Crush, infatuation or love? Nowadays, it feels as if these words have no heated meaning for me. It wasn’t always so. We often think of a crush as something to do with silly teenage feelings. Society tells us “once you get married everything will become sorted”. But, in fact, these desires and emotions are a part of our lives, returning from time to time. They can be painful — sometimes you feel the pain and anger of wanting something you cannot have, sometimes you feel guilty and confused about the feelings you are not permitted to have. Yet, these experiences have been crucial to my growing up.When I was in my teens, I had a lot of negative feelings towards men and movies or any talk related to the connection between man and woman. I remember writing in my school-friend’s autograph book "I LOVE - talking to you on the phone" and "I HATE - friendship with boys".When I was in class nine, reciting the pledge during the school assembly once gave me a weird idea. “All Indians are my brothers and sisters," I said aloud and then it hit me. I promptly bought rakhis for all the boys in my class. It was an interesting day, to see all the boys sport the same coloured rakhi on their wrists, teachers appreciating me for my initiative and so on. Just imagine how it would have been if I had ended up marrying one of them later in life! God, what a character I was then :-) Back then, I used to actually pray to God that I should never feel those love-kind of feelings.VenkateshLet me qualify that. I didn’t want feelings like that for REAL people. REEL people were ok. I have had crushes and infatuations on actors all my life.The Telugu actor 'Victory Venkatesh' was my all-time favourite for over 10 years. From age nine to nineteen, I don't remember a single day that went without me talking about him. This was when Doordarshan was the only channel. Every Friday morning I’d wake up with lots of hope that the gods sitting in Doordarshan office would hear my prayers and play his songs during Chitralahari (the 30 minute Telugu movie song programme). If they did, it would be a day of celebration for me. Next morning, in school or college, my first topic of discussion would be about his song.As a child, I imagined him as my father figure/guardian — protecting, caring and loving me all the time. After class 10 and the end of school uniforms, I could no longer fantasise him being my father. He still was a father-like personality, but my fantasies took new a turn. I saw him more as a dashing hero who was capable of making any actress happy. I didn’t quite fantasise him being my lover, but I strongly believed him to be the most romantic actor ever and indulged in a lot of listening to his songs and replaying some of his most romantic scenes in my head over and over.When did this end? When I was in college, I watched a shoot of his new film for three whole days. The crush vanished. For years I’d been thinking of him, hoping to meet him someday and that’s it. The craze left me the moment I saw him. A real-life crush was around the corner though I didn’t know it at the time.I always smile when I think of what a great companion Venkatesh had been to me for the major part of my childhood. He was always available, any moment I wanted, just sitting inside my head waiting for me to turn on my fantasy channel.PiyushMy 20s were harder than my childhood. My family had strong views on how young women should be, all tied to ‘status’ and ‘prestige’. And I did things that fell in line with my family’s beliefs. There was a deep confusion in me about “how I was” and “how I wanted to be”.I always thought it was important to dress up super simple — in other words a little unattractive. I never went to college without my chipkoo hair plaited tight. I never wore fancy footwear, I can still feel my feet covered with beige lace-up shoes. At a shoe store, my friend once joked, “Priya, men’s section is upstairs, you will probably find some good shoes for college.” I succeeded in making myself look as unattractive as I could. I was convinced that my unattractive appearance would strengthen my practice of "I-must-hate-friendship-with-boys" and save me from any sin associated with "love-like-feelings".After three years in an all-women’s college, I registered for higher studies. This time it was a co-ed. The first few months I didn’t talk to boys in my class. They would crack jokes behind my back and seriously plan on how to make me commit the sin of talking to them. One day when I was feeling good about the determination I had in my “mounvrat" [complete silence], one of the boys decided to break the ice and asked me, "will you turn to ashes if you talked to us?" Very casually he said, "we are normal people, do not fear us."And it’s true, I’d grown up with severe conditioning to avoid boys. I knew I was considered good-looking and in many ways I was bold and confident. I was deeply afraid of ‘eve-teasing’ and anxious on hearing others gossip about me.Though I was pretending that I do not like to interact with boys, it seemed like that’s what I wanted to do — talk to them and become friends. Thank god, I dropped the self-imposed rules. I made very good friends and enjoyed years there.One of those boys was Piyush. He and I shared a very special friendship. Those who didn’t know us must have thought we were serious. But it was never a full-blown desire. We never held hands or greeted each other with a hug. There was some possessiveness. I don’t think I’d have liked if someone replaced me or took that position of a special friend in his life during those years, and I am sure it was the same for him. All this sounds like an intense love affair but it wasn’t.Here were the two things I liked about Piyush.
- I trusted that Piyush would never insult our friendship. Talking to boys was so new to me and almost everyone knew what a huge mental barrier I had to cross to get there. I was still afraid of getting cheated or defamed. Part of my fear of being judged was probably linked to the fact that I was somewhat judgmental. I’d talk about other people when hanging out with friends – “you know what, the other day I saw Smitha go on the bike with Ram" or "near the school I saw some xyz spend too much time with abc, she must be what hardly eleven years, does she need all of this at this age?” So I was afraid of others unnecessarily talk about me similarly. But all this was submerged somewhat in the new found joy of making friends with boys. And in Piyush's friendship with me, I could always sense some genuineness.
- Piyush was such a great flirt. When I was with him, I’d laugh, I’d smile, I’d blush all the time. He’d flirt with me to ease my fear and panic.
- Whose scooter sparkled more from a good cleaning?
- Is your scooter parked next to mine?
- Were we timing our departures from home in the morning around the same time?
- Did he hang about a coffee shop to time his return home with my getting off the bus?