To The Geet Without Aditya Kashyap and The Queen Without the International Vacation

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I watched the movie ‘Jab we met’ again over the weekend. This time it made me think very differently. It reminded me of the movie, Queen.

These two are my all-time favourite movies.  The protagonists in both movies are women who have been ditched by the men who they thought were the ‘love’ of their lives. After the initial shock, desperation, and pain, both woman move forward in life, becoming better versions of themselves.  Here is what happens:

  1. Geet meets Aditya Kashyap who she eventually falls in love with him. Aditya is not a cowardly idiot like Anshuman. He cares about her and likes her for who she is. Aditya literally rescues her.  They live happily ever after.

2. Rani (Queen) ends up going on her honeymoon alone. There she sees life outside the confines of her life in Delhi. She makes friends from different walks of life, including a boy who has lost his family in Tsunami yet tries to be cheerful in life. She discovers an identity for herself, as she meets people who appreciate her culinary talents, increasing her self-worth.

3. Anshuman and Vijay, the respective exes of these women realize their mistake and come back. Geet and Rani get to dump them this time.

I completely support the endings, and like the way they were empowering for women. But do all men actually realize their mistake, regret their actions, and come back? The world would have been a much more perfect place.   In reality, people dump somebody for good. They may not come back.  What about women who don’t necessarily find another man like Geet? What about the ones who don’t get to travel like Queen but continue their routine life feeling worthless after getting dumped? Living each day with a spout of misery with the most cherished moments of their lives becoming mere memories  and evoking mixed feelings? How do they ‘get over’ someone?

I am not a therapist, but still that would not deter me from expressing my thoughts on the subject.

  1. The world is a big and weird place. There are all kinds of complicated people. Anything can happen. Stop torturing yourself with ‘Why,’ and ‘What ifs’. There is nothing you can do to change things.

2. Try some kind of fitness regime. Whenever I have done any form of exercise on a regular basis, I have felt good about myself. Set a goal. For example 30 minutes on the treadmill. When you achieve it, you will feel like you are in control of at least something in your life. Aspects of your life like relationships that involve another person may not be controlled. But this is something you alone can accomplish.

3. Get out of the house. I don’t mean to go and date. Focus on your interests other than men (I know I have used this line in my previous articles, I guess I just love it). You may not immediately wish to travel alone or with friends. The thought may make you feel sorry for yourself (as you would have rather gone with a significant other). Then don’t do it. But go for a movie, play, poetry recital anything that you find doable and affordable. Then keep doing it regularly.

4. Try working towards self-growth. You must have heard that ‘Living well is the biggest revenge’. Resist the urge to immediately find someone else to spite your ex. Do not be the other extreme  either –  Swear to ‘ruin’ your life by staying single to make him feel guilty. Instead, try to become better (eventually more successful) in whatever you are working on.

5.  Take care of yourself. Go pamper yourself with a spa or a facial. Look good. When I was younger I used to think that being good looking was a pre-requisite for looking good. But over the years, the definition of ‘looking good’ has changed.

My friend’s mother is undergoing chemotherapy. She has lost all her hair. She sent me a picture of the mother recently, bald and lean. She was a very beautiful woman, and it pained me to her this way. But there was something lively about her picture. She had put on a dark maroon lipstick, enough to brighten up her face.

‘Aunty is looking good’, I had texted her.

Was I saying something inappropriate? Is it okay to say that  when someone is suffering from cancer?

She had replied, ‘Yes, she is better. Thanks’.

Another woman I knew lost her husband unexpectedly few years ago. She was unhappy for the longest time. Her daughter posted a picture of her from one of their recent vacations captioned, ‘Mummy wearing salwar suit for the first time’.

It was a very natural picture. She was not even smiling. She looked consciously at the camera, squinting her eyes probably because of the blazing sun. The salwar suit was also very ordinary. She looked more graceful in her saris. But everybody had complimented her, including me.

What made her look good? Maybe the fact that she had put in effort to do something different. She had hope. Hope that although she had lost the most precious part of her life, she was still trying to make the best of whatever she had left.

