De-Addiction

The ceiling fan whirs noisily overhead.

My mind is unnaturally calm.

 

Having heard me come in, Ma is coming out of the kitchen, wiping her hands on her saree’s pallu.

I had been away for six hours. She knows it has been done.

She just wants to confirm. “You did not do it, right? Please tell me you did not.”

I simply look at her, throw my dupatta on the sofa and go to the balcony.

I do not want to explain. Or listen to her. I want calm. I want to be soothed. I want the moon and his countless star wives – band-aids to the gashes on my heart.


 

One doesn’t always get all that one wants. I can hear her raving in the kitchen. And the pained cries of the utensils on whom she is venting her anger.

“It was a match made in heaven. Heck, did she not choose him herself?” Clang.

“Four years. Where were all her high-sounding philosophies all these years?”

“Doesn’t listen to anybody. Everybody is a fool except her, you see.” Splash.

“Poor boy. How did I give birth to such a stone-hearted bitch? My bad luck.”

“Stupid Dosa. Don’t burn now. I have enough trouble in my life as it is.”

I know that she is deluding herself with all that. Her only worry is “Who will marry her now? After an open affair with that boy.. Especially when it comes to be known that she ended it herself for no reason?”. Thankfully, it is easy to tune her out. After all, I have been doing it for as long as I can remember.

 

I should have seen it coming years back. Ah.. I was blindly in love and did not give it much thought. Whenever M ran his stubby fingers through my hair and proclaimed “I love you so much. I can’t live without you”, I had smiled and brushed it away as sweet-talk – not to be taken seriously.

 

Now, curled up on the cold floor in that comforting foetal position, I can see my our flash-back projected in eastman color on the full moon.

 

There we are.. me eating at the dining table.. M is sitting on the floor close to the TV, tears rolling down his cheeks. He is watching the climax of that dumb movie Ek Duuje Ke liye. On-screen, Kamal Hassan and Rati are jumping to their death; off-screen, my hero is adding to the background score with his sobs. I tell him to stop the water-works. His eyes still glued to the TV screen, he says “How can I not cry? Look at them.. Tch. True love.”

Disgust is visibly written on my face. I command the TV to play the music channel using the remote.

 

Mahinder Kapoor is crooning “Chalo ek baar phir se, ajnabi ban jaaye hum dono” from behind Sunil Dutt’s boyish face. Beautiful song. Timeless lyrics. There he goes..
“Taarruf  rog ho jaaye, to usko bhoolnaa behtar.
Taaluk bhoj ban jaaye, to usko todnaa achchaa.
Woh afsaana jise anjaam tak laanaa na ho mumkin..
Usey ik khoobsoorat mod dekar chhodnaa achhchaa.”
.

Brilliance like that can only be translated crudely.
“Come let us become strangers once more.
An meeting that has become an ailment is better forgotten.
A relationship that has become a burden is best broken.
That story that can not be taken to its intended end..
it is best given a beautiful twist and left at that.”
.
Sahir Ludhianvi’s lyrics.. bless that enlightened soul.

 

M’s turn to paint disgust on his face now. “If it is true love, how can he let it go like that? Useless fellow. Attempts to make his stupid justification sound convincing with beautiful words. Coward.”. The channel changes abruptly.

It is Shahrukh killing us with his crying now. Devdas. If Ek Tukhe Ke liye was dumb, this one is dumbest. In no time, M’s water-works restart. I can’t help saying “Stop crying for that selfish dumbo.”.

“What do you mean? Poor fellow has lost his true love. He is heart-broken.”

“Bull-shit. If he had truly loved her, he would have realized his mistake, apologized for hurting her, accepted reality and moved on. He would not have become this good-for-nothing alcoholic zombie wallowing in guilt and loss.. He would not have become that wreck wallowing in everybody’s sympathy and feeding as much guilt to his parents and Paro as he himself swallows. He does not love her. He wants her. That is why he can’t accept not getting his lollipop and is putting up that magnificent sulk-tantrum. Idiot is deluding himself and others by labelling it as truuue louuuve.”

