I looked at the pictures my friend had sent me from Mumbai and smiled to myself. She is a sweetheart and I wondered why did she take so long to send the pics. Was she hesitating? I closed my eyes and leaned my spine further on the swivel chair. And suddenly, memories from the past started to come in a flash.
We fell in love the first time we met at a common friend's place. Our common friend was my school friend and his institute junior. The second day we met at St.Paul's, we sat there in silence for God knows how long in front of the pic of Christ. And then he looked at me and asked, “Do you love me?”
To which, I had said, “I am in God's house, and I wouldn't lie. I do”.
And that had been the beginning of the best two months of this whole phase. I was fresh in college. I viewed the world with these colored glasses of mine. And suddenly, everything had been so beautiful. He used to come home from hostel every weekend, and I always made it a point to see him at the station. Yes, I used to travel a good one hour to the station to see him. We would keep walking on the streets for hours. We would spend sunsets by the banks of the river. We would talk for hours over ice creams. And he always made it a point to drop me home.
I thought I had the best of the world. I was never really the career minded, ambitious types. I knew all about my dreams. I knew I was marrying him, we were having kids, and so would be our story. A few more years and I would be out of college and he would have a job. What more did I want from life?
I saved my pocket money for his birth day. I used to giggle senselessly whenever the train would enter the platform. I would be mindless of the stench and chaos and coolies and hawkers, totally oblivious to the real world. Life had been a dream.
I told him about my parents. I told my parents about him. Dad was mad, but that he would be with anyone. Eventually, he agreed to meet him. They met, they talked. I was hopeful all the while that he would like him. So there I sat sandwiched between two men I loved the most.
Later that night, I had excitedly crept into dad's room to talk to him. And dad had only told me one thing, “If testing times come, he will not put up a fight for you”.
I was distraught. I argued with dad. I told him how wrong he was. Dad just smiled, and said nothing.
And then it was my turn to meet his parents. His parents invited me over. And there I sat nervously, sensing a certain air of discomfort, yet not really knowing what to do. He had held my hands and said, “Trust me”. I trusted him. I wish I had noticed that his palms were sweating too.
His mom had seemed aloof, distant. She was very ill. His dad had been indifferent. Frankly, at the end of the evening, I just didn't know.
Later he had told me that their parents did not approve of me. My world had come tumbling down. I was aghast. I saw no reason why they should disapprove. After much prodding, I was told the truth. I wasn't fair. I was not an engineer. Period.
I had laughed at the ludicrousness of the situation. “So what?”, I had asked him. “You love me and I love you. And you are fair and you are an engineer”.
“You don't understand dear”, is what he had told me. “You should do something my family should be proud of”.
He had seemed to hesitate. “Can you get a doctoral degree?”
I had laughed my guts out. A doctoral degree? I was not even planning to go beyond college. How can I study so much?
“Well, that's up to you”, was all he had said.
And that day had changed the course of my life. I decided to do a PhD. I started with finding out what did one need to do in a PhD. And then I started working hard towards my career, and towards preparing for GRE.
In the meantime, he called me up to say that it was all over. His mom has had a fit and she refused to take her medicines till he gave her his word that he would never see me again. More than being angry, I was puzzled. I just wish I had a say in this.
He went away from my life. For some strange reason, I had the notion that if I made it to the US, he would come back to me someday. I worked hard day and night. I made it. But by that time, I had realized that we did not deserve each other. Initially I thought I could not live without him. Then I thought I hated him. Finally, I realized that I just felt nothing for him anymore.
I have always been good friends with his sis. After we split, his sis and I mutually agreed that we would never bring him up. She did not support his decision, and this was the least she could do.
Her email today amused me a lot. So there she sent me an attachment and there I saw him looking as handsome as ever in the groom's wear, a pretty, fair, nubile woman in red beside him. Those were their marriage pics.
“Arranged?”, I asked.
“No, love marriage. And she is an engineer”, she said.
Somehow, I had known all the while that this would happen someday. And I had always thought that the day this happened, I would not be able to live anymore. Strangely, I felt none of my anger or pride or hurt. I just felt sorry for him. And then I closed my eyes, leaned on my swivel chair, and smiled to myself. A thought had just crossed my mind.
People often asked me what prompted me to do a PhD. Was it ambition, academic inclination, and the drive to do something innovative? Now they had my answer.
A broken heart and oodles of humiliation wasn't a big deal after all. At least I got to do a PhD. At least I am doing well in life. And most importantly, at least I did not have to spend the rest of my life with a spineless man.
How incidents, more than ambition, shapes us up in life!!!
As narrated to me by a senior friend here, and written with her consent.