So finally to all the Geets without Aditya Kashyap, and the Queens without international vacations, your life is still  big and potentially beautiful.  Look around you. Everyone is struggling with something or the other. You may not necessarily get an opportunity to ‘dump’ anyone the next time around like these women, but you can dump your negative thoughts for the time being. Life is a series of mundane days with some temporary highs, followed by longer ‘low’ phases. Give it sometime. Things will fall in place.

 

How to Keep A Man From Losing Interest? Seriously!!

I open my Facebook newsfeed everyday with the morning cup of tea (Yes, I know it should have been the morning newspaper, but it has somehow been Facebook instead).

I came across articles over the past couple of days that really spoilt my mood:

10 Ugly Mistakes Women Make That Make Men Leave!

Catch and Keep Him! (It is apparently a website).

Why Men Pull Away: 3 Easy Ways to Stop a Man from Withdrawing!

How To Make A Man Commit To You!

Reasons Why Men Cheat and What You Can Do To Prevent It!

The above articles were part of the many women-centric blogs I have subscribed to, and some well-known international publications, written by dating and relationship experts to “help women”.

I am obviously no expert on the subject, but having been writing regularly for over a year now on relationships, here are my thoughts:

1. I find these articles extremely offensive to women and men. It very unfairly puts the responsibility on women for the behavior of men. As if a man is a helpless, pre-programmed, genetically disastrous creature who has no control on his feelings / behavior / actions. A man will lose interest, cheat, disappear, it is an inevitable phenomenon that we should be prepared to prevent? I would like to believe that there are far better men…

2. Why should we try to “catch and keep him” (Seriously that is a website!) if he is not interested? Are we that desperate? Do we really have a future with someone who wants to leave us in the present? Wouldn’t he eventually leave causing more damage?

3. Wouldn’t it better if these articles were worded differently: 10 Ugly mistakes that ruin relationships, Reasons why people cheat on their partners, Why lovers drift apart?

4. Are there so many articles on dating advice for men on what they could do to keep a woman? Is it because of chauvisim, misogyny or simply because women read more and analyse relationships?

Anyway, since the intention of these articles was to “help women”, I would also like to give my two cents to the women who are struggling to “keep” dating the men in their lives:

1. If somebody wants to go, it may not be such a bad thing in the long run. One day you may thank God for saving you.

2. Take care of your health, fitness, skin and overall appearance. No I am not asking you to be shallow. But don’t neglect yourself just because somebody does not care. Everything becomes harder when you are not well physically.

3. Yes, you deserve better. But I don’t know if you (or I) will necessarily find someone (better). Focus on yourself, your goals and interests (other than men 🙂 ) .

I have a friend who says that when you are happy with yourself (and that happiness comes from doing things that you like), you attract better things (people?) in life. Maybe it is true..

I never promised to marry you!

It was a regular night at Hard Rock Café. Ashish and Rehan were hanging out. Every Friday these two would catch up here (except ofcourse when they were with their girlfriends). Ashish had been dating Sanaya for the past 10 months.

She was a single mother with a nine-year-old daughter.

“So where is Sanaya this weekend
,” asked Rehan.

“She is travelling to Delhi for a wedding.
” Said Ashish.

“Oh, so no action this weekend!”
winked Rehan. “When are you telling her about Avanti?”

“I will now, once she is back”.

“Hahha, hope she doesn’t get clingy and start blackmailing you,”

“Nah, I never promised to marry her! If she expected something more, her fault!”

For the first time, Ashish’s life was going perfect. He was settled in his career, and had just been promoted to Senior Project Manager. Ashish was always the geek in school and college. He envied other guys as they went out with the hottest girls with the shortest clothes in the biggest cars.

It took him a decade since then, but here he was living the dream! A good house, a good car and a girlfriend his friends drooled at. Somebody has said it right, women are like wine, they get better with age. At 41, Sanaya had the body to die for. Ashish had joined the gym to get in shape to impress women. But how did he get lucky enough to woo the gym owner, the most sought after Sanaya Sarin, his friends still wonder?

