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Happy Alone, But Together I Don’t Think So!

Probably love in their case was like a short-story reader, too scared to commit to a full-length novel. They wanted to spend time with each other, but not in that far-fetched, drawn-out way that lasted a lifetime.

The feed for her #aphotoaday didn’t receive many likes but she knew instantly, the glow of her selfie was real! Without any filters.

It has been 10 days since Vanaja broke up with Rushan, her boyfriend for 6 years. For the first few mornings, her yoga classes had been distracting.

“Vanaja!” Her instructor Mrs. Dhakad, a strict old lady with refined taste in dressing (she would wear a white poncho and tie a high pony with a headband that looked too hip for her age but somehow it made her look a charismatic yogi) would gesture Vanaja with her fingers signaling she’s being watched when she found Vanaja searching for her mobile in the middle of the Padmasana.

It wasn’t unusual for her as that would be the time Rushan drove to his gym and would place a call from his car to Vanaja and put her on speaker phone.

“Hmm…yes..haan!” that was all Vanaja could respond when Rushan would call her routinely.

Sometimes it would be a sober ‘haha’ to fill the space in their conversation signalling ‘all’s ok’ between them. She knew the hands-free mode in Rushan’s car was on, as she would sometimes hear his friends giggle in the background. She had to excuse herself from Mrs. Dhakad’s class to take his call.

A strange pleasure!

But after almost a week of breaking up with her boyfriend, Vanaja felt a strange pleasure in being single again.

To her it was like being released into Paris in springtime after hundred years of jail in her small apartment in a relationship she wasn’t enjoying, where catching up with an old friend was like academics where she had to write an essay on everything they talked about.

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Because Rushan wouldn’t settle for anything less. She had to reveal everything to him from what food they ordered to the job switch her friend is planning with all the ifs and buts. It made her feel like a chatbot!

When she opened the drawer to charge her phone’s battery, it was almost fully charged. She had been on a digital detox for 10 days. Except for a few swipes on Instagram and a few WhatsApp messages from home she had been avoiding to answer, she had let the device alone.

‘Whoa! How come you are not online at this ungodly hour? Guess you’re boyfriend is on night duty somewhere!’ It was an unopened message from last night. It was her sister, Suahani.

“What d’ya mean?’ She replied.

“Because usually, those are your happy hours of chatting with your boyfriend. C’mmom, he is hardly out of town! You live together and still…’ Suhani replied an hour later.

“Ah! I broke up with him!’ Vanaja typed.

“What? Are you serious? Did you tell Mom?”

Vanaja did not reply. She was watching TV. She turned it off and thought about it. It will take a lot of guts to inform this to Mom, she thought, who almost treated them as a soon-to-be-married couple and was already rolling out her wedding plans.

“What do I tell you, Mrs. Joshi. She’s a modern girl and these guys really want to spend their life together. We only have to do the rituals, so that they at least know how they are done, you know.” She had overheard Mom last time she was home when she had wrapped up her conversation with Mrs. Joshi with a peal of nervous laughter.

Maybe she can message her first so she gets time to breathe it in?

She picked up her phone. Another message from Suhani flashed at the top –

“That’s why you now have time to respond to your long-lost sister.”

‘Oh, she is again playing the victim card!’ She thought. She flew the mobile onto the couch and strolled towards the refrigerator. It was Sunday. A Sunday she had never so dearly wanted. All the Sundays went in Rushan’s kitty. He always had people to please, friends to hang out with on Sunday evenings.

She took out a strip of Kit-Kat and unwrapped it.

“Let’s buy you a good party dress. I want you to look your best.” He would say.  With all the good intentions Rushan had for her, she had always thought they needed a break.

But Vanaja felt like her arm candy. She wasn’t really a candlelight-dinner lady. In fact, she just wanted both of them to chill, wake up late and laze around in their 1 BHK apartment. She had a well-earning but back-hurting job and so did Rushan as a brand manager of a jewelry brand.

Had it been a break-up 6 years earlier, she would have swiped the dating apps in the FOMO mode. But today she was swiping Amazon for buying a new book – some family fiction, preferably.

And then she remembered her unanswered message.

A short happy occurrence

It had been years since Vanaja had a real conversation with Suhani. Like the ones, they had when Vanaja was in college and Suhani in the final year of her school. Cautions and sisterly advice flew freely about boys and heartbreaks. They were 4 years apart, but Suhani had always been the more protective one out of the two. She had never liked Rushan and was insistent on Vanaja for breaking up with him.

Suhani lived in the US now, freshly separated from her husband. She had a love marriage. Probably love in their case was like a short-story reader, too scared to commit to a full-length novel. They wanted to spend time with each other, but not in that far-fetched, drawn-out way that lasted a lifetime.

Their marriage ended like a happy occurrence that happens once in a lifetime, like regrowing a full set of teeth or witnessing a monster eclipse. Not like a season or a sunset that promises a return.

Suhani lived with her pet tortoises. Tortoises she felt were a more reliable companion than a husband simply because outlive others. Their presence reassured her that they will be there to witness her retirement, her transition into an old coughing whining woman with a partition of hair as wide as the physical distance had been for years between her and her sister.