“What crap! Don’t feed me convoluted ‘philosophy’ just to get the remote back.”

I give up and reach for a book.

 

May be I should have persisted then.. shown him that I was serious and explained my point.

 

A cloud passes across my moon.. as if to announce a new scene.

 

I am walking through hospital-smell ridden corridors looking for room number B-17. M’s sister had called me. He had attempted suicide – slashed his wrist.

 

His mother is seated by the bed-side. Feeding him some soup. She doesn’t meet my eyes. She had never liked me.

Ours had been a live-in relationship for the past two years. My family had come to accept it after making the customary weak noises of protest. M’s mother could never digest it. No.. not it.. she could never digest me. Different caste. Atheist. Above all, dangerously liberal, independent and out-spoken. Not ‘family stuff’.

 

I keep my conversation targeted at M. I am angry. “What was this now? Emotional blackmail? To arm-twist your mom to accept your love?”.

M glares at me. “I am not a fraud. I really wanted to die. My lazy blood simply did not flow out fast enough.”

He looks away. “They said my sister’s marriage is not happening because of me. No one wants to marry a girl whose brother had strayed – to a different caste, and into a sinful live-in relationship. They left me with no options – I had to leave you.”

His looks in my eyes. “You know I can not live without you.”

I stare speechless. The sincere honesty in those wet eyes has shocked me into silence.

 

M’s mother is weeping. She holds my hands and says she is sorry. That she wants her son more than she hates me and my caste. She would no longer oppose this relationship. She simply wants us to understand her situation.

I am staring into space, not really listening to her. My mind is made up.

I promise. I would move back to my parents’ place. We would not marry before M’s sister gets married. I would behave a ‘normal’ girl to M’s sisters future in-laws.

I promise myself that I would stay strong and do the right thing.

 

It has been a year since that day. I live with my parents now. M’s sister will get married in a month. M is very excited at the thought of our ‘line being cleared’.

The proclamations of “I have no life without you. What would I do without you?” have increased in frequency. M refuses to take any decision without me. Last moth, he attended a job interview in an old shabby shirt because he did not have a decent shirt and would not buy a new one without me. His weekends are filled with sadness, bitterness and restlessness if I don’t go over to his place.

He had refused multiple assignments that took him out-of-station because he could not imagine not having me close by. Against all kinds of protests from me.

 

The final bell rang two days back. I had been expecting this day. I had accepted an on-site assignment. Two months in Beijing. M was livid.

“How could you be so selfish? Career? Opportunities? More important than me? More important than ‘us’? I have given up so many of these ‘opportunities’ for you!”

The fight had been followed up with a Sunday filled with “Please don’t go. Don’t leave me alone.”, “You don’t love me enough right? You don’t care about me. You don’t care about my feelings.”, “If you go in spite of me begging you so much, don’t bother coming back. Chudail.” etc.

 

Sigh. It was time. I had to keep the year old promise to myself. I had to be strong and do the right thing now. I had buffered it with enough time and support. I had to tell him now.

 

Today, I went over and told him. That his “true love” for me is more want than love. No.. not the physical want. Simply the overwhelming desire to have me by his side – for everything, for ever.

I told him. That love and want are different. I love ice-cream. But unless I want it badly, I would not throw a tantrum and sulk if I am not given ice-cream. Excess of want is addiction. It leads to withdrawal symptoms and worse.

I told him. That I wanted to be loved. Not wanted more than loved.

He had progressed even beyond wanting me more than loving me. He simply needed me now. He is addicted to me.

I told him. I wanted to be there for him forever. Not because he desperately needed me. Only because I wanted to be there for him. But that is clearly not happening. This burden of being there for him as an obligation towards this “love” is too heavy for my shoulders.

 

I told him that I am breaking up with him. My way of kick-starting his de-addiction process.

I listened to him rave and sob for six hours, trying to explain myself all the time. I don’t know how well I did on that.

 

Am I selfish? To want to enjoy love and not by suffocated by it? For wanting not to feel like oxygen to another soul? For wanting not to feel like cocaine to an addict who would be a wreck if I leave for a day?