Ashish’s parents were visiting from Dhanbad. He must get married by the end of this year, his mother had announced. He was turning 32, high time. Ashish had told his mother he wanted a girl who is fluent in English and well-educated but not career minded. She should be able to bend as and when required for family. Avanti was perfect. Fair and slim, 23 year old with a degree in sociology. Avanti and Ashish had been talking on the phone for over two months. When he had met her in Dhanbad along with her family, he knew she was the one. Young, innocent, pretty, traditional small town girl just the way he liked. Always marry a girl who is much younger, so you can mold her your way, his mother would say.

The Roka had been fixed for November. It was still three months away! Ashish had been showering Avanti with presents. He loved pampering her. Avanti never confessed her love for him, though. Must be shy, he thought. Unlike these confused, Westernized city girls with no values!

Back in Bangalore, Sanaya had been hounding him with her phone calls and texts.

“Please Ashish, come back. I really love you!”

Ashish had never promised to marry her. Where did she get the idea that this would be something long term? All women are the same, he thought. He did not want things to end so nasty with Sanaya but she was behaving like a needy psycho now.

“I am not the first man in your life, anyway so don’t tell me you can’t handle this!”’
He texted back after some more ugly exchange of messages.

Sanaya was eating up so much of his time and energy that he did not even get time to buy an outfit for the Roka. He selected a blue sherwani, Avanti’s favourite colour. He also bought a necklace for her.

Finally, it was the big day. Even though it was not such a big function, some of his friends had still made to Dhanbad. Ashish was looking just like Hrithik Roshan, his mother said. His friends were already drunk and dancing. Avanti’s family was late much to their surprise. The girl’s side is supposed to host, how can they arrive after the groom?

Avanti was not picking up her phone. She must be still at the parlour. Ashish’s father got a call following which there was a lot of commotion. Ashish’s mother almost collapsed. What the hell was going on, did something happen to Avanti?

“Beta, Avanti has eloped with her boyfriend!”

________________________________________________________________________________
Three weeks had passed. Ashish was back to Bangalore. To say that he was shocked was an understatement. How could she? He was so good to her… If she did not want to marry him, why did she talk to him, meet him, and agree for the Roka? She was playing with his feelings all this time. He was heartbroken and humiliated.

He had been wanting to contact her, but had restrained himself. But today as he saw her whatsapp DP, smiling as if nothing had happened, he could not hold himself back.

“You, bitch!” he typed and pressed send.

He kept waiting to see when the ticks would turn blue but she did not come online. He does not remember when he passed out, the drinks were too much.

Next day at work, there was a flash on his phone. Whatsapp message from Avanti:

“Mind your language, you idiot.
And FYI, I never promised to marry you!”

Ashish was fuming. Look at the nerve this woman had! Another notification came. What else does she want to say?

It was a message from Sanaya.

“You are such a loser! I deserve better.

If love was not blind

It was a big day for Kavya. Today she was meeting her fiance’ Samir’s extended family for the first time. They say opposites attract. It is such a cliché! But it could not be truer in the case of Samir and Kavya. Samir had his own advertising agency which he had started after being a model for nearly a decade. Kavya taught Social studies to students in 8th to 10th grade. Samir was drop dead gorgeous. Kavya was average looking with a kind smile. The two had met at a common friend’s house and remained in touch. Their friends still wonder how and when they fell in love and decided to get married with nothing in common…

It was Samir’s second marriage. He was previously married to a fellow model, Ayesha. Samir’s friends still spoke about Ayesha, and how she was such a beauty. It was bad enough that Kavya felt that Samir was much better looking than her. Every time she met his friends, she knew that they were silently comparing her to his ex and felt sorry that Samir found less of a match. She had got used to their comments:

You are so different from her!” Different was just a nice way of saying plain and ugly, she thought.

“She was perfect for him, but it was not meant to last!” If she was perfect and it did not last, how long will I last will all my flaws? She would wonder.

