Just after I pressed publish on the last post, I remember an incident during my Europe trip.

This was during the time I spent in Paris, staying in the room adjacent to my crush. We were in the same year, and so were the two boys he was staying with. And they pranked me.

It was an innocent enough joke: they rang the doorbell, and pelted back into their room. We opened the door, only to hear their door shutting in a hurry. Of course it was them. So of course, we did it back.

The second time they did it, we were waiting for them. We yanked open the door to see them hooting in the corridor, and we all had a good laugh.

The next morning, we were coming up in the elevator. Our floor was pretty high up, and as my friends were getting off, I saw the boys waiting to step in. I grinned like a maniac, and pressed all the buttons. I quickly ran off, but I heard their cries of outrage as the elevator doors closed.

Come to think of it, I knew he knew about my crush on him, thanks to the teacher letting the cat out of the bag. Did he like me too? Were all these pranks meant to convey that message?

I have no idea, but it is an amazing thought to have so many years later.

Valentine’s + DDLJ

After a long day of work yesterday, today was meant to be quiet. But of course, it wasn’t. A friend came over, and once he left, I settled in to a night of movie-watching.

Thanks to Valentine’s Day, Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge came up as a suggestion on Amazon Prime. Of course, I am now past the point where thoughts of love bring up heartache, so I pressed play.

The strains of music started up almost immediately, and I was transported back in time.

When the movie came out, I was all of 11. I was caught on a tidal wave of romance created by the songs, Shah Rukh Khan, Kajol, and luscious shots of Europe. I had a massive crush on a boy at the time, and I kept imagining him and I in the protagonists places.

A few months later, my school organised a trip to Europe, and my parents thought it would be good for me to go. I was the only one from my class to sign up, but the boy who I had a crush on did too. We were not on speaking terms, him being blissfully unaware of my existence, so I didn’t find out this little titbit till we were at Dubai airport.

When I clapped eyes on him, and he was a gorgeous chap, I think birds and hearts must have flown around my head in a celestial dance. My crush and I were going to Europe for a trip together. Without our parents. JUST LIKE THE MOVIE! OMG OMG OMG.

I nearly fainted with the thrill of it all. I don’t remember much about the travelling part, but I do remember each time we checked into a hotel. After a lot of misses, it was in Paris that we were assigned adjacent rooms.

Paris. The city of love. On New Year’s Eve. My head exploded.

Of course, there was sightseeing. I spent a lot of time fantasising about him and me, even though I hadn’t the faintest idea how to get past the crucial step of actually speaking to him. I had no idea about his personality. I didn’t even know what his voice sounded like.

Somewhere in the middle of all of this, one of our chaperones cottoned onto my crush. And proceeded to tease me, publicly, throughout the rest of the trip. It was all in good fun, and although I was horribly embarrassed, I did sort of enjoy the attention. At least he was now aware of my existence.

We had a party that night, and we were paired off to dance in the new year. I sadly didn’t get partnered up with him, but I must admit that it was the most movie-like experience of my life.

Every time I watch DDLJ or hear strains of its music, I feel like that ecstatic 11 year old, starry-eyed, and with an unshakeable belief in romance and love.

Happy Valentine’s Day to my love. Even though we aren’t together, and things have changed so dramatically, I still cherish the feelings we shared for the short time we spent together. I love you.

Nostalgia is a Dangerous Thing

How many times have I beaten this dead horse? Many, many times. However, like all life lessons in my ridiculous life, I have realisations incrementally.

Today, mum and I were chatting about our relationships again. Now that my dad isn’t there, it is easier to talk about the bedroom stuff. It also helps that I am older, and she knows that I was intimately involved with three of four of my relationships. [Haven’t yet brought up the cherry-popping story. To be fair to her, she hasn’t pried either.]

We were discussing romance, and the different definitions it has for each of us. Unsurprisingly, for my parents and later for me, the movie-style magic wasn’t it. We are rather prosaic people with greater interest in comfort than romance.

Anyway, we started talking about my ex. I do talk about him, so that she begins to understand my connection with him; why he was so important; why I couldn’t get over him for so many months. I also hope that she will see why another relationship seems impossible to me, even now almost a year later. It is like his essence has seeped into my skin, and I can’t rid myself of it.

