But He Didn’t Mean It!

The very next day, he would be the same man she had loved. It was like the previous episode had never happened...She told herself firmly, he was probably just having a bad day at work, or stressed, or troubled.

The very next day, he would be the same man she had loved. It was like the previous episode had never happened…She told herself firmly, he was probably just having a bad day at work, or stressed, or troubled. 

2019 is the year in which our beloved writing contest, Muse of the Month gets bigger and better (find out how here) and also takes the cue from the words of women who inspire with their poetry. The writing cue for March 2019 is these lines from Indian-British poet Nikita Gill, who has inspired millions of young people with her words, from her poem poem, Lessons From The Cosmos #2
It would take one million of him
to make even a single you.

The first winner of our March 2019 Muse of the Month contest is Janani Balaji, a 13 year old 8th grader.

But He Didn’t Mean It!

Tara had just set out her carefully made paneer gravy, when he stormed in. He was visibly livid, and Tara stood, tight-lipped, as she pulled out a chair for him to sit.  It was not a good time for this.  But something in her would not let her delay this conversation anymore.

Rajeev was the most brilliant man she’d ever met. They’d gone to business school together. The boys at the institute used to fight for her attention. Beauty and brains were an uncommon combination, but she’d had eyes only for him, throughout. Then, they had even landed a job in the same city.

It was clearly fate. They were meant to be together. He’d always bring her favourite food to her workplace when she had to work the night shift, so they could at least eat together. He always remembered the little things most other men didn’t remember — like their monthly anniversary, or her favourite author. And then that sense of humour. He could make anyone laugh! Handsome, intelligent and funny – what more could one ask for?

So when he suggested they should move in together, Tara readily agreed.

Then things had started feeling different.

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“Come on! How can you forget to keep the milk coupons?”

“Tired of eating outside food. Make something for dinner, na?”

“Never knew you kept your closet in such a mess”

But then she was always the sensible one. Come on! Don’t be so sensitive. Take it as feedback – constructive criticism, she told herself. Tara would do anything for him, because he loved her as much as she loved him. Surely some adjustment time was all it needed.

One year later — Yes, he was still as tall, dark and handsome —

Even when he came home late that night and had slapped her. It was just once…

Even when her eyes betrayed her, small tears forming at the corners of her eyes and then trailing down her cheeks and yet he stood unmoved, and she felt her heart shattering into a million pieces…

Even when he had said, “Don’t know what you women complain about equality for. Look how quickly you got that promotion.” That had hurt. He knew she deserved it and what it meant to her…

The very next day, he would be the same man she had loved. It was like the previous episode had never happened. He would be calling her over to look at a news article and then debate over it, planning for a weekend movie and yes he still remembered the day they first met. She told herself firmly, he was probably just having a bad day at work, or stressed, or troubled. They were both in the early stages of high pressure jobs. Nobody was perfect and there were ups and downs. They were in love, for sure.

But Laura hated him. Her best friend hated him. She hadn’t even told Laura everything! Just that, that day, she needed to vent. She had never learnt to cook well and she had just said “I hope he likes it this time at least.”

Laura, of course had overreacted. “Really, after three gold medals in MBA, and an amazing promotion in one year. You want to prove your worth by cooking! Do Scootsy, or get a cook! Next thing you will have a baby and sit at home! Dare you insult those painstaking years of study…” She kept yelling. Tara smiled at how protective she still was.

Two weeks later, Laura had called her to gush about her new girlfriend, and how she brought home gifts from France and then cuddled with her for hours to make up for lost time. They had shopped, cooked and done the dishes and even done the laundry from the long trip together!

Tara found herself wondering: why didn’t Rajeev do any of these things with her? Grocery was always her job. As was just putting things back. He usually headed straight for the TV after dinner. But he was an only child and his mum had never let him do anything. And she was really super efficient. She had her tasks so well organized that with online ordering and the evening maid to chop and prep, she would finish it in less than hour. None of the cooks they had tried had fit her level of cleanliness and health or Rajeev’s taste buds.

That doubt was the first of many. Laura would gush about how sweet and kind and caring her girlfriend was, and Tara found herself comparing their relationship to her and Rajeev’s, though she constantly told herself not to.

“Only women can do all that. No real man will. You stay away from that weird friend of yours. This is not normal. You know that.” Rajeev had said and stormed off. She had made up her mind not to talk about Laura’s relationship again. It was not an apples to apples comparison really.

But yet a soft meek voice in her head whispered …it was what love was all about…companionship, a lifelong friend wasn’t it?

“Hey,” Laura asked her one day. “Are you okay?”

“I’m fine,” Tara had replied. “But I was wondering, does your girlfriend have any bad days?”

“Of course she does, she sulks and fumes, then apologizes” Laura said. “But we usually go out, and then get ice-cream and she’s usually better.”

Laura sat quietly for a moment, and stared. They’d been best friends since middle school and knew just about everything about each other — well, not everything about Rajeev.

Today, she needed the advice but couldn’t bring herself to say those exact words. She had just got another promotion with an offer to lead a new project in London. She had been surprised at how she was almost reluctant to mention the promotion to Rajeev. She had only talked about the project last night.

“So that’s all you care about us? Long distances relationships don’t work Tara. Let us invest in us. Your career will progress anyway!” Rajeev had said. It seemed to make sense. After all, he was talking of them staying together. They why did she feel so betrayed.

“This,” Laura began fuming. “This Rajeev!! Damn it, I knew that guy was sketchy but you didn’t tell me he abused you! Look, girl you need to have more self-worth, okay? I’ve known you from, like, 4th grade, and you are one of the most talented people I’ve ever met. Hell, I only realised I was a lesbian because of having a huge crush on you! You were in the first bet for making the ‘Top 30 Under 30’, okay, and if Rajeev doesn’t love that part of you, then he doesn’t love you at all.”

“Of course he does…” Tara said, but found her voice lacking the conviction somehow.

“Love is supposed to cherish and support, never demean, never destroy. He’s supposed to complete you, help you, and love you. Just as you do. WAKE UP TARA!!! He’s being mean to you, disrespecting your intelligence, undermining your worth, destroying your freedom… and you want to be his pet dog? You don’t need him, girl.”

Her voice softened now. Tara was hurriedly wiping off the flood of tears that were welling up her eyes. Laura went over and hugged her friend. “Step out of the constant justification. You don’t need to make this work. Don’t make this your relationship your life goal. You don’t need him to complete your life… Because it would take one million of him, to make even a single you.”

That night Tara thought long and hard. In the dead of night, she packed up and was just about to leave when she heard that familiar baritone she had loved say, “Good riddance then.” Of course, he was hurt and angry, but strangely, she didn’t feel like she was betraying him, there was no knot in the stomach, no tears, no pain. Rather, like she was finally getting rid of an old nuisance, free and light.

She told him that she was following her career. He had flipped. And said a whole bunch of nasty things. For the first time, she had seen the words for what they were and seen the man who was speaking them. She threw open the door and walked out, leaving the pink heels he’d bought on their first date.

Hey, they had always been too tight and pinched her feet. And today Tara was all about being free! She called up the company guesthouse and started planning her list of shopping for London.

Janani Balaji wins a Rs 500 Amazon voucher from Women’s Web. Congratulations! 

Image source: videoblocks

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