Kavya was academically brilliant, intellectually inclined and a loving and caring person. Samir loved her but that didn’t change her self-doubts and insecurities. She always felt that she would get dumped sooner or later. After all, everywhere we keep seeing and hearing that men only fall for physical beauty. Samir teased her about how he was the more attractive one in the couple, though not in a mean way. It was meant to be a joke. But it was the truth and it pinched her. The past year of dating Samir had been financially exhausting for Kavya. She used to spend way out of her means on dresses, and beauty treatment to look good.

Kavya started her day by buying a lovely evening gown for the evening meeting with Samir’s family, after getting personalized attention from an enthusiastic salesgirl.

Ma’am would you like to buy heels?

No”, replied Kavya firmly.

But Ma’am you are short, this kind of dress looks nice on tall girls, please take a look if you like something”.

Samir was so tall… Kavya gave in and bought a pair of stilettos.

Next, she was at the beauty parlour. She asked for a fruit facial which she thought would be mild for her sensitive skin.

Ma’am, you are looking very dark. Please try the de-tan facial, it will make you two shades lighter.”

I must be looking like a beast, she thought and opted for the de-tan.

On her way back home, Kavya thought that Samir’s family would now be looking her up on social networking sites and WhatsApp. She must put up a nice DP.

She searched through the gallery and selected a picture which was her best, but she was looking fat! She edited, illuminated and changed angles in photoshop until she looked like a slim, plastic doll and uploaded it, pleased with her creativity.

Finally, she and Samir arrived at the venue. Samir’s family was already there. They were all good-looking. Samir’s cousins who were barely 16-17 years old were very stylish and so were his sisters/ sisters in law who were in their 40s. Kavya was nervous but she was managing. Most people were welcoming and nice. After dinner, the cousins gathered around the bar for more drinks and to get to know Kavya better. They were asking about her education, her family and Kavya was starting to get comfortable. This was no so bad, she thought to herself.

The DJ announced the last song. “Noooo!”, screamed some kids negotiating for one more.

One of Samir’s older cousins, who was very drunk, put one arm around Kavya and the other around Samir and started talking at the top of his voice, attempting to make himself audible despite the loud music.

Well, after meeting Kavya, I have understood one thing!” he said.

What?” asked Kavya smiling shyly.

That love is blind!” And he burst into laughter. Other people, half drunk and very loud by now, also started laughing.

What do you mean, that Samir Bhaiya was wearing shades when he saw Kayya?” asked a younger girl.

No not shades, otherwise she would have looked even darker!” said somebody else. There were some more laughs.

From Ayesha to Kavya, Samir Bhaiya ki sad kahaani!

Oh come on! Kayya is brainy. She can give free tuitions to our kids!

Oh home tuitions! Adi’s current teacher takes Rs 500 for an hour. Kavya I will give you Rs 1000! But you should come early morning. I feel bad for these people no, running around the city to make a few bucks..

Kavya did not remember when the DJ stopped playing. She just wished that she could disappear. All her insecurities and her fears were right here and she was facing them. She felt naked. She knew she was not a beauty queen. She knew she was not rich. She knew Samir was everything that she was not. And here it was: Her worst fear coming true. The person she loved the most was being given reasons of how she was not good enough for him. She had tears in her eyes. Oh God, I can’t cry now!!

Samir did not react. He was also laughing, not mockingly, but more of a polite laughter. He looked at Kavya. He held her hand, and asked, “You okay?

I am okay. Just did not know I was signing up for such humiliation.”

Oh come, on Kavya! Don’t be so sensitive. They are just kidding. They really liked you…” He offered her a drink.

How would you feel is someone said such insulting things to you?”

They were interrupted by the drunk guy who had initiated the chain of nasty comments. He started pulling Kavya. “ A toast from Kavya.. Say something dear…

Samir nodded to Kavya and whispered, “Looks are not everything. I still love you. They came all the way to meet you. Say a note of thanks to them atleast.”

Kavya went forward and smiled. She gulped her drink down.

I am so glad to have finally met you all today. I really wanted Samir’s family to like me.” She paused. “Not because I care about any of you, but because I love Samir.”