There was profound sadness when we were talking, because she did love him too. She opened her home and heart for him like he was her son. That was at my bidding, when I asked her to treat him the same way she would treat me. And she did. She lectured him, and got mad at him, and told him off, and cuddled him, and teased him, and the works. Those were components of my relationship with my parents, and he got exactly that. The only thing I forgot was that he wasn’t me, and he could never understand where she was coming from.

As the conversation wound down, there was a moment of sad silence. I thought to myself about what would happen if he came back into my life. How would we address the issues of the past? Would we be able to reclaim the joy that we had before? Would I feel like I was coming home to him once more?

The truth is, I have no idea, but the thought terrifies me. I have tended my familial relationships carefully over the years, and fixed rifts before they consumed everything.

This rift though? Seems to be far too late. Sometimes there is just no going back.

First Love

For today’s offering on the altar of my blog, I was thinking about writing about my first real boyfriend. Then I remembered I probably have a post written about him somewhere, and I should dredge that up first.

[I’ll add my 2016 bits in post the recap. So stay tuned.]

When I was dating my exes, occasionally I would remember my first boyfriend. Well, technically he was the second, but then again the actual first was a total wash-out. So NAM was whom I considered my first real boyfriend. I would feel horribly guilty, because whenever I thought of him, there was a wistfulness that crept into my mind. He and I were so good together – we laughed, we quipped merrily away, and we were so young. But it was a doomed relationship from inception because he was a Arab Muslim and I was an Indian Hindu – and never then twain shall meet. (Although he was rather liberal in his outlook.)

However, I am not going to dwell on the pitfalls and the eventual demise of our short relationship, but more on the parts that still make me smile when I think of him. He had to be the most intelligent, romantic, exciting, charming individual I had ever met. He was kind and sweet, and he had a roguish twisted grin that used to melt female hearts left, right, and centre. His jet-black hair flopped cheekily over his brow, and he had the most chocolate-y brown eyes I had ever seen. It was no exaggeration that he could have had any girl in the entire college, but for some bizarre reason decided I was the one for him.

There was the complication that my best friend at the time was completely bowled over by him. It also helped significantly that she was also Arab and Muslim. I really didn’t think I stood a chance with such a dazzling character, so I didn’t try. (I was seriously overweight and had hair that went beyond my knees. DWEEB!) Oh and I was all of 15, whereas both of them were 18.

I suppose we started becoming friends because we lived near each other. I would spend hours after class in the IT centre, and he would be hanging around as well. Just goes to show how incredibly innocent I was that I never thought it was odd that his and my work finished at the same time. I lived about 45 minutes away by foot, and I used to walk that distance (I was in England, and I loved the countryside). He had a bicycle, and again it never occurred to me that it was odd that he pushed it all the way home. Just to walk alongside me.

I still remember the day we actually started dating. He had been coming over and spending time with me, watching stupid movies and chatting into the small hours of the night. My best friend obviously didn’t appreciate our budding friendship, and talked to me at great length about how she and NAM were dating and hitting it off so well. It never struck me to consider WHEN they were actually dating. I was such a DUMB kid. The feelings continued to develop and I continued to deny they existed. I had only confided in my landlady’s daughter, Stacey.

One evening, NAM and I had had a small argument – which I can’t even remember right now. He called me up saying he had something to say to me. I stood on the porch in the freezing cold and waited for him. He showed up, and stood making small talk. I was so mad that I didn’t want to invite him in, but Stacey overruled me. (She was really fond of him.)

The mother and daughter pair were going out, so they were off getting ready. NAM and I sat watching TV, and I refused to speak to him. (Yes, I am aware that was infantile, but ‘poise’ wasn’t in my dictionary at that time.) Stacey hung around trying to get us to talk, till she lost her temper with me altogether. It was her belief that NAM fancied me, not my friend, and therefore I should tell him I liked him too. (She was a much smarter 11 year-old than I was a 15 year-old.)

Finally they were on their way out, and she left with the parting shot that maybe I stood tell him that I fancied a bloke. I couldn’t believe my ears, and I stared at the shut door in abject horror as she winked out of sight. I mustered up every inch of courage and looked at NAM, and I remember squeaking out, “Didn’t you want to tell me something?”