 

I don’t know. May be I am. But I treasure my peace of mind more than any kind of companionship, love, praise and saint-hood. Hope he finds his.

 

I can’t brood for long. I can’t afford to. I have a flight to catch and a monster of a suitcase to pack.

I have a life to live. In peace. Without being addictive or addicted.

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22 thoughts on “De-Addiction

  1. Who will marry her now ?

    She is spoiled. Tainted goods. Like a can of hermetically sealed meat. As long as the box
    remains closed and is not penetrated, the content will stay fresh for years. But puncture the
    lid once, and the meat will spoil in a few days. Women suffer the same consequences.
    Penetration spoils them, quickly and permanently.

    It’s a wide-spread idea. I hear it from Tunisia, India, Iran and Tobago. And it’s a very old
    idea. Eve in the bible eats the forbidden apple. An old symbol of seduction. As a result she
    learns about shame and feels the need to cover herself. The act also taints her, and leads to humanity being tossed out of paradise. She is dirty and sinful, and thus no longer worthy of living in the company of God. (the same God that purposefully created her with a hunger for intimacy, but let’s not go *there* today.)

    Is the stigma similar for men in India, I wonder. Are they also considered spoiled, unworthy
    of marriage, of diminished worth, if they had sex ?

    • There’s no stigma for men. If anything, their sexual “experience” adds to the “manliness” quotient! But the point is, privacy is respected when it comes to men. . No one knows, no one cares. A “man is a man” after all!

      • This is unsurprising, it’s the tendency most places I’m aware of, though there is considerable difference in the degree. The double standards are sad. Judging women for what would be considered acceptable in a man.

        Is the concept of “honour” an important one in these things ? Would a family consider that a daughter somehow dishonors them by behaving in a way that’s not socially acceptable ? It’s easier to accept people acting in ways you disapprove of, if that has little or no effect on yourself, but harder if society will attach blame to you for the behaviour of your sister or daughter. In the latter case you may be pushed into acting as if her actions concern you because to some degree they do. I don’t consider this to be much of an excuse, but some obviously do, you sometimes even see parents or siblings that would rather live as a murderer than as (for example) the brother of a woman who makes her own choices. (I have zero idea if this kind of thinking is common in India)

      • It is ALL about “honour”. In tamil, there is a word “Karpu”. It translates to virginity until wed and sexual morality & exclusivity later. And it is only for women. She is supposed to save her karpu at all costs! Forget about socially unacceptable consensual sex, even a woman raped is a woman “spoilt”. And a spoilt woman could only have been brought up by a dishonorable family. A woman who chooses to exercise her right to choice of spouse too is a dishonor. Honor killings exist and families who indulge in it consider themselves martyrs for “doing the right thing, even if it means killing our own child”. Quite often, they kill the other “child” involved too. When not killing for honor, the family ostracises the “children” to save the left over honor.. or the society does the same to the family.

        But that is these days an extreme, though it appears frequently in the media. Most of the times, the “spoilt goods” do get sold, but at the cost of a higher dowry, constant jibes, a lifetime of being reminded of the “flaw” etc. And it becomes difficult to find brides/grooms for the siblings. That’s just the concept of honor being played up subtly.

  2. I hesitate to comment on the poem, knowing that the translation must always be crude, and it’s entirely possible that the original does not suffer from this flaw.

    But I’ll risk it anyway.

    There’s a tendency to see relationships that does not end with “and they lived happily ever after” as failures. “That story that can not be taken to its intended end” seems to me, to say that there is one “intended” end, and relationships that don’t end there, fail.

    Yet why is that ? Most of us have had dear friends, sometimes for many years, that thereafter drift away for various reasons. Are those friendships also failures ?

    When I was 14 years old, I fell in love with a girl. When I was 16 years old, she became my girlfriend. We stayed a couple about two and a half years. They where wonderful years. Then we broke up. Today we’re good friends. Failure ?