Samir looked a little scandalized, but remained silent.

I know I am not beautiful or rich like Ayesha. But if she was so perfect, why did she and Samir break up? If only beauty and money could sustain relationships…. You all are blessed with money and claim to be so modern. Yet in this day and age, you think it is shameful to be dark-skinned? Are you the kinds who put matrimonial ads desiring “gori” women and apply Fair and Lovely! So regressive!!

I teach kids and I can proudly say that not a single student of mine has ever failed in my subject. I build their future. I am not just a mentor to them, but also their friend. They talk to me about their problems, and I help them in whatever way I can. They stay in touch with me, even after they have passed my classes. I love my job and I make an honest living. I know the ways in which some of you have made big money, let me not even get into that.

Samir liked me for the qualities I have, as a person. Yes, a good-looking man can fall in love with an average looking woman. Why is so difficult for your peanut sized brains to accept?

Actually I can’t blame you. I found it hard to accept myself. The world loves to feed off people’s self-doubt and all this while I let them. When I don’t love myself for who I am, how can I accept that someone else would?”

She leaned on the table and removed her heels. She became a foot shorter.

There was pin drop silence in the room. Samir’ relatives were shocked. She looked at Samir and continued:

I love you Samir with all my heart. You flunked in 12th grade. Still I love you. Your vocabulary and spelling is worse than the fifth graders in my school. Still I love you. The only book you have ever read is 45 pages of Chetan Bhagat’s One Night at a Call Centre. Still I love you. You cannot hold a conversation with my friends on any social issue. Still I love you.”

She raised the toast and said,

Yes, every love is blind, or it wouldn’t exist!

Hope that we meet again..

The other day I came home after a sleepover at a friend’s place. Having been awake most of the night, I went to sleep by evening – around 4:30 -5. And then I was woken by the door bell. I was in deep sleep and was trying to place the sound of the door bell as part of my dream. Finally the realization came that it was the door bell that was real and not the dream and I ran towards the door.

And at that moment I felt that he was visiting me. I don’t remember the dream. Or thinking about him. But out of nowhere I had the feeling that it was him who I would see outside the door. I looked through the peep hole. I could not see the person clearly but I was sure that it was him. I ran back to my bedroom to wear my glasses, longing to see him after so long. For those few seconds, I was so happy. Happier than I have been in a long time. I put on my glasses and looked through the peep-hole again.

It was a stranger. Some delivery person. I opened the door, took the groceries, and paid him.

And then I felt a whole new gush of pain. Fresh pain. Raw pain of losing somebody I lost a long time ago. He is dead! How could it possibly be him?

It was not that I was not awake when I heard the bell. I was completely awake and conscious. I knew he was dead.

Yet how could I be so irrational and actually expect that he would show up at my doorstep? That feeling was real. The comfort I felt for those few seconds was so real. The sadness I felt on realizing that he was still dead was also real.

The only thing that was not real was his visit.

What makes the human mind keep such hopes? Do I not comprehend death? Am I distant from reality?

Yet I crave for that visit. Or a dream. Anything to have that momentary, unreal, hopeless hope and feeling of seeing him again..

Heartbreak

He has my eyes
Almond-shaped and blue,
And a smile so soft
Like the morning dew.

He holds my finger
With a trust so deep,
A miracle so divine
My love would reap.

He is my son
Yes my very own,
The last promise
That I’d never be alone.

He points to the stars,
With an innocent smile
My Daddy’s up there!”
I play along my wile.

Half mine and half yours,
The father he never saw
It’s been long since you left
But the pain is still raw.

The emptiness of you gone,
Haunted me for days.
Until he came to my life
Rescued with his embrace.

That night was enchanting
Your love seemed so pure,
I was uninhibited yet coy
Mesmerized in your allure.

Was this my destiny,
Or a willful choice?
I ask myself time and again
When I hear his cheery voice.

He thinks you are with God,
I protect him with all my might.
The truth is harsh and cruel
Still shivers me with fright.

