It was the 3rd of January. Disha had been sitting in her office cubicle for a while now, waiting for her editor to approve her story on New Year celebration. She had to delete the mass molestation incident of Bangalore because, come on, you have to paint a picture of hope even when there is none, like the haunting lyrics of that beautiful George Michael song – Praying for Time. Ah yes, George Michael! She had changed her ringtone to her favourite song of his – Careless Whispers. People leave too soon, especially the ones who are needed the most. Disha had been rebuked by one of her seniors over her obsession with the stars of the 80s. And, why not? She had huge posters of Michael Jackson, Madonna, George Michael and Whitney Houston hanging on her bedroom walls, much to the chagrin of her parents.
As we grow up, we realise how valuable the seemingly insignificant things in our lives are. Like the faded memories of school, which you get when you brush past the building exactly at the time of morning assembly. People confuse keeping memorabilia with the sickness of holding onto the past. “Those are two completely different things!” she’d think. She had a fight with one of her friends over her need of letting go of the past. People try, but there’s only so much they can do. No one knows how hard it is to let go of something which keeps tugging into your heart the moment someone mentions it. Disha had been trying too. In this age of quick, successive results, people have forgotten how important it is for time to pass before a wound heals. “Blame it on the break-up parties and those pathetic songs which glamourize casual sex, alcoholism and abhorrent behaviour,” she once quipped to her colleague. He simply advised her to change. “Why do you get serious man? Times have changed. You do not get serious over love and relationships. You just let them come and go”, he’d say. “Why not?” Disha would say to herself. We live in an age where it’s rare for children living away from their parents to call them once a week; where break-ups and proposals are made over texts. Like that blog she once read – it’s almost a sin to look for real relationships in this age of hook-up culture. And people like Disha and the writer of that blog are mere victims!
The notification on her computer screen makes Disha happy and now, all she has to do is call a cab and go home. Yes, her friends have been asking her to socialise over some entrepreneurship seminar, but, she’d prefer to go and watch tribute videos of George Michael instead. Or maybe catch up on a movie. She was not among those countless people who watched movies like Pink and Dangal and applauded them on social media. She did not want to be reminded of what exactly happens with women on an everyday basis in India, and no matter what the government or the film industry does, there’s not going to be any difference. That is what made her feel a bit uncomfortable every time she clicked on that video call icon on Facebook to talk to a guy she met online last year.
It isn’t exactly a sweet story to be incessantly told to seek out guys and get into a relationship. Disha had already lost her cool in front of her relatives when they asked her to make a New Year resolution of getting married. Her mother would lament her lack of interest in marriage to every one she’d meet at weddings. The entire 20s turns out to be a bane for most young girls in India. The age bar, biological disadvantage makes them subservient to men, more than they already are. Disha was not ready to buy Shahid Kapoor’s philosophy on arranged marriages. Of course, she knew she had been hurt by expectations. But, to get into bed with someone leaving everything to fate seemed far too incomprehensible to her. “God knows how many youngsters must have been heckled by their parents for arranged marriage after the mushy concept which the too old-too young couple portrayed on screen that day. Who knows what happens behind closed doors?” She’d think. But, people don’t and she knew that all too well.
She had decided she would allow herself to be out there, to feel vulnerable and be honest with her own self. She had begun to realize that the guy she met online was no different than many others – he did not seek something more than casual talk and she didn’t blame him for that. But, that was not the place she’d waste her time on, then. “I have felt fear too; I have been cheated upon too. But, I am not scared of being in a relationship and investing in it,” she had told her best friend. “But, I guess you know he has cleared it all. He won’t get into anything serious. I tell you Disha, most people you meet these days will not be interested to get into a serious relationship.”
“How come you got into one?”
“I don’t know how the hell it happened. I did not intend it to be. Listen, it will not come if you plan. Just let it come to you as a surprise.”
“So what? Did you plan on falling for those jerks? Didn’t it happen without any warning? I remember it all. Come on, do not dismiss it.”
“All those mushy love stories! Damn!” she’d sigh
“That’s why you began watching meaningful movies. Let’s watch Dangal. I am telling you, it is amazing!”
“Uff! Not again!”
And there began the same old banter they engaged in when the movie Pink released.
Disha was seeking a job change this year. The stars had predicted things in her favour this time, both personally and professionally. Her job had turned mundane. Cost-cutting and employee layoffs were going to be the future. In any case, she did not have anything much to do. It had been more than two years already. She didn’t know where and when or how, much like the way it was before she joined her current company. Her dreams had come true, she believed. But, dreams do keep on changing.