    • I wdn’t say it is the poem’s flaw. It is a reflection of the way relationships work in this society. That’s a poem from the early 60’s. And not much has changed till now.

      Relationships in India are always (except the new, liberal ones) ones aimed towards a wedding. There is never a “I like you. Will you be my girlfriend?” followed up by a “Will you marry me?”. It is simply one question – a merger of both. So, “Love” = “Wedding”.. and hence, “No Wedding” = “Love failure”!

      Till date, most people proclaim “I am not the dating kind. A relationship for me, means marriage”. I guess, this immaturity when it comes to relationships is one reason why “arranged marriages” thrive here. . ppl are hesitant to try dating for fear of “failing” in love and take the safer (again, that’s debatable) route.

      • I didn’t know that the poem is old. You’re right, it just reflects the time it was written, and this by itself is no flaw. Dating is uncommon in Norway too, but for the opposite reason.

        We tend to start out as aquaintances, which sometimes turn into friends. Friends then sometimes turn into more than friends, which again turns into being a couple which again sometimes turn into being engaged which again can turn into being married.

        It’s simple a process of spending time together, then taking one step nearer to eachother if and when both feel like it. At no point in this process is there a huge jump, and at any point in this process relationships sometimes hit a plateu from which they don’t proceed, or the process reverses and people step back instead.

        Dating, in the American sense of deliberately spending time with complete or near-strangers in the hope that romance will develop inside the framework of a handful of orchestrated “dates” where you go out do something fun together, seems odd to me. For sure I’ve gone to restaurants and mountain-peaks with girls – but always because they where my friends and we wanted to do that, and never once as a “date” with the specific goal of romance.

        I’m baffled at cultures that seemingly think that making all of these steps in one giant leap. That seems awfully scary to me. It can work, offcourse, but when it doesn’t you’re in very deep shit, as opposed to ankle-deep.

        In Iran you may be proposed to by a guy who’s neither spent an hour alone with you, nor known you for more than a month. You’re then supposed to say yes or no to the entire package with essentially no knowledge of your compatibility. If you say yes, you then get the “one-giant-leap” experience where you go from virginal daughter living under your parents wings to sexually active wife living in a household with your husband.

        There’s plenty of pitfalls in choosing ones own partner too, there’s been times in my life where I’d have seriously considered an offer to let someone else take care of that messy bussiness for me. You seldom get trough the entire experience without the scars to prove it. But atleast they’re *my* scars, and I get to, as you so nicely put it, take responsibility for my own mistakes.

      • I can’t agree enough with the Norwegian way.

        I shudder at both arranged marriages and dating. The former is like recruiting from a one hour job interview, except that firing the “employee” is very VERY difficult and comes with a huge cost. The latter. . I could never understand.. When two people interact with the goal of romance in mind, wouldn’t they simply be trying to impress each other and probably not show their true selves?

        I also believe that unless two people have been friends for years or perhaps lived together – enough to know each others quirks, how each person reacts in adverse situations, the emotional stability and baggage, “core values” each believes in etc, it is a big gamble to take the big leap. People seem to think this “information” can be exchanged verbally.. but that’s like writing a CV! I can write “hard-working” without being that.. I can even write “hard-working” believing that I am, but not knowing that I am not.

        The problem in India is, if a man and woman are seen spending time together, they are assumed to be a couple by default if they don’t happen to share DNA. It becomes very difficult to brush away that and spend time with a friend of the opposite sex – unless in a group or in secrecy. The hesitation to go ahead and say, take a short vacation with a friend of the opposite sex (just the two of them), occurs at many levels…
        “What will people say?”
        “I don’t care about my ‘name’, but I don’t want to put you in trouble.”
        “Ok, both of us don’t care, but our families seem to care.. Should we really hurt them?”
        “So, both of us don’t care what families or “people” say. But this constant nagging by ‘friends’ of “Stop pretending. .We know you both are seeing each other” is really getting on to my nerves!”
        Very few brave souls can get past all that and just do it.