For you are in this very world
Alive and aware
An old flame is all I am to you,
Not worth your care.

They say time heals all pain
But time is eternity
Days and nights of sorrow,
A struggle for serenity.

The void you have created
Consumes my heart in its prime.
But I choose to forgive you
For the sake of this lifetime.

I could argue with God
That life has been unfair
But the joy that he brings me,
Makes my heart repair.

To make him a good man,
Is all I live for any more.
May he never be the reason
For another woman’s sore.

Published on Women’s Web

The man who did not sweep me off my feet

This article is a work of fiction inspired by some real life events :-)

20 years ago


Dressed in a glittering pink, chiffon sari with red lipstick smearing out of my lips, clunking bangles, and a big golden bindi, too large for my tiny forehead, I carefully placed the pallu on my head, partially covering my face and pouted at my reflection in the mirror.

“My doll is looking like a dulhan (bride)”, said my beaming grandmother. “One day a prince will come and sweep you off your feet”.

I blushed. The prince, or the knight in shining armour as some may call it. I had a picture of “My guy” in my head ever since that time. He was drop dead gorgeous, tall, broad, strong, brave, heroic and romantic. The kind of man fairytales are made of…

or Hollywood heroes…

Or Greek Gods…

Present day

I met him at a common friend’s party. I know it sounds like a cliché. He was just a random, unnoticeable stranger who was too shy to talk to me. There was nothing striking about his personality. He had average written all over him. He introduced himself but I forgot his name (Kunal).

I did not date average guys…

He was short. Nothing interesting about his facial features. He had a job that he was passionate about. He loved reading and traveling. He liked to go for trekking, was apparently very fit and was off to some place somewhere in some mountains that coming weekend. I was too bored as he tried to tell me more about himself. Numbers were exchanged, much to his joy and my reluctance.

Over the next few months, I met him along with other friends, regularly at movies, clubs, picnics and other hang outs. I preferred to be with the cuter guys. The ones who could charm me with their flattering words. The ones who were trying to impress me. The ones who may not be sincere in their feelings. But were experienced enough to project otherwise…

Kunal and I stayed in touch and developed a rapport. He was never too sweet, but stable and consistent. Not impressive, but always genuine. For he was not playing a game to woo me. He was just being himself. He did not have anything that men expect women to fall for – good looks, money, power… But he had one thing that nobody else I had ever met had – the intent and ability to keep me happy with utmost honesty.

Kunal defied the fundamentals of love as I knew it (or thought I knew). He challenged the notions every romantic movie / novel (that were an integral part of my growing up years) had imbibed in me. There was no attraction at first. I felt nothing when he looked at me (initially). I don’t even recollect the first sight, love at first sight is out of question. There were no sparks and no sleepless nights.

It was a friendship that developed and blossomed, true and real. His sense of responsibility and maturity taught me that love is not about the quest for the perfect person. Maybe it is about recognizing the right person and cherishing them forever.

As I complete my third anniversary with Kunal, here is what I want to tell the world about the man who I proudly show off to the world as my partner.

He respects me for who I am. And does not want me to be somebody else.

He does not judge me for my past. He salutes me for having triumphed despite it.

He is not jealous of the other men who I could be with. He knows that it is him who I have chosen.

As much as he has encouraged me to have my independence, he has never stopped protecting me. Being taken care of by the man I love has not made me any less of a feminist. And being sensitive to a woman who has a mind of her own has not made him any less of a man. He is a secure man.

Maybe love is not always about getting swept off our feet. Sometimes, it is about having somebody who knows how to keep our feet on the ground and yet make life worthwhile with what we have while we chase our dreams. Together we soar, and celebrate being in love, each day, as it comes.

Love is friendship that has caught fire. It is quiet understanding, mutual confidence, sharing and forgiving. It is loyalty through good and bad times. It settles for less than perfection and makes allowances for human weaknesses.

