By Anusha Srinivasan
Illustrations by Bhavya Kumar
I have to blame Twitter for my first and worst relationship. What made it unbearable was not the distance, or the fact that he cried at the drop of a hat or because he was desperate to get married and I wasn’t.
It was because the breakup took six months. We went out for nine months.
I was 23 when I met Chinmay* through Twitter. As a fledgling reporter, I wanted his quote for a story on Bangalore youngsters on social media. So I promised him a drink if he obliged. We met at a bar and ordered a couple of beers. I’m not a beer drinker (I’m allergic to it), but I wanted to be polite, so I chugged some with him.
I went back to my college hostel and vomited the whole night, while texting him that all was okay. He asked me out. At that time, I wasn’t sure how I felt about him. Sure, it was exciting that someone was paying me attention, found me attractive and smart and wanted to date me. Plus, dating seemed like a fun time-pass thing to do, so I said yes.
The minute we started dating, he put it on Twitter — without telling or asking me. He’d even tweet about our dates (where we went, what we ate, what we talked about). It used to get irritating, but as a naive 23-year-old in her first relationship (he was nearly 30), I dismissed all of this.
After college, I took up a job in Bangalore. For some time, I stayed with a friend. Till I found another place, Chinmay suggested that I move in with him. That way, we didn’t have to travel long distances to meet each other. It sounded like a good idea. Apart from being my first ever relationship, it also marked the first time I moved in with someone and the first time I had sex.
Here’s how we ended up having sex. Chinmay decided enough was enough: We’d gone out for three months, we were now living together and we needed to have sex. But I was totally not ready for it. A fact that I repeatedly mentioned and which he cast aside as “lack of experience”.
I hated sex. I hated that I had to get naked with someone who didn’t take into account what I wanted. I hated doing it in the glow of hazy orange light. I hated that someone was touching me without my permission. Every time I brought up my feelings around sex, Chinmay would say “everyone in a relationship has sex”, this was “just new” for me. I kept arguing that I needed more time to think about this, to work out my problems, including body image issues. And Chinmay’s response was — to cry. When I look back now, his crying made me feel guilty. And I would awkwardly stand, not knowing how to react.
Three months into our living together, I was looking for an excuse to get away. Even though I had (good) reasons to break it off with him, the truth was I didn’t know how. Because his most immediate response was to cry, no matter how logically or carefully I prepared myself for the breakup; my stumbling block was his tears. Plus, this was my first relationship — a close friend of mine “advised” me not to ruin something good. If you didn’t count his crying, nagging, and emotional blackmail, he was a genuinely nice guy who cared about me and wanted the best for me. I thought I should wait a bit before doing anything hasty.
But thankfully, he was transferred to Delhi and I decided to go home to Chennai. This distance, I thought, would drive us apart and I’d finally have my breakup. Of course, I had no plans of telling him upfront then, I was just hoping it would lapse by itself, which, if I come to think of it now, seems selfish and bitchy.
But it only got worse. The day after I came home, he declared over the phone that he loved me, something he never mentioned before. A second’s silence later, I threw my phone hard on my balcony wall. It didn’t come apart, but it disconnected the call and I was rid of him for a couple of days. Two days later, feeling guilty, I called him back via my landline and told him my phone fell down from the balcony. Then he said he loved me again and wanted to hear the same from me. “It’s going to be four months. Can I hear those three magic words?” I hesitated and just said, “I like you a lot. You’re a nice, kind person but I don’t know about…” and before I could finish, I heard soft sobbing at the other end. “I’ve been nothing but nice to you and I know you love me back. If you can’t express it in words, I will still take it that you love me,” he said. I could feel an anxiety attack coming and I mumbled the words “I love you too”.
Two months later, he decided to tell his parents about me and urged me to do the same. This time, I put my foot down and told him if that were to happen, I wouldn’t talk to him ever (it was my way of breaking up). He said he’d refer to me as a good friend and that I needn’t tell my parents anything. I kept quiet. Taking it to be a yes, he then told me he’d actually shown his parents my picture and that we’d been dating for six months. “Both my parents want to meet you. How about dinner next week when I’m in Chennai?” Furious, I yelled at him for doing all this without my permission. Predictably enough, he started sobbing about how his parents never believed he’s had a girlfriend, because marriage never materialised and that he wanted me to be that one person who transitioned from girlfriend to wife. This freaked me out more than anything — particularly, a feeling that I wasn’t in control of my own life — made me feel suffocated and claustrophobic.