Vanaja never felt being solo will ever be so hurtful to her sister. She always thought Suhani was a self-sufficient woman, in feelings as in money. Her fiercely ambitious sister can never be so alone as would be dying to meet her sister again. It was incomprehensible to her. She couldn’t see the emptiness in her angry messages full of sarcasm.

She felt she was angry only because she didn’t listen to her ‘over-protective sister’ and nothing more. A phase she believed will pass, like Rushan.

Vanaja remembered when Rushan first asked her to stay the night at his apartment. The following month he moved into her flat. Each day after for the next two years had been a celebration. Lots of talking, listening and sharing of spaces, in the hope of blurring out the outlines of those two individual spaces and making them one.

But then the reality sunk in – their individual goals, the work overload, and the unwanted friends entered like bed bugs quietly crawling into their personal space and hollowing it out.

The first valentine

She remembered their first valentine. How she had written 50 letters to Rushan and hidden them at different spots for him to discover and read – in his car’s glove compartment, shaving pouch, in his shoes, between his morning sandwich, among the tea bags, in the watch box – like hidden treasures of love.

She wondered how she managed to say so much for Rushan. She probably could write a hundred love messages more easily for herself than for anyone else in the world right now!

She thought of the Four Seasons kept in her kitchen cabinet that Risha had gifted her in the morning. Risha was her friend from college. She had come to invite her and Rushan for the couples night at her outhouse on Velantine’s.

“I know you would say – ‘Of course, it’s a given you stupid!’ But still, I am inviting you formally so that you two take it seriously – You and Rushan both have to come to the party, cool?”

Risha had come home to hand over the party invite and had brought along a beautifully decorated bottle of wine, which she was giving out to every invited couple as a gift.

“Risha—me and Rushan… we broke up!” Vanaja’s words had come out plainly.

“Err… oh! I am sorry Vanaja! How and when?”

“I’ll tell you someday, you’re busy with the party preps.”

“We’ll catch up over the weekend. Okay, take it easy.” Risha had said before leaving.

“Thanks, I will!”

Her phone rang breaking the silence of the moment like a blast. It was Risha.

“Vans, hey if you don’t mind, can I have that wine bottle back I gave you in the morning? Actually, we had a count for couples for some games-wames you know… you know how it is at these parties…”

“It’s okay, Risha. I will be glad to hand it over to you.”

“Don’t bother, I’ll send someone to collect it.”

‘Haha!’ Vanaja gave out a chuckle after hanging up the phone. Why do people have to wait for Cupid to strike them, for his arrow to burst the balloon of their love hormones and send them on a high for love? Can’t it be self-effectuated? An internal Cupid that can be called upon anytime when needed?

Strange that this raid of thoughts should happen on a special day like Valentine’s. But they weren’t emptying her. Rather helping her gather herself thought by thought. She wanted to be alone. And thought of her lonely sister.

It was still 7 pm in the clock. She wanted to watch an old season of Sex and the City. She remembered how in those days when she was a fresher in college and Suhani was in school, they used to trick Mom and Dad into believing they are involved in some physics project that Vanaja was helping Suhani with conceptually and they needed to refer to some videos.

Their mother had her suspicions but their academic excellence always gave them the benefit of doubt. And then they secretly inserted the DVD Vanaja got from her friend and watched Sex and the City on father’s laptop, sipping their cold coffee, one episode each Saturday.

They later cleared the surfing history instantly lest they should forget it and then gave a wild hi-five after the mission was successful!

The moment of happy epiphany!

Vanaja found herself smiling at the cupboard, she was planning to open to release the wine bottle for Risha. Hours later, some couple hopefully madly, truly in love will be sipping it down their throats before getting into the groove at some faraway outhouse.

Vanaja realized that whenever she heard a voice from within, consoling her, encouraging her it was the voice of either her sister or her mother.

“Thank you.” Vanaja said as she opened the door for Risha, second time in a day.

“What for?” she asked.

“You just made me realise that the real kick, the rawest one, I’ll be getting today is through not any external intoxication. It would be through the cold coffee, I’ll be sipping with my sister and watching Carrie and her three girlfriends dining out.

“Is Suhani back in Mumbai?”

“She isn’t. But we can still watch it together, at the same time from wherever we are?”

“It’s difficult to understand you Vanaja. But you’re awesome. Happy Solentine to you and Suhani!”

‘Want to catch up your sister with some old TV shows?”

“Eh?” Suhani replied. Her puzzlement clearly visible in her text, as Vanaja messaged her after kissing Risha goodbye.

“Grab a cold coffee. Let’s watch the episode in which Carrie and her friends vow to stop searching for the perfect mate, at Miranda’s birthday party?”

“Season 1, Episode 1!” Suhani was swift in her response.


“I watched it yesterday, alone!”

“Well, let’s watch it again today, alone but together, and say cheers to our Solentine?” Vanaja replied.

Image source: martin_dm, via Getty Images Signature, free and edited on CanvaPro

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About the Author

Sneha Sharma

Sneha is a writer, visiting faculty for creative writing at Renaissance College of Commerce and Management and conducts writing workshops. She has worked as a freelance writer and voice-artist for On-mobile (Global leader read more...

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