They say, confidence is the key to anything worthwhile. If you feel you do not have that kind of confidence, you fake it. “Much like you fake an orgasm, “she’d wonder. “How important it is for women to keep the men in their lives happy and vice versa. That reminded her of how so many people would let their self-respect hang loose because they were in love. She was no different. But, she was a completely different person now than she was all those years ago. She loathed how horrible she was then. Someone who let a man rule over her, show her the rightful place and then dump her when he found an arm candy. “Men fall for girly girls,” she would often say, putting her friends in a debate. “You are falling for the wrong kind of men”, she’d be told. “I think with the kind of old-fashioned views you have about love and relationships, you’d need someone older than you,” was another advice.
She did believe in all those and found someone older than her. But, as luck would have it, he was already betrothed to another and wasn’t refusing to part with her in spite of the pain he endured. “So, I am not the only one suffering. Men, too, get used that way”. Oh yes! They do! But, nobody talks about it. If only people talked more than they text!
Texting, Disha believed, was a way of people to hide their true colours and feelings. She, herself, felt far more comfortable texting emotional stuff than telling it to someone face-to-face. And that caused her to lose two of her childhood friends. Disha used to be a big fan of childhood romance. She had once been applauded for her level of commitment. However, after all the major, destructive upheavals that she encountered, she now understands that commitment works only if it is returned in the form of commitment. You cannot simply give and give and expect karma to take care of it. Karma does nothing. It’s upon a person to save his/her own self. Disha did not leave when she should have. Her emotions got the best of her all those times over the past year. And, finally, she took it in and rode along. Oh, the things life makes us do!
“Should have known better than to cheat a friend,
And waste a chance that I’d been given.
So I’m never gonna dance again, the way I dance with you.”
How much did she love these lines! “No idea if George Michael wrote it out of guilt all those years ago. But, how better it’d have been if all those people who cheat loved ones felt the same kind of guilt.” Unfortunately, that was not meant to be. Disha would still get tears in her eyes thinking of all those moments. She had spent a long time mourning. She had felt throttled by her own emotional cage and begged to be let out. It had consumed too much of her energy and time and tears. Resentment and pain had made her hollow and, to a great extent, she had become unscathed about other people’s opinions and emotions about her.
And yet, something seemed to be remarkably different with this guy she was yet to meet offline. The virtual world has made human relationships far more complicated than ever before. Technology had, for sure, ruined Disha’s love life. She was never one to swipe left and right on Tinder for any sort of romantic experience. In any case, who gets any sort of romantic experience these days? Her old-fashioned heart wouldn’t let her jump into bed with a stranger and indulge in meaningless coitus. Too bad, everyone she met wanted the same. People were sick of investing too much and getting little in return. It made much more sense to just let all emotions fly out the window and focus only on meeting physical needs. Disha wasn’t against the hook-up culture. But, the fact that she could not fit into this left her with a sense of dejection and sadness. And it seemed to be growing with each passing day.
Abandonment issues and trust issues shape an individual’s personality and no one knew that better than Disha. She’d get attached to people, anyone she could establish an emotional connection with and things would go downhill from there. Most such guys were not able to reciprocate her feelings and, sometimes because of her clinginess or attachments, they would leave immediately. The last time she was flabbergasted at the way she had let go of her self-respect and chased the guy. Troubled friendships were just a direct consequence of that.
And so, the cycle continued. She had spent an entire year trying to come out of the whole madness surrounding her self-imposed heartbreak. Last night’s conversation with the guy seemed to be somewhat of a soul search. Of course, it was too early for her to brand this new attachment as “love”, but she knew how dangerous her attachments were. The New Year had predicted some sort of life changing magical stuff for her, both personally and professionally. However, as they say, nothing comes without work on a person’s part. For the first time ever since she began talking to the guy, she had experienced symptoms of attachment. They had a pretty deep funny conversation last night and she was happy in a way that the guy had come out all clear to her about relationships. But, it’d be a lie to say it didn’t sting when he mentioned how he had thought of dating a girl he had been talking to. “Here’s another guy who is ‘not looking for a relationship’, she thought. People were scared of their experiences and here she was looking to find what, as her boss said, the world did not have to give to her.
I’ll close my eyes and then I won’t see
The love you do not feel, when you’re holding me
Morning will come, and I’ll do what’s right
Just give me till then, to give up this fight
And I will give up this fight
And I can’t make you love me if you don’t
You can’t make your heart feel something it won’t
And here in the dark in these final hours
I will lay down my heart and I’ll feel the power
But you won’t, no, you won’t
And I can’t make you love me
If you don’t
The lyrics of this haunting song played and Disha’s eyes wandered back into the past. Dim lights, the music and Disha – they had a threesome and she slept as she always did – cuddled by her dreams and with a prospect of, well, whatever life threw at her.