Wanting to end this conversation, I agreed to meet his parents on two conditions: 1. We’re casually dating 2. My parents know nothing about this. Chinmay agreed. But I should’ve known he wasn’t going to take me seriously.
I entered the restaurant at Woodlands in Chennai nervously, hoping this meeting wouldn’t end in marriage talk. But, of course, the first question his parents asked me was how did my parents react to the fact that I was dating their son. I dropped my soup spoon and managed to knock down the bowl as well. But I had enough courage to tell them — something Chinmay didn’t have — that I hadn’t told my parents and wasn’t going to either. I could sense that his mother didn’t like me already.
The next night, Chinmay and I got into a heated conversation and I told him I was tired of this relationship. Chinmay, instead, coolly asked me if I was on Pinterest. “So that we can design our wedding board.” This was when I realised that I had to rip the Band Aid off. The Pinterest wedding board calls (and other general lovey-dovey calls that I continued taking, despite my discomfort) didn’t stop at that — he’d call me at 1 am or sometimes even 3 am to discuss if peach and aubergine made for a good match and if we should perhaps give out chocolates as favours instead of thambula pai (return gifts of coconut, sweets and savouries, given to guests at Tamil weddings).
A month after the meeting and eight months into our relationship (we passed that month over tepid, argumentative phone calls), sensing that our boat was going out of control, Chinmay quit his job and relocated to Chennai. I had a demanding job for which I had to get up early, travel 15 km and work late. Not to mention all the running around I had to do in the city using public transport. My work left me exhausted, but it was the relationship that drained me the most. I didn’t want him to come to Chennai.
But he did and I met him. Preparing myself for the break up, I told him to meet me early one morning at a busy cafe, just so that he wouldn’t cry in public. I tried to reach before him, but he was already at a table with the widest and calmest grin. Before I could even take my seat, he pushed a couple of my favourite books towards me — books that were annoyingly expensive. Chinmay had come prepared for damage control. But I pushed the books back and started talking about how this wasn’t working for me. He laughed and said, “Which is why I think we have to start over. Let’s make sure this lasts.”
It was my turn to cry. But I was getting late to work so I told him I’d meet him in the evening. He ignored me and said he’d accompany me on my office commute. Creeped out, I tried my best to shake him off but Chinmay was determined. So I told him I didn’t want to talk and I’d only listen to music the whole time. He promised to stay quiet. “I just want to be with you and see you,” he said. So we got into a share auto till one spot and then took the bus till my office. I told him to rush to the bus stop since an AC bus was scheduled to arrive then. He refused to leave saying that he’d wait for me outside my office till I finished work so that we could talk and work things out. I begged him to leave, but he wouldn’t budge. I started crying and didn’t even realise I was. The security guard, who’d been watching all this, asked me if everything was okay and if Chinmay was bothering me. Even as I was super tempted to say yes, I just waved him away. I folded my hands full filmy style and begged Chinmay to leave. He finally relented and said he’d be waiting at the same coffee shop at 8 pm and that I should call him at 7 pm to confirm.
That day I finished work late and was plagued by his calls all evening. All through my journey home, I cried my heart out. The bus conductor even refused to accept money for my ticket and checked on me twice.
I came home tired, red-eyed and completely done. I called him up and before Chinmay could say anything, I blurted out: “This is over. Our relationship is over. Please leave me alone. I cannot do this anymore,” and cried my heart out. Chinmay also started crying and together we were howling for two hours. After minutes of complete silence from his end, he finally said “Ok” and I was free.
It has been six years since the relationship and since I last spoke to him, but I still feel guilty. I know I’m not supposed to according to my friends (“he suffocated you!”), but a part of me wishes I was bold enough to nip it in the bud, to have said, “Hey, maybe this isn’t working”, at the right time, or have at least broken up in person. He deserved that and so did I for having gone through hell.
But it has made me a stronger person: I’ve told boys what works for me and what doesn’t and thankfully, they’ve reciprocated. I think it was hard for me to break up then because I really didn’t understand why it was so serious for him and he didn’t understand why it wasn’t for me. I was also plagued by guilt and doubt, given that he was indeed a nice guy. In some ways. Some days, I keep wondering what would’ve happened if I hadn’t broken up with him, but that feeling doesn’t last. Only because that relationship wasn’t meant to last.
Anusha is a journalist who likes puns so much that she’s been there punned that.