Art by Debasmita Das
In every Indian love story there is a classic character. Family. Sometimes this character is full villain, sometimes a comedy track and sometimes creating confusion. And occasionally the character is all bhaag ja Pooja beti, bhaag ja.
But what happens to this character when the love story ends? When there is a break up? Here are two love stories in which Family played very different roles.
Kahaani # 1
By Shrenik Bose
They say it’s a bad idea to jump into a relationship immediately after a long-term relationship ends. But Saba was the prettiest girl in college and I never believed she’d be interested in me. One day, she was waiting for her bus in the rain. Seeing that she didn’t have an umbrella, I offered her mine. She smiled and said “We’ll share it” and started talking to me. I realised how easy she was to talk to. Plus, her long mane of gol-gol curls was so sexy. Soon, Saba and I started dating.
But I had a lot of unresolved issues because of my ex so Saba and I would fight a lot. I would get very cruel with my words sometimes. I once told her that “nobody will love you because you’re too needy”. But so was I – needy. We were addicted to each other and letting go was more miserable than staying together. We’d spend all our time together — college, shopping, hanging out, making out (in a friend’s house) — and it started getting annoying for our friends. But we were getting serious.
Saba was a main-apni-mummy-ko-sab-kuch-batati-hun, mom-is-my-best-friend types. Four months into our relationship, we were sitting at our college katta and drinking chai when she said, “Come home this weekend and meet mom.” I was shocked. So soon? But she was adamant and said ki her mum was very cool. I was hoping that was true, because my mum, the only one I have to go on, is very conservative.
Ghanta cool. The day I met her, I felt very, very small. One of the first things she asked me was about the last restaurant I took Saba to. I told her: Madras Café. I will never forget her frown at hearing the name of this idli-dosa place in Matunga. She looked at me like I was a dirty stain on her Asian Paints Royale wall. She was a very rich Mumbai woman and I, a shopkeeper’s son from Kolkata.
But still badon ki izzat karni chahiye so, I tried to discuss her favourite author with her, but I received only monosyllables.
A week after that day, Saba’s mum started doing a lot of drama. Saba loved watching movies with me. One Sunday, aunty pretended to feel dizzy so Saba had to stay home. The next Saturday, aunty stopped Saba from going to a friend’s party with me. Kabhi fever, toh kabhi back pain. I was getting frustrated, but what could I say against my girlfriend’s mother? Saba was an only child and had lost her dad. She was extra attached to her mother.
But after three weeks of this natak baazi, Saba realised ki kuch gadbad hai. She tried to nicely talk to aunty nicely but got frustrated by her unreasonable “He is not good for you” rants. So Saba fought for me.
Fighting against Saba’s mother brought us closer together. We’d fight less over my ex-girlfriend and would actually eat our dinner in a civil manner. No temper tantrums for weeks. Aunty No 1’s hatred, our common enemy, helped our relationship bloom.
One day when I was kissing her, she suddenly interrupted me to start talking about her mother. Who talks about their mother during making out yaar? So I began to have that unhappy feeling that Saba’s determination had less to do with loving me, and more to do with winning against her mother.
Two weeks after that, Saba’s mother called me up to say that Saba wanteds to break up with me. I didn’t believe her. I was certain this was another one of Aunty’s dramas. I took an auto and went to Saba’s house. Aunty was furious, Saba was in tears. Aunty had snatched her phone away from her.
But Aunty realised how much pain she had been putting Saba in. So she staged fewerless dramas and eventually stopped throwing me dirty looks.
A week after resolving our “mommy issues”, Saba and I started fighting again. At the same bus stop where I’d first spoken to her, we had a blazing row. The next day, she broke up with me saying, “This not working for me.”
A part of me saw it coming, but I was still shocked. I implored and pleaded with her, but her face was cold and set. Suddenly I felt like an ice slab had pierced my chest.
