, I begged for explanations but received none. Needless to say I have no words to describe my feelings in the months that followed, till I came to know that she had gotten engaged to someone else. I felt may be it was the lack of a formally spelt out commitment of marriage from my side which had broken her trust. To make up for this I confessed everything to my family and got my father to talk to her over the phone. I even invited her to my home to meet my parents (indebted forever to my parents for their understanding and support). She said she was embarrassed and of course, never came.

More than a year has passed since the break-up. At 25 I’m now an unemployed graduate. Sometimes I feel lonely – like I absolutely need someone in my life. I’ve tried getting close to other girls in recent times but whenever I start getting involved the past experience clouds my consciousness and keeps me from proceeding any further. I don’t know if it’s my bias or my bad luck – but whoever I meet comes across as less honest and commitment-worthy than I’d like. It seems having a boyfriend/girlfriend has suddenly become a pretty badge to be worn and flashed around – purely a show-off factor.

“Be positive”, and “one day you’ll meet the love of your life” are nothing but tiring platitudes to me now. I’m unable to find my strength and mental peace. Please help me.


How to overcome breakupPhoto by Heaven`s Gate (John)

First of all ,Dev, I think you’re approaching this the wrong way.

Stop “trying to find” love

You’re 25. Your “marriageable age band” hasn’t even started, going by Indian standards. Secondly you shouldn’t even let societal norms dictate your life at the cost of your happiness.

Why do you need to worry about finding someone now?? Always remember the time-tested cliché:

You can’t find love, love finds you.

Stop “looking for it” and “trying to find someone” altogether. Now is the time to concentrate on yourself. Take this time to enjoy your singlehood instead. Love will happen when it’s supposed to happen.

Now. Does that mean it always happens naturally like a bolt from the blue for everyone? If you look around yourself you’ll realize the answer is an emphatic No. But the time to worry about it is at least 5 years away, not now. And five years is a very long time, Dev. Today you have no idea about what your thoughts, feelings, beliefs would be five years hence. For instance if I meet the me of five years ago now, I wouldn’t even recognize her. ;)

The protective shell of emotional unavailability

Having said that, the reason you haven’t been successful in forming other relationships ever after your break up is because you have never been emotionally available ever since.

After we’ve suffered a heartbreak/any sort of emotional trauma, our heart goes into a protective hard shell. We withdraw ourselves emotionally; we come to a state where it seems we’re not able to feel emotions at all. I’ve myself been there so I know. Just as the body develops a scab on a wound to protect the raw skin underneath, the human mind, as its natural immune response, develops a hard, cold protective layer of conscious around its core emotions, ’cause those emotions are still too raw, too delicate after a devastative emotional bloodbath, so to speak.

But the good news is, just as a scab falls off on its own when the wound is fully healed, the mind heals itself and sheds this protective layer around its emotions in due course of time. You don’t need to put in any special efforts for it. But unfortunately emotional wounds take a lot more time than physical wounds to heal. In your case, even after 1.5 years they’re still not fully healed. And you need to wait it out till it happens. Like they say, there’s no cure other than time for your emotional bruises.

Breaking up and what it means

Coming to the emotional pain of your break up, it’s excruciating. I know that.

A break-up is a one of the types of a wide and deep range of disappointments one can experience in course of a romantic relationship. And tell you what – disappointment is an inevitable part of any relationship. We’ve all had our hearts broken in some way or the other in course of our love-lives.

Yes, it happens to everyone. And it’s an unavoidable part of growing up.

Think of people who fall madly in love, get married soon, only to discover that up close their spouse is an entirely different person than what they thought.

You would’ve heard of the phrase “Before marriage men are slaves, after marriage they become slave-masters”? Think of those women who’re intensely wooed by a hopeful admirer, who then becomes her starry-eyed boyfriend upon her reluctant and almost pitiful acceptance, but after marriage undergoes a chameleon-like change to become a demanding boss, so to speak!

Think of those who after twenty years of marriage discover that their spouse had been having sex with their cousin for the last five years?

Now do you realize how easy it should be for your to get over your ex?

How to overcome breakupPhoto by meechellllle

Why your relationship was NOT what you think

You’ve only known her for 4 months. Sure, that doesn’t mean your pain is any less. In fact breaking up at such an early stage is what hurt you so much – because you were still in the initial heady phase of your relationship (called “limerence“). (Guess what – it has happened to me too! I know what the pain is like. Here’s my story: How I coped with being dumped and why that’s NOT going to help you.) But I urge you to appreciate the fact that in the long-term scheme of your life as a whole, you haven’t suffered any real loss.

You’ve not been in a relationship with her for long, so you don’t know if she was “The One” for you or not. (No. “Getting the feeling” that someone is “The One” basis a relationship of 4 months is not the real thing. Ask your married cousins and they’ll tell you – you get to know nothing about a person in that short a period of time, irrespective of what you might feel. There’s only one way to know if someone is The One for you and that’s through being in a relationship with them over years.) So there’s nothing to regret. Someone could have been “the one for you”, have not been and there will be hundreds of other options in the future. I know it’s difficult to dissociate your emotions from your thought process at this point, but when you grow up (no, you haven’t yet, at least not at an emotional level :)), one day you’ll realize this episode doesn’t really matter. It was too short, too insignificant to matter.

Focus on happiness

Always remember the following:

Life is too short to focus on anything but happiness. If it isn’t coming from one source, focus on others.

In this case other sources might include your friends, family, your hobbies, books you read, your everyday learnings from your job search etc. But focus on happiness, not one particular girl who you knew so briefly, who could have been a source of happiness for you, has not been and is hence not so important.

All the best and do write back whenever you want to share any pains/worries/concerns… anything at all. :)