The Timing Of Love

The Timing Of Love

12 mins 153 12 mins 153

Do you know what would increase the happiness index of humankind? Love happening at the right time, at the right place, with the right person.


Indian youngsters generally complain about finding passion at the wrong time at the wrong place (read engineering and medical colleges). Why isn’t there a similar outrage about finding love at the wrong time at the wrong place? Is it because we measure our lives more by professional success than by romantic success? If yes, is it correct?


My first love, Aditi, would have answered yes to this question. “Our life’s purpose should not revolve around a person. It should revolve around something bigger,” she would have said. And my entire day would have gotten ruined because my life’s purpose was built around Aditi.


I strongly believed that Aditi’s happiness was my responsibility. Whenever I found Aditi in a sad state, I would write down a poem for her. But Aditi never wanted to take responsibility for my happiness. “Don’t you think it is wrong to place your happiness in the hands of another person?” she would ask. I had never felt it was wrong because I had grown up in a house where all my family members had handed over their happiness to another person.


I remember a fight Aditi and I had about this once. We were in her hostel room, on her bed, and she was reading a book. I was watching her read the book. She suddenly turned to look at me and asked, “Why don’t you find a book to read or do something else?”


“If I wanted to do something on my own, why would I be in your hostel room?” I asked.


She let out a sigh and continued reading the book.


“Why don’t we do things together like the other couples?” I asked, more to her hostel room than to her.


She lowered her book and looked at me. “Who are these other couples you keep talking about? And why are they so co-dependent that they do not have personal lives of their own?”


“What’s wrong in doing things together? I believe that if you truly love a person, you would want to do everything with them and not continue working alone.”


“Wow! So, you are doubting the honesty of my love now.” She closed her book and placed it between us. She then switched off the lights, pulled up her blanket and turned to her side to show me her back.


I moved closer to her and put my arm around her waist. “It’s not that, Aditi. It just feels like you are totally happy by yourself. I don’t know what kind of a difference I make in your life.”


She replied, still turned to the other side. “Why do you have to make a difference? Isn’t it enough if you simply love me?”


I did not have an answer. So I slowly pulled her blanket down and kissed her on her neck.


“Not today,” she said and pulled her blanket back to cover herself completely.


That night, I lay next to her remembering the nights I had been the bridge between her body and her blanket. I also lay next to her wondering why she did not want me to make a difference in her life. Didn’t she have empty spaces in her heart that needed to be filled in by another person?


Strangely, about four years later, when I lay next to Anjali, my wife, she asked me something similar. A month had passed after we had gotten married.


“Don’t I make you happy?”


“You do. Why do you even ask such a question?”


“Because sometimes, it doesn’t feel so. You seem happy by yourself.”


Anjali’s statement brought to my mind Aditi’s answer but I did not want to use it. So I pulled Anjali closer and kissed her on her lips. She smiled after the kiss and said, “Some day… some day when I stop enjoying your kisses so much, I would start demanding answers.” I let out a chuckle and kissed her again.


But a part of me wished that Anjali had been in a romantic relationship before marrying me. A part of me wished that Anjali had understood how relationships work before falling in love with me. A part of me wished that Anjali had faced a few deaths and a few losses in her life that would have taught her to take responsibility of her happiness. A part of me also wished that I had met Anjali when I had met Aditi.


****


It was the third day of our honeymoon and Anjali and I were seated in a small, deserted café on a mountaintop, surrounded by snow. 


“Would you have fallen in love with me if we had not met each other through the arranged-marriage setup?”


Anjali’s question caught me off guard. I looked at Anjali, searching for an answer, as the steam from my soup started rising.


“It’s okay. You don’t have to answer it.” Anjali tried to ease the pressure on me.


But I felt she deserved an answer. “If I had gotten a chance to spend more time with you – like if we had worked in the same office or if we had studied in the same college – I think I would have fallen in love with you,” I replied.


She smiled and drank a spoonful of her soup. After a few seconds, she broke the silence with another question.


“How was Aditi like?”


This was a more difficult question than the previous one. I looked at Anjali without replying, hoping that she might ask me again not to answer it. But she continued waiting, letting me know that she wanted to hear the answer.


“Why do you want to talk about her now?” I asked.


“I… I just wanted to know.”


I dug into my past and started finding words to describe Aditi. In my attempt to describe her, I realised that my understanding of her had changed over time. I had understood her better after we had broken up. I had understood her even better after Anjali had entered my life.


“Calm… clear-headed… independent… a fantastic painter as well,” I tried describing.


Anjali smiled hearing the description. “She seems to have been exactly like you.”


It was only then that I realised that Anjali had asked the question not to know about Aditi as a person but to learn what had attracted me to Aditi. I wanted to clarify that when I had fallen in love with Aditi, I would have described her as ‘Strong… adventurous… breathtakingly beautiful’. For some reason, I remained silent.


“Don’t you want to ask me anything?” Anjali looked at me eagerly after her question.


I smiled nervously and adjusted myself in my chair. I understood that I was making Anjali feel that I was not interested in knowing about her though it was not the case.


“Oh… I was just not sure how much you would be willing to open up.”


Anjali moved her hand towards mine and held it. “Have I not been open enough for the past two days?” she asked, her eyes glinting with mischief. 