We had fought for nothing. We had wasted all our time for nothing. We had shed tears for nothing. I could not stop crying. I felt pathetic to be holding her hand and crying onto her shoulder while she awkwardly patted me in her room. I could feel that she wanted me to leave. With leaden feet, I left her home and her life. I saw aunty lurking in a corner on my way out. She looked so smug, it was the first time I wanted to slap an older person in my life.
But sometimes I think, Saba was also bilkul like her mummy. She loved the idea of winning, no matter what the cost was. Aunty’s opposition to our relationship acted like a glue that kept us together. And when the opposition ended we became unstuck. In all that jhagda-jhagdi with her mother, we had forgotten love.
I felt disposable. I turned to smoking cigarettes and isolated myself. I was particularly rude to all my friends’ maa-baap. All these parents did was ruin things, I felt. This lost me a lot of good friends. For months, I cried. I took sick leave from work. I could no longer felt able to go to the places Saba and I went to and yet I went to all those places – Marine Drive, Bandra Fort, Madras Café. This was the only way I could feel close to her again.
After three months, I realised I looked terrible, thanks to no sleep and all sutta. I realised how much I was hurting my mother, who started crying at dinner for the mess I was. That was the day I resolved to pull my act together. I challenged myself to stop having cigarettes and apologised to close friends. After a few months, it got better. At my friend’s Diwali party, his mother bossed me around about my clothes. He looked at me nervously because mummy- log had become such a touchy topic with me. But I just smiled at her.
That was the day I kicked both butts – the cigarette butts and butt of the ghost of my mummy-interfering-relationship. Parents can be controlling if you let them, but at the end of the day it was still Saba’s decision to break my heart. I just wish she’d stopped using her mom as an excuse and let me off the hook early. At least, I could have been spared the mere-paas-superfreak-ma-hai drama.
But chalo, onwards.
Shrenik is a software developer in Delhi. He spends most of his time in libraries.
Kahaani # 2
By Aarti Patil
Rohan and I went to the same school together, same college and ran in the same friend circles. We were both very arty- sharty and best friends, you know? We were always friends and always in love. Like Imran Khan and Genelia D’Souza in Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na. My sister was friends with him, my naani, aai and baba loved him. We grew up together, so no tension.
But most importantly, Rohan’s mother loved me. Rohan’s dad had left them when he was really young. Aunty raised him on her own. I admired her. Every time I went to Rohan’s house, she’d make us some pakode and chai. She was my heroine and my agony aunt. My friends could never have that kind of relationship with their boyfriends’ parents. I was so grateful.
I remember (at 19), the first time I had sex with Rohan was in his home and aunty wasn’t home. We were in the throes of passion when we heard the main door’s lock click! This dumb Rohan had forgotten to lock the door from the inside. I was in his room, buck naked, while he immediately put his clothes on to rush and talk to his mom. I heard a minute of silence and then a whisper “Are you being careful?” And then she left. Seriously, HOW CAN SHE BE SO COOL???
In 2013, we started talking shaadi in our homes. It was Rohan’s idea. He said we’d talk to our parents about it, get engaged and get married in a year or so. We’d both be 26 years old then. He didn’t even propose to me. But that’s what I loved about him. Commitment was not a big hoopla to him, no grand gestures, just enduring support.
In normal situations, it would be the guy who tells his mother about marriage na? In this situation, I was the one to tell aunty. I went over, made her some chai and asked, “Aunty, how would you like me to come live with you permanently?” She was jubilant. Both our families got busy preparing.
Little did I know then that shit would hit the fan.
When I look back I remember that Rohan was not doing too well in his career around then and he’d becoame moody. He couldn’t get into an art school for his post graduation. He couldn’t find a job either. Whenever I tried to talk to Rohan about this, I sensed that he’d shut me off. I realised that he was jealous (I was in art school + was making money from freelance work on the side), so I never brought it up.