Every trace of the grin habitually on his face had been wiped off. He replied, “Yes, but who is the guy that you fancy?”

Me: “That’s irrelevant. What did you come to tell me?”

“You first.”

Even after that tell-tale remark, it didn’t strike me that he had come to tell me he liked me. I cringe at my stupidity.

I looked at the carpet for approximately half an hour, while there was pin-drop silence in the room. Finally I realised he wasn’t leaving without an answer, and wanting desperately for the earth to swallow me up, I blurted out that I liked him.

Again with the pin-drop silence.

And then a few seconds later, I was in his arms, looking up into his smiling face and doubting my hearing because he whispered, “Me too.” in my ear.

So many years later, and this story still brings a smile to my face. It was in 1999, and here I am 17 years thence, still thrilling slightly to the romance in that interlude.

NAM – those were his initials – was far more mature than I was, and there were many reasons our relationship failed. I expected our romance to unfold like a romance novel, and of course it didn’t. In retrospect, I would have to experience the requisite misery too, and that would have been awful. I just wasn’t very smart at the time. [Still not smart, but at least now I know it.]

NAM and I broke up in a few months, and I played the role of tragedy queen to the hilt. Thank you, exclusive diet of Hindi movies. I thought that a first love was the last love, and I was resigned to pining away the rest of years in solitude and melancholy. Ha. If you have read my Spring-Summer Connection series, this happened shortly before those events. Stacey’s house was my first paying guest accommodation in Scunthorpe, and the hero of the series owned the second. Altogether I lived in three places during my two years there.

[Also, the best friend in this story, and the best friend in the next series are the same person. I was a terrible friend clearly.]

Eventually, I came back to Dubai, and I think NAM went back home to Doha. He emailed me a few times, just as my family was moving back to India. The better part of two years in England, and me acting like a ridiculous movie trope, wasn’t enough to convince him, but in early 2003, he suddenly realised that he couldn’t let me go.

Finally, I lied to him about being in another relationship to make him go. That moment in my life was about my family, not about my love life. Certainly, it wasn’t about a doomed relationship at the tender age of 19.

NAM and I didn’t keep in touch. I did try looking for him many times, but he doesn’t seem to have an online presence under his own name. To be honest, part of me is glad. Because, as I’ve said before, nostalgia is a dangerous thing.

Will You Marry Me?

I was speaking to a friend about the current turmoil in my life, and he very astutely surmised that, in my mind, I was still in my relationship. My mother also made an observation to much the same effect. And the fact is, they are both right.

I am not prone to living in a dream world, as my feet are very firmly planted on the ground. I am fully aware that I am technically single, however I choose to think of this weird paradigm as not being over the relationship yet.

And of course there is a reason – isn’t there always? – which roots this whole confusion in emotion, romance, nostalgia, and love.

Way back in 2012, just after we had declared our love for each other, my French student and I were perched on my bed, snuggling. We were talking, as new couples are apt to, about everything and nothing. There were lots of little kisses, smiles, and soft touches and hugs. It was wonderful.

Bearing in mind that we didn’t take long to fall in love, nor to say it to each other, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that we were already talking about marriage and children. He was in the process of getting a divorce, but I was unmarried. Also, he was just over 30 and I was 2 years away from that milestone. We weren’t getting younger, and were eager to get started on a new life together as soon as possible. Life had not been kind to either of us, and the gratitude of having found each was overwhelming.

So, we snuggled and talked about settling down together; having kids, making meals together, decorating our house when we had one, and so on. And there was much delicious pleasure in building these castles in air. Suddenly, he turns to me and actually asks:

“Will you marry me?”

I was so stunned. In spite of our conversation, an actual, honest-to-God proposal is still a momentous occasion. I blushed (*groan* really) and stammered out an affirmative. And then he says:

“No. I mean, marry me now. Forget that I haven’t got a divorce – that’s a paper confirmation of the situation. Forget the rituals, the people, and priest. Will you take me as your husband from this day forth?”

I stared at him, at this wonderful man I had known for a few months. He wasn’t perfect, but he made me feel safe, loved, secure, protected, confident, and so much more. He would be there by my side always, and I would love him till the end of my days. So I said:

“Yes. I do.”