      • I like the Norwegian couple-building too, for a less obvious reason. Being an American male means repeatedly approaching a woman you’ve had little interaction with, and ask her for a date. Since romance is the pre-defined goal of this activity, she will likely say no if she sees little chance of romance developing between you, even if she’d otherwise love to do that with you.

        That is, a woman who loves (say) Indian food, and finds your company charming, will still very likely reject your suggestion for a date at the Indian restaurant if she doesn’t
        think it’s likely that she’ll develop romantic feelings for you.

        A Norwegian woman would say yes, because there’s no expectation that romance is the “real” goal of the activity. She’d also likely pay for her own meal, which *also* I feel, gives the relationship a more even start, since she does not need to feel that she “owe” him anything. Setting a precedent for the male as the one responsible for money is a problematic first step in many ways.

        WWPS also hurts; Another reason a woman might say no, even if she’d like to say yes, is that she worries what people would think or what they’d say.

        If you spend a lot of time with one man, Norwegians might also assume that you’re romantically involved. But the thing is, they will attach no negative judgement to this. Thus if I had the habit of spending a lot of weekends alone with you on some adventure or other, some people would guesstimate that we’re a couple – but they’d find that perfectly okay.

        Not as many as you’d think will even draw this tentative conclusion.

        When there’s no negative reaction to being a couple, that also implies there’s no reason to hide it.

        When friends in India say “Stop pretending ..” they’re assuming you might be lying, because they are aware that you have *reason* to lie. (that is, you’d suffer negative consequences for telling the truth) Acceptance thus breeds honesty. Simply because it’s much easier to be honest, when the “cost” of honesty is lower.

  3. This is quite an interesting post. In my younger days, I was all right with the American way, but as I grew older with an interest in developing serious relationships, I started to prefer the Norwegian (or rather the European way, as some friends have told me) way. Never have I evinced an interest in the Indian way.

    Another problem one faces in India is that even if you as a woman wants to be friends and gradually take it forward, men want to know sooner or later when the marriage is happening. Yes, I know that is different from the cliche, but it’s annoying either way.

    • I call that the ‘Make hay while the sun shines’ syndrome 😉 😉

      Yes, I think that is one of the main reasons women are very cautious and take careful measured steps when it comes to friendship with the opposite sex.

  4. Not selfish at all…it sounds like it was an emotionally draining relationship. I had a client who had a boyfriend who kept threatening to kill himself every time she contemplated leaving him. And her parents who loved him, blamed her as well. Called her selfish. Hard hearted. The difference between him and M was that he would alternatively call her a slut and a bitch and then cry and weep and say he couldn’t live without her. In short, a DV relationship.

    And the live-in drama…sigh…I don’t understand what’s wrong with that. In fact, it’s better to try before buying almost…after all, what if you can’t actually live with the person?? That’s what I found out with my partner…recently ex-partner. We are fine living separately but when we live together, it just doesn’t work.

    • These relationships have such a basic pattern na? I witnessed one where while he did not get physical, he did all the blaming, threatening and calling names.. All the while, she said “May be he is right? May be his loves me more than I love him and that’s why all this is happening. May be I AM selfish”!! It took the physical violence to enter the picture (AND stay for months) to make her leave him.

      I can’t help wondering.. Why do women who know all about DV, recognize it when it happens to others, fail to recognize it or act when it happens to them?

  5. Dear theconjecturegirl, Been reading some of ur posts recently, they are quite engaging and thought provoking. Super like.

    Marriage i feel is totally unwanted for anyone on earth as a basic need, cos everyone knows how much struggle it is finding and being accepted and loved by someone, what a pretense it is trying to fit in and impress. Marriage is created only for legal reasons, for resolving issues related to property, ownership and stuff. There had to be some laws to decide what belongs where and now people are trapped in this for all wrong reasons. Other than that, is it really anything?

    • Thanks a lot and welcome to this blog 🙂

      I have been thinking along those lines too.. Property, ownership, child custody, some kind of tax benefits/perks etc – all accorded by law to the legally wedded couple is a very strong reason. But what before these laws? It was a simple dependence issue then since women were not allowed financial independence. I can’t help wondering if these laws, meant to protect two people (mostly the woman) in a marriage, have themselves become a hindrance when one tries to get rid of the custom.

