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I had loved him from afar as a teenager, and carried a flame for him for years. Now when I was engaged to my first flame, he wanted his ex-wife’s approval!
Truth is stranger than fiction, goes the old adage. Earlier, I had little faith in this. Gradually, as I walked along the path of life I had a one-of-its-kind experience which proved this saying to be true.
Many decades ago we lived in Ludhiana, a dingy industrial town in Punjab. The town’s Bengali community was fairly closely knit. We were friends with a certain Choudhury family. The couple had two boys, both older than me. The siblings were nice to me.
After I entered my teens, I began to feel a strange attraction for the older one. I shall henceforth refer to him as B. I was 13, he was 20. Whenever we met on social occasions, I felt an overpowering force drawing me towards him. He was rather good looking and tall. This was enough to fire my imagination. A flame was thus kindled in my heart. I longed to get close to him. But the shy, gawky teenager that I was, I failed to drop a hint or disclose my feelings.
Time rolled on… we returned to Delhi. The elders managed to keep in touch though. We heard that he had married one of his classmates, a Sikh girl. I was heart broken and tearful. How I wished he hadn’t tied the knot so early. At least by roping in my parents I could have tried my luck. To cut a long story short, only a thin line of communication between our families remained…
Five years later, my family was in Kolkata in connection with a wedding. Can you believe, we bumped into B right at Howrah Station! He was in town to meet his aged parents, was divorced and was currently posted in Mumbai. At that point of time I was recovering from a broken relationship. I saw a thin ray of light. I confided in my parents that I would like to marry him, provided he agreed. My parents contacted the Choudhurys who were immeasurably delighted.
One fine spring day in March, B came down to Delhi to finalise the proposed event. That weekend proved to be a memorable one for me, which I still cherish. Over lunch at an upscale restaurant B elaborated on his violent and stormy marriage, how his wife had cuckolded him, engaged in a passionate liaison with a mutual friend, and post-divorce married the latter. I gave him a patient hearing and empathised as much as I could. Later he came home to meet my family; old times were revived. The modalities were drawn up without any hitch since our families were already acquainted.
On the last evening, we spent some time in a neighbourhood park. Quite naturally the conversation grew emotional and intimate. In a passionate moment he held me in his arms; we promised to seek happiness in each other…The evening lingered on. A balmy breeze that sprang up heightened the trance-like state that I was in. I was supremely happy. Paradise seemed near…
The following day I was introduced to his mooh boli sister, also a local resident. She was stiff, cold, and formal. Naturally I was anything but polite. Little did I know that this would boomerang on me later. They went off together and I came home.
The next day was worse. We visited the local marriage registrar to arrange for a civil wedding. To this day, I am unable to figure out why B went berserk after having a discussion with the lawyer? Did his past (read divorce) haunt him? Was he afraid of taking a plunge again? Whatever it might have been, from the court B took me along to a restaurant where he drunk himself tipsy. Then we went our separate ways because apparently he had an urgent piece of business to attend to.
The anti-climax came the next day. After we met at a pre-appointed place B dropped a bombshell: He was scrapping the alliance. Why? Because he could not handle me! I was not upto the mark as per his standards. I was stunned. After a few minutes, he seemed to mellow a bit. On second thoughts, he said, he would go and consult his ex wife (they were still in touch I was told). “She was an important part of my life. Let her meet you. Only if she approves, will I marry you,” B said.
This was the last straw that broke the camel’s back! Furious, blinded by emotion, I blasted him, oblivious of the fact that we were seated in a restaurant. What audacity – involving another woman in a matter that was none of her business! The very idea – a stranger deciding the course of my future life – was preposterous! They had no right to insult or downgrade me in this manner, when I owed them nothing; was equally educated and independent, if not more.
In all probability his mooh boli sibling had not liked me. Therefore she might have colluded with him, cajoled him to ban me from his life. How else can one explain the sudden lack of euphoria after we were verbally engaged, so to speak?
On his part B sang paens to his ex wife. She was sensible, mature, understanding, replete with social graces. All qualities I lacked. What a wonderful surmise in the space of just a weekend! I shot back: since she had been so perfect why was their marriage defunct? He might as well return to her since he had such strong feelings. B was tongue tied.
So it was curtains down on my rosy dream! It’s a painful fact that B did not love me. Nonetheless he could have respected my feelings for him, to say the least. Had he accepted me, the love I had nurtured so long would have fond fulfillment. I could try making him fall in love again. (After all humans do fall in love more than once.)
Now many decades later, my unrequited love still makes my heart bleed. Let me conclude with my favourite lines penned by Lord Byron:- Man’s love is of man’s life a thing apart, ‘Tis woman’s whole existence.
Header image is a screenshot from the movie Kuchh Kuchh Hota Hain
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