-Ann Landers

My best friend’s mother’s wedding

I had just returned from Seattle, from my best friend Sandra’s mother’s wedding. It was the first time that I had attended an American wedding. I was excited to watch a wedding of this kind, not just because it was in a foreign territory but because it was a foreign concept. I had never witnessed a priest pronounce as man and wife, a couple whose reunion was attended by their delighted children and even more ecstatic grandchildren. What this couple had was so beautiful.

A second chance at love and marriage, at the dusk of their age.

I gave a warm hug to the glowing bride. Her beauty was unparalleled today, exuberating an aura of confidence. She looked complete. As she was dancing with her new husband, she pulled me over and whispered in my ear, her eyes gleaming, “The youth is dedicated to earning money, discovering oneself, traveling, exploring.

The youth is greedy, and craves for much more. The youth experiments. But the old age only yearns somebody to talk to, to share the morning cup of tea with somebody who also has nowhere to rush to, and enjoy the mundane moments of life that the youth was too busy to notice and relish. My life has just begun!” Her spirit was contagious. I have never felt so refreshed and inspired after any wedding.

Back home in Mumbai, I was invited for dinner at a childhood friend, Arunita’s house, whose mother was visiting her for the third time this year. It was one of those planned visits, where she had shortlisted prospective grooms for her daughter, a very tight schedule where they were scrutinized and eliminated one-by-one in the quest for a perfect son-in-law.

My 33 year old single, successful, journalist friend whose life was fulfilled in every respect, who meets new people regularly from work, business travel, and reunions with school friends, college friends, and friends of friends (and has a very happening romantic life too), was being bombarded with convincing arguments to marry at the earliest.

The distraught mother, Shukla Aunty, looked at me, soliciting sympathy,

“She does not understand that she will be alone one day. All this work, friends, everything will lose its charm. She needs somebody to grow old with.”

The entire table comprising of random senior citizens nodded in agreement. With the happy image of Sandra’s mother’s wedding very recently etched in my memory, I remarked in supreme innocence and brutal honesty, “Aunty, Arunita is single, but not lonely. She is building her career, which she does not want to compromise on. I think you should consider remarriage. You have been alone since Uncle passed away. You deserve happiness too.” The entire table stared at me in horror, including Arunita.

“She has gone mad,” Shukla aunty said, visibly embarrassed. The rest of the people looked offended as well, expecting a prompt apology from me. I had spoken the unthinkable.

The following week, I was attending one of my youngest cousin’s wedding in Delhi. With all the elements of the big fat Indian wedding in place – the band, baaja and baraat, I could not help but drift away from the vibrant young couple to notice the elderly members of our family – the buas, the chachas and the mamis, who had long been bereaved of their respective spouses, who I suddenly saw in a different light. Somewhere, amidst all the glitter, a widowed aunt would sit quietly, distancing herself from rituals dominated by women belonging to the more auspicious marital statuses.

Why is it so that a country so obsessed with marriage does not recognize the need for it at a later stage in life?

The most obvious reason to enter matrimony is companionship. But why do we fail to realize that the need for togetherness does not fade away with time, but only gets stronger and more raw – as grown-up, independent children leave the once full-house into empty nests, and spouses on whom one has depended for decades are gone forever. Since when did the holy matrimony become so unholy for the people who have spent their prime years shaping our lives?

Who ensured that our futures could be secure? Who made sacrifices so that we could lead a decent life? Why is it shameful to seek companionship at the age when you require it the most? Why is the marriage / remarriage of senior citizens such a taboo in India? Are parents, aunts, uncles and grandparents any less human than us?

Or is it because we are still selfish enough to use their old age for our benefits as well – as readily and freely available babysitters for our children? Or housekeepers for our homes while we struggle with the installments of home loans? Or have we for generations, lacked the empathy to even ponder on this issue? Or is it just our culture? The root to all our problems anyway?

Somewhere near Kota, a reluctant minor child is getting married. Somewhere, in Bombay, a 29 year old woman is succumbing to the pressure of an arranged marriage. Somewhere, in Florida, Sandra’s mother is renovating her home with her new husband.

And somewhere back in Calcutta, in the desolate, haunting emptiness of her house, Shukla Aunty wished somebody at that dinner table that day cared to refute her disregard for my suggestion.

