By Anuradha D’Souza
Graphics by Debasmita Das
“Hum sirf ek baar jeete hain
ek baar marte hain
pyaar bhi ek baar karte hai
aur stalking…. bar bar karte hai”
Every time a dramatic event happens in my life, I hear a Shah Rukh Khan dialogue in the background of my mind.
Shah Rukh Khan told me it was okay to love and lose and yearn. I believed him. (I believe everything Shah Rukh Khan says). He would watch his Paro from the shadows, unable to touch — alive, but barely. I understood his toxic craving for the woman he loved a little too well.
Back in 2012, I met somebody who made me go weak in my knees. I fell in love with him and I couldn’t believe this sona munda loved me back. Mummy ne bhi kaafi baar chai pe bulaya. All was well, until Priyanka happened. She was a classmate of mine in college. I knew she had a crush on him but Akshay and I were not dating each other back then, so I would just hide my jealousy.
So when Akshay and I started dating, and he would talk to Priyanka, I was uneasy. But I trusted him and blissfully spent day after day in his company. One day, he told me he loves Priyanka. I just sat there staring at him. Main kya bolti? What do you say to the love of your life when he no longer loves you? I knew that if I wanted him to be happy I had to break up with him.
“Jaa Simran, jee le apni zindagi.”
Magar meri zindagi ka kya? I now had a gaping hole in my life left by his absence. It was one thing to break up, but letting him go? That was a whole different task. I missed him beyond words. After he was gone, I turned to the closest thing left to his presence — his Facebook profile.
I woke up every day and checked his profile first thing in the morning. Through his Facebook photos, I held the ghost of his presence close to my heart.
But even that ghost was changing before my eyes. Akshay had never been a social media bug. All of this changed with Priyanka. A few weeks after our break up, he posted selfies with her with #love and #happiness. It tore me apart. He never posted pictures with me na? Was I never his #love? Did I never give him #happiness? I finally had come to the painful realisation — Main inti khaas thi hi nahin.
“Udne ki baat parinde karte hain, uske toote hue par nahin”
But for some reason this only increased my yearning for him. Yeh letting go hai nahin aasan. I’d scroll down from post to post, to find semblance of a love lost. As though trying to relive our time together by scrolling down will undo everything that happened to us; as though it will make me feel less lonely. His social feed became my refuge, my one shot at escaping reality. But my heart was still alone.
One day, during my marathon scrolling session on his Instagram feed, I accidentally liked his picture with Priyanka. I was so mortified that I threw my phone away, only to realise that I’d broken it. The fact that I’d broken my phone worried me less — broken phone meant I could not unlike the picture and he would know it.
After that incident, for two days, I stayed away from his profile. I didn’t even switch back my phone. I was so embarrassed that I didn’t take phone calls from anyone for those two days. I just spent my days in bed, crying. I watched too much TV to avoid thinking about what had happened. It was bad that I was left for another woman but it was worse to think that he knew I was following his life.
I wish I had stopped there? To escape my own feelings, I now obsessed about something new — Priyanka. Priyanka’s profile became my new refuge. P-P-P-Priyanka became my K-K-K-Kiran. I was filled with glee when her photos got only a handful of likes. I laughed cruelly at any of her unflattering photos.
Everything she did, I compared it to myself. She liked beaches, I hated them. She likes dressing up, I hated dressing up. It made me wonder if this is why he left me. Because he liked someone who dressed up for him, knew how to put on make-up, understood fashionable things. Maybe I was not ‘ladki’ enough for him. Internet stalking Priyanka destroyed my self-confidence.
After stalking her, for the first time in my life, I tried to put on makeup. The result was a lot like college Anjali’s disastrous attempt at makeup in Kuch Kuch Hota Hai. After all, how could I compete with perfect Tina?
Months passed. Just as I began getting tired of self-inflicting myself with a daily dose of pain, the internet came running to remind me of his presence. Our mutual friends would tag us in posts, friends would dig up other photos to make fun of. But sabse zyada, pictures posted by happy couples on my timeline would trigger me into start going through Akshay’s profile again.
It felt like the universe was encouraging me to keep running back to his online presence though it was poisoning me.
“Kisi cheez ko agar poore dil se chaaho toh saari kayanath tumhe usse milane ki koshish mein lag jaati hai.”
Thanks, Kayanath. I really didn’t need this.
Every time I stalked him online, I’d cry. The pain was overwhelming. The loneliness was unbearable. It affected my job, as I would Google him even during work. After that, I would no longer be able to work.
This went on for a year. It reached a point after which, there was no option but to gradually stop. I got tired of going through his happy life and comparing it to my unhappy one. Tired of the physical toll it started taking on me — I had pimples and dark circles all over my face. I was fatigued and tired. I know ki this was not just because of my endless internet scrolling and that the heartbreak was the larger issue, but this scrolling was a drug jiske side effects were showing all over my life. It was sheer exhaustion that made me stop.
Slowly, as I stopped, my confidence grew. I started exercising and going out and meeting new friends. I realised that just because one boy decided to not date me, it didn’t mean I was undateable.
My mother and sister — their constant affection — also helped me. It didn’t slip ma’s notice that I was miserable, but I never had an open relationship with her. But she knew, like mothers do, that I was going through a bad phase. For the first few months of my break up, ma made all my favourite food — kachori, kaanda poha, fish curry and rasmalai. It was the only way I’d even bother to eat properly. She cared for me physically so that I could focus on getting better mentally. Didi knew the whole ordeal because she’s my best friend. She would come home early from work to spend time with me. She held me and let me cry on the days I broke down. She took me out for movies. She volunteered more often to act as a mediator when ma lost patience with me.
Eventually, I searched for Akshay less, I yearned for him less. I understood that I had lost Akshay, but more importantly that I had lost my confidence in myself. My yearning for him automatically came down. My search history eventually stopped showing Akshay’s name.
When I look back, I feel like I could have done this thoda differently. But it’s easy to say this from a place of sanity now, but then it was madness. Sometimes, when I’d sit alone I’d feel strange that I did all of this shamelessly. It feels bizarre, actually. I’ve come a long way from being that person. But now I feel that my dignity is not even important when my mental health was at stake. I would not do this Google-waala madness again because I do know better now. But I refuse to look back in shame at what I did.
My toxic Googling helped me understand that I had lost someone I loved, but I gained my own self in return.
“Kabhi kabhi jeetne ke liye kuch haarna bhi padta hai… aur haar kar jeetne waale ko baazigar kehte hai”