      • Is there a reason to work for getting rid of the entire custom, instead of just getting rid of those parts of it that no longer make sense ?

        I agree that some law is today obsolete, for example in Germany divorced people still have the responsibility of providing for eachothers, which mean the person earning more money (in most cases the man) must send money to the person earning the least. I see no justification for this; why should a single woman receive money on no other basis than having been married in the past ? (I’m talking of the case where there are no shared children here)

        Laws such as that, support an old-fashioned system where women are seen as dependant of the man, and not as individuals with all the rights and duties that come with that.

        People should not be, and don’t need to be, trapped in unhappy marriages. That is mostly a problem of culture. Divorce is often the best choice when a relationship is not working. (children complicate this, but that is not easily avoidable, the problem exist even for unmarried parents who go separate ways)

      • I don’t see any reason why the custom should stay – rather stay as the default way as it is now.

        Two independent and capable adults are entirely capable of sorting property/child issues among themselves. . May be with a pre-nuptial agreement signed. Plus, marriage or no marriage, shared property & child custody issues remain. Why laws for the married ones and not the unmarried ones?

        These over-simplified laws (at least in India) only make sure that when people want to get out of unhappy marriages, they are tempted to stay put because it is scarier to go through the divorce proceedings.

        If law did not separate relationships as “with legal stamp” and “without legal stamp”, perhaps more and more people would be willing to stay unmarried instead of getting married for the “stamp” or the perks? I’m not saying that is the only reason ppl get married – it is a reason too.

        As far as India is concerned, most dumb practices & notions are related to this funny institution called marriage. I wouldn’t mind doing away with all of it, including the probably good parts, if it would stop this obsession over marriage! Anyway, the good things abt the custom would still stay even without the custom.

      • I don’t think we disagree, it’s just that the marriage I know is very different from the marriage you know, and thus though we both talk about “marriage” we talk about different things. I am continually amazed, for example, by the marriages described regularly in letters to IHM.

        I tend to see problematic marriages as a symptom rather than the root cause. If the role of women in society has many problems, then these problems will also be reflected in marriages. (and vice versa: if the position of women in society is pretty good, then marriages will also tend to be reasonably good overall)

        Marrying does have two advantages over just making contracts.

        The first one is that you get better or worse contracts according to your negotiation-power. If marriages (which are in a sense “standard” contracts) where replaced by freely negotiated contracts, I fear that many women, especially those who marry a man that is older and/or wealthier would end up with a substantially poorer deal than they get today. If women on the average had the same negotiating-power then this would not be so much of a problem, but I strongly suspect that if that was the case, then we’d not been having this conversation in the first place.

        The second is that marrying is *two* things, one is the legal framework, the other is the celebration of love in a comitted relationship. The focus is on the second, even though long-term the first is what matters most. That’s actually rather clever, because it allows people to deal with uncomfortable topics in a comfortable way. People shy away from topics like “let’s make a contract wherein you promise to let me have half the value of the house if we break up.” more than they shy away from “let’s celebrate our love by marrying !”

        People *should* be talking about the difficult topics, offcourse. But practice shows that they often don’t. The more slanted the power-relationship is in a couple, the less likely it is that such topics are discussed. Which is unfortunate, because that’s precisely where it’s most important.

        I agree 100% that marriage should not be seen as the single acceptable “default” way of living. It should be equally acceptable to live as single, or to move in together without ever marrying. I guess I sort of forgot that because that is already the case here. It’s even the case here that some of the law that applies to marriages, also apply to co-habitating couples with shared children. (for example shared child-custody, and the requirement that *both* sign for any mortgaging or sale of their shared dwelling)

  6. okay i am just gonna go ahead and say it – this is almost like the story me and my 2 of my ex bfs. my parents were surprised that i have broken up with the last one and even to him he could not understand the reason… it was just nasty for couple of months after that.

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