It took me a few seconds to understand the subtext. I smiled sheepishly though a part of me felt guilty. After the wedding, I had asked Anjali if she was willing to wait for our first intercourse till we had gotten to know each other well. She had agreed but I had sensed a tinge of disappointment in her. I had felt bad for her because she had fallen in love with me during the three-month period between our engagement and our wedding. I, on the other hand, was still in the process. But on the first night of our honeymoon, I had not been able to control myself and we had had sex for the first time. What had pained me the next morning had been the knowledge that Anjali had had sex with me driven by love and I had had sex with her simply because I was starved for it. And yet, we had repeated it on the second night as well.


Setting aside my guilt, I came up up with a question. “What made you fall in love with me?” 


Anjali blushed and took a moment before answering. “Promise me you won’t turn angry.”


“Why would I turn angry?”


She explained. “Do you remember the time when my parents and I had visited your place to finalise the wedding invitation design? You had shown us a few designs on your laptop. As I was looking at the designs, I couldn’t help but notice two blog links you had bookmarked in your browser. I recognised one as the blog you had maintained in your college. I was intrigued by the other link and so I searched for it after returning to my place.” She paused and looked at me. I understood where she was going with it and let her continue.


“It was only after reading a few poems on the blog did I realise that they were poems written by you for Aditi. I have never known anyone in my life who has loved the way you have or has expressed love the way you have. I wanted to be loved that way.”


I looked at her silently, trying to process the new piece of information. The poems I had written for Aditi came flooding to my memory as I simultaneously evaluated if I was still the same person who had loved Aditi. I was not.


I wondered if Anjali had committed a mistake by marrying the ‘present me’ when she had actually fallen in love with the ‘me from four years ago’.


Do we love the same way over time?


****


It was a rainy day when I met Aditi again, more than four years after our breakup and about three months after my wedding. We had never spoken to each other in that period.


My colleagues and I had come to a resort for the quarterly team-outing activity. Employee groups from two other corporate organisations had also come there and Aditi was part of one of the groups. We had recognised each other during an inter-organisational game and we had secured a table for ourselves during lunch.


“It has been four years, right?” Aditi started the conversation.


I nodded in agreement and asked her how she was. She replied that she was doing well.


We remained silent for a few minutes. The rhythm of the raindrops transported me back to the days of our relationship. The look in Aditi’s eyes suggested that she was also visiting the past. The first time Aditi and I had struck up a conversation had also been on a rainy day in the second year of college. After that, our romance had only increased with every rainy day till it had come to a dry end in the final year.


“I am sorry,” I said, “for all my drama back then.”


Aditi simply smiled. I was surprised to notice how Aditi’s smile had changed over the passage of four years. It felt like her smile held a few secrets.


“Are you….” I started my question not knowing how to complete it.


“Yes. I am in a relationship now,” she stated, signalling that she had grasped the question. I had wanted to ask if she had gotten married.


“Are you in a relationship?” she asked me.


“I am… married.”


As I uttered the last word, I understood what writers mean when they say that words carry weight. Aditi looked at me in shock. Something told me that her shock was a cover for her sadness.


“What is her name?”


I answered her question and showed her a photo of Anjali and myself.


“What is she like?”


For some reason, I was able to describe Anjali quicker than I had been able to describe Aditi. “Spirited… shy… a child at heart… and very caring.”


Aditi smiled hearing the description. “That sounds exactly like you.”


I couldn’t help smiling. Through my process of describing Aditi and Anjali, I had gotten to learn what Anjali and Aditi thought of me.


“Have you written poems for her?”


I hadn’t. I told her the same.


“Would you write a poem for me… now?”


I was surprised by Aditi’s request. Sensing it, she quickly added, “It can be about anything. It can be about Anjali as well. But I just want to read another poem from you.”


I experienced a mix of joy and sadness. Joy that Aditi still cared about my poetry; Sadness that I hadn’t cared enough about my poetry. I had not written a poem after my breakup with Aditi.


“In these four years,” Aditi went on, “there have been many days when I have felt low, when I have felt bad about myself. On every such day, I have always turned to your poems. Your poems make me want to be a better person. Your poems… make me love myself.”


I sensed heaviness in my heart. Aditi had spoken the lines I had always wanted to hear from her when we had been in a relationship. I quickly rose from the table, walked to the reception desk and borrowed a pen and paper.


As I placed my pen on the paper, the rain got heavier. I closed my eyes to find my first line and all I could think of was Anjali. Her hair. Her eyes. Her smile. Her warmth. Her love. And I found my poem.


Which one would you choose

Between a leaking fountain pen and an empty ink bottle?

Between a broken lock and a lost key?

Between a punctured tire and a thorny path?

Between an unwilling raindrop and a torn umbrella?

Between a forced smile and a silent teardrop?

Between the past and the present?

Between falling in love and being loved?


I handed over the poem to Aditi. As I saw her eyes moving from one line to another, as I recalled the poem in my head, I realised that I had fallen in love with Anjali.


I had held back myself from writing a poem for Anjali because of a belief that I had not loved Anjali enough to express it through a poem. But my poem taught me that I had to put down my love on paper to understand its extent.


Aditi finished reading the poem and folded the paper. She studied my face for a few seconds and asked, “What happened? You seem to be happier suddenly.”


I lied to her that it felt good to return to poetry after a long time. She smiled in response and placed the poem carefully insider her purse. She then slowly moved her hand towards mine and grasped it.


“I wish we had not met in college. I wish we had met… now.”


The rain showed no signs of stopping.


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