Originally published at akkarbakkar.com on October 5, 2015.

Being in love with a younger man

It was as if an earthquake had hit Pammi Maasi’s house that mundane Saturday afternoon. Her beloved and only son, my 26 year old cousin, Rehan, had just declared that he is in love with a 41 year old woman, Mira, and wishes to marry her.

Pammi Maasi was hysterical, her expressions would put Kirron Kher’s character from Dostana, in the ‘Maa da laadla’ song, to shame.

“Have all the young girls fallen dead? How did my innocent boy fall into that cunning woman’s trap? All this western culture influence! Oh Krishna, please give wisdom to my son,” she said dramatically, her hands folded towards the idol of Radha-Krishna placed on the side-table.

“Lord Krishna, himself loved somebody much older than him, Maa. Stop playing the culture card.” He snapped before storming out of the house.

I, being the older, mature cousin who Rehan looked up to, was especially appointed for this crisis management, to “counsel” Rehan. I was in a fix. Not because of Rehan. He has always been a sensible person. But how should I convince somebody of Pammi Maasi’s social conditioning that there was nothing wrong with what Rehan wanted?

In India, marriage is usually a very calculated decision. Love is rarely linked to marriage, and if at all it must transcend all barriers.

The entire concept of arranged marriage has reduced partner search to something like shopping — the selection of a highly customized, durable, flawless product.

Parents like my Maasi, apply their life-long wisdom and experience in selecting an appropriate spouse for their children. The ideal son-in-law is inevitably a financially stable man who can provide for a family. And the ideal daughter-in-law is the one who should be able to bear that family.

Needless to say, youth plays an important parameter for determining the marriageability of a woman.

Hence, we have made our peace with a 57 year old man marrying a 20 year old woman. However, our sensitivities still find it a little difficult to accept the reverse.

“She will not even be able to bear children,” was one of Pammi Maasi’s prime concerns. Is having a biological child the sole purpose of a woman? Are we looking for machines that manufacture quick and defect-free outputs, or partners? Isn’t it better if Rehan adopts a child and raises him/her with somebody he loves rather than searching for a fertile mate for procreation?

Mira’s home was no less of a war zone either. “This marriage will never work. Marry somebody your age. You don’t know.. Men’s eyes’ will wander. He will eventually cheat on you with a younger woman,” predicted her mother.

Pammi Maasi went a step further. “She will be dead long before you!”

We spend so much of energy planning the future, that we don’t care how we are ruining our present. Our present, is as much a part of our life as our unseen future. Our lives are very much happening right now, while we are directing our vision towards the future. When the only thing that is certain, is the present.

“He may not be interested in me 10 years later”… becomes more powerful than, “he is crazy about me now.”

Is it possible that the marriage will not work out? Ofcourse! No relationship comes with a guarantee card. Not even a “normal” socially acceptable one. Nobody can foresee who would end up drifting apart, cheating, falling ill, dying. But isn’t everything in life unpredictable? No amount of kundali-matching and background/caste/financial/social/age parity ensures a successful marriage. Maybe it would require a lot of hard work and understanding. But don’t all relationships require that?

When an adult couple has made a choice, shouldn’t we respect their judgment?

If Mira did not find Rehan mature, she probably would not have liked him. Similarly, if Rehan found Mira attractive despite her age, do we — random didis, buas, and other well-meaning family members have any right to question him?

Yes, we all want the best for him. We want him to be happy. But, it is time we realized that what we consider best for our children, may not necessarily be the best for them. Maybe the best thing for us to do is to let them make their choices in life. Chances are they know themselves better than we do. Especially when it comes to their romantic and sexual choices.

Do we fall in love every day? Do we regularly bump into people who are like-minded, and we find ourselves compatible with? How often does it happen that we meet somebody whose company we cherish, and with whom we envision a beautiful future ahead? And when we do, should we restrict ourselves because of age?

Love is not a matter of counting the years…But making the years count. — Michelle Amand

Originally published at akkarbakkar.com on October 29, 2015