I never really thought about getting into a relationship until I was in the ninth grade. Up until then, life had been all about taking part in co-curricular activities and topping my exams. I had my dogs, cats, books, and plants when I needed company. I did not get along too well with the kids of my age in my village. I did not feel like I was missing out on anything by not being in these circles, and I’m sure, neither did they. I was comfortable with myself.
Then, magically, maddeningly, a few weeks into the ninth grade, I heard about the boys and girls in my class getting into relationships. Some crushes remained unexpressed; some students would date within the class, others outside. Some brave souls dated people from other schools, though no one really believed their stories. It would be dishonest of me to say that I was not envious of my classmates who would talk about “finding love” and “the right one”. There I was, in one corner, trying to figure out why, for the life of me, I could not feel attracted to any of the girls in my class. And then, eventually, realisation dawned – I wasn’t attracted to girls. It scared me to no end. I had always thought about the conventional, heteronormative (though I did not know the word or the concept at that time) idea of love and what ‘purpose’ love had to serve. I had heard an old uncle tell a younger, unmarried one that he must “get married and have children. What is the point of life otherwise?”
All around me, whenever there was a conversation about relationships, people seemed to glide over one aspect which was paramount to me – falling in love. In none of these conversations, or the ones that I would later have with elders back home, did love ever come up. I stood at odds with their view of things. I thought, “If there was no love, what was the point?” I made the mistake of asking this question that year. I was teased endlessly for it. At every wedding and post-wedding celebration, people would ask if I had fallen in love yet.
I had good news and bad news for them. I had fallen in love, but with a boy. Now, I could not tell anyone this, not even the boy I was in love with, because he happened to be my best friend. So, I swallowed my feelings and helped him write love letters to his girlfriend. I told myself that my time would come and that I, too, would have a shot at happiness. I took six shots at this goal. Who ever knew that the seventh one would be the charm?
I fell in love in the way one sees described in a Mills and Boon story. I had just started college. We met at a swimming pool. While I was thrashing around like a fish out of water, he glided through. We exchanged Instagram usernames and talked. I waited for four hours for him to show up for our first date. I took him chocolates, all of which I ate while waiting. This would become a thing – I would be waiting, he would show up hours late; I would ask for time, he would have none to give. It was the first time I was a part of a couple. That first relationship remained significant because it taught me something about myself – I am a person who, in kind words, “needs time”, and in not-so-kind words, is “clingy and needy”.
That relationship lasted two months. So did the five that came after. I was beginning to think that this was just how long people could tolerate me. Maybe I was going about this loving business all wrong.
Somewhere along the second or third year of college, a boy slid into my DMs. I flirted, he reacted like a cat scalded by hot water, I backed off. Somehow, this didn’t sour things between us. We forged a bond – friendship, the best kind – and never swayed. We would talk and text for hours and hours, and again, I found myself swallowing the full intensity of my feelings, letting him know that I loved him in small, subtle ways (at least, I thought I was being subtle).
I wanted to be one of those people who decide to never date again and actually follow through. Indeed, I decided that a lot. A resolution that was broken so many times that it became a running joke in my head.
I knew that I didn’t want the kind of relationship that the people of my parents’ generation had. I wanted someone who would not be shy of having me around, would openly communicate how he was feeling and what he wanted, would not jump to conclusions, would be there for me, and would let me be there for him.
This feeling of being lonely (romantically) bit into me more when I moved to Bangalore. I realised how un-fun it was to cook for myself, to eat alone, to watch movies alone, and so on. I couldn’t bear being alone there, so I went home. It was March 2021, my uncle’s wedding, and I was his best man. After the ceremony, nearly every uncle, aunt, and grandmother present there sidled up to me to either ask when I was getting married or if I had a girlfriend. I laughed with them. At the end of my stay there, the friend I had made online told me that he would be coming to Goa. We had a small window of time in which to meet. I got on my scooter and rode nearly sixty kilometres to meet him for the first time. When I saw him, every feeling that I had held back washed over me.
After spending a blissful day together, I flew back to Bangalore, and he went back home when his stay in Goa came to an end, just as the whole country plunged into another lockdown. We began spending hours together over video calls, talking a lot more, having our meals together (virtually), and becoming generally comfortable with each other. We got together by the end of March. And it was as easy as breathing or putting on my clothes. I had shed all my heteronormative expectations of relationships, and we decided to figure out this whole “being a couple” thing together. It doesn’t matter how long it takes – we have time and each other.
I wake up glad every morning now to feel that warm, fuzzy feeling envelope me every day. Ten months later we both marvel at how time has gone by.
Cover Image: Pixabay