And so I do. I love him. I will always love him. Always.

In the Closed Confines of My Heart

All of us have our illusions about ourselves. Mine is that I am an unemotional person, with the strength to be firm and not to feel excessively. There are many reasons I want to be like this, but those are not pertinent to the thrust of this post.

Today, my ex messaged me. The message was mundane, but it hit me in the solar plexus and carried all the air out of my lungs. I haven’t heard from him in a while, because we don’t keep in touch, but I have often wondered about him.

The texts were not exceptional in any way, simply further disentanglement of a 3+ year relationship. I had returned some of his things to him, forgetting others, and now he was doing the same.

I wanted to weep at this, even though lots of time has passed – 6 months as a matter of fact – and there is no doubt that the relationship is over. This prosaic and necessary interaction isn’t laced with any undertones. It is a transaction, pure and simple.

And yet, I wished to hear about his pain. I wished to hear that he missed me. I willed the words forming on the screen to be a declaration of love not dead. Hope trembled in my constricting chest of a desire to knit our relationship, us, our families, back together.

None of that happened. I am not surprised. In a relationship where I always made the difficult first moves: of love, of reconciliation, and more, I am not surprised that while my heart beats painfully against my ribs, there is blankness from him.

The fact is, by his own admission, that I always loved him, love him, more than he loved me.

Breaking Up Like an Adult

What is the politically correct time frame for moving on?

When I was in school, the intensity of a ‘relationship’ was just as strong it is now. The only difference, which of course you only see in hindsight, is that those relationships are not meant to last. Those are days of puppy love and holding hands, and chaste pecks on the cheek, and giggling and blushing uncontrollably.¬†It was also the time when I got over the so-called pain of separation very rapidly. After all, it was not real love.

There was a boy in my year. A gorgeous, green-eyed (unusual for an Indian), fair-skinned (Indians love fair skin Рracists) guy with light brown hair, and fairly tall too. I interacted with him very briefly when we were very young, and promptly forgot his existence once I grew older. Idiotically, he fell for me.

I found out about this crush/spate of puppy love through a common friend. She came up to me one day in class, and told me of his undying love. My rather unromantic response was: “Um. Thanks. Who is he?”

After I had run the gamut of terrible replies, I agreed to give him my number. My parents were very encouraging since they thought I had a serious dearth of male friends. He called me that night, and a heavily awkward, extremely stilted, shoot-me-now painful telephonic conversation ensued. We exchanged email addresses and ICQ IDs.

Over the course of exchanged emails and instant messages, I got to know him. But the awkwardness was ever present. He asked me out, and we went on a date. I remember being paralysed with nerves and panic. It was terrible. I sat like a mummified sphinx, replying in monosyllables to this Greek God before me, who was inexplicably interested in me. I wanted to sink into the floor.

The interactions became easier after that though. I was still painfully conscious and never able to let go completely. The ice broke a bit more when I had my first kiss; a wet, slobbery event, which left me grasping for tissues. We visited each others’ homes and made out a bit more.

Then, his father caught us one day, and forbade all further interaction. I must add that we were both 15, and obviously too young for this sort of thing. I was an idiot puppy, with fluff for brains.

I hadn’t been in love with him, and I knew that much at the time. I had previously convinced myself otherwise, because in my mind making out equalled a forever relationship. Um, no. (Refer to fluff for brains statement above.)

A few months later, I went to a party with my whole year. He was there. I was happy to be invited, so I was dancing with my friends and a couple of boys too. He, on the other hand, moped around like a moron, channelling the emos of today.

Numerous friends came up to me and berated me for being heartless. I was stunned! I wasn’t heartless; not by a long shot. I was a kid, and I had moved on rapidly from a non-serious teenage relationship. But I was clearly expected to be heartbroken and devastated. Well, I wasn’t, and it left me confused and miserable.

Fast forward 17 years, and I have recently broken up with the love of my life. I am experiencing devastation on the scale of losing a loved one to death. And yet, the expectation is to put on my adult face and go about my life as normal.

My colleagues and boss expect work from me. I am doing it. My friends expect me to be in touch and participate in their lives and life events. I participate. My parents need my support with their ongoing illnesses and other household bits and bobs. I support them.

How come this isn’t heartlessness? Life is so weird.