Our dinners became quieter. He would not even hang out with our mutual friends when I was around. I took him out for dinner one day and he said nothing throughout the meal. On another date, I broke down crying because I had a bad work day. You won’t believe it — He stayed quiet.
I knew things were seriously wrong. One day, he called me to our favourite restaurant and told me he wanted to take a break. He was so shaana to have chosen that restaurant where I knew everyone — he knew I could not create a scene. But I didn’t understand him.? How do you take a “break” from a lifelong friendship? I felt cornered.
We didn’t meet for 3 months. It was agony. My parents and sister were hanging in weird limbo, not knowing what to do. Rohan’s mum, however, didn’t care about the “break”. “tum meri beti ho, how can I not talk to you?,” she’d said. We’d talk every week, but would pointedly not discuss Rohan. I still could not go to her house because Rohan didn’t want me there.
Three months after this, I spotted Rohan at an art gallery. I went up and said ‘Hi’. Rohan looked shocked and pointed at a girl next to him and said, “This is Anusha. Anusha, this is Aarti.” She looked visibly uncomfortable. Then I noticed why. They were both holding hands. I stared at Rohan and he told me that they’d been together for a month.
I was numb. I went home and told my sister. She told my mum. Neither of them believed it. That night, Rohan called me. He said Anusha had randomly happened to his life; that they intended to get married the same year. He was “going” to tell me but didn’t know how. A fury I’d never felt before built inside me. I immediately called up aunty and asked her if she knew about this. She said she’d known for a couple of days. My fury only increased. I felt more betrayed by her than by Rohan.
But Aunty kept calling me practically every day. I felt bad but I was so torn, I wanted nothing to do with Rohan or his mom. I had lost the love of my life and my best friend at the same time. I was watching my family deal with it. Since aai was close to aunty, she couldn’t cut things off. But it strained their relationship. Even naani, who is the nicest person I know, would frown at a his mention of him. My father would break anything he was holding if we brought him up.
There was this painting I’d made that I’d lent Rohan. I wanted it back because I was very attached to it. So I had to go to his house to collect it a month after our break up. He didn’t have the decency to come and give it to me. Aunty was waiting at the door. The moment we looked at each other, we broke down. She cried, I cried. I realised how much I’d missed her. It was then that I realised that Rohan’s decisions had hurt both our families, and not just mine.
Getting over Rohan was the toughest thing I’ve ever done. I don’t know if my continued relationship with his mother helped or hurt me. A lot of people told me it’s better to disassociate with her if I want to forget him. But she was like my mother. How can I forget my mother? I kept meeting her every three weeks. Once I went over to meet her and found Anusha sitting with Rohan on our bed, one I had occupied for 10 years. Suddenly, all I could see was what looked like a chudail — sitting there smugly. I almost punched both of them. But aunty held me back. She actually had to physically restrain me. I got angry at her also. I told her “How could you let her sit on my bed?! How could you just accept this?” But I saw in her eyes that she had no choice. Rohan was her son after all. Whatever said and done, I could never replace him. The illusion I was just as important as Rohan was to her, shattered. That evening, my heart broke even more. Something I never believed possible.
Six months later, Anusha and Rohan got married. I heard from a common friend that on the day of the wedding aunty looked really sad. I didn’t call her. Apparently, aunty wanted to know how I was doing, even on the wedding day. Somewhere in all my pain, I felt bad for Anusha too. It must not be easy for her to deal with how close aunty and I were. I would feel terrible if I was in her place — yearning for affection from her husband’s mother is natural. As for Rohan, I didn’t know how he dealt with it and I didn’t care. He at least had the maturity to not interfere in my relationship with aunty, knowing how much it meant to me.
After their wedding, I haven’t gone to her house. It was not healthy for me. Losing Rohan was one thing, but losing my mentor, heroine and second mother was something else entirely. If my family raised me, it was aunty who showed me how to live. Rohan might have gained a better half, but we both lost the better halves of our families.
Aarti is an artist. She likes when her name puns.