She was 17 when she fell for him. He was shy, cute and really sweet. Two years later, they moved to a new life. They were in college and had grown up. And so had their love; from teenage school romance to college first love. Different cities and long distance couldn’t tear them apart. When I met her back in 2011, Ananya was a chirpy, fun girl. She loved meeting new people, sharing new experiences and being the rock in everyone’s life. She was this go-to girl who was so sorted in her mind. Their long distance relationship gave them their deserving space. They met every four months and it was lovely each time they did.
Love has its own time, they say. But love is forever, they believe. In the winter of that December, he told her about Radhika. He had cheated on Ananya. But he was sorry. She was hurt, annoyed and furious. He convinced her and cried to her. He gave it all that he could to make it all right. And he did. And she gave in. And they were back together. Years later, she would tell me that her love had died that day. This time, he would text her often, call her incessantly, give her presents and make her feel like a princess. As they spent more time together, Ananya pulled away from her own life altogether. She no more attended classes. She no more went out with me or our friends. Once in a while when she would, she would be glued to her phone. And no, she wouldn’t be texting with that blush on her face. She would be standing in a corner giving explanations and wiping her tears. All our guy friends would be shh’d away whenever her phone rang. Her boyfriend would message me if she didn’t pick her phone for fifteen minutes. He would ask her to prove that she is with me and no one else. She had become reclusive. She was not on Facebook or WhatsApp any more. “I could be happy, only when he was.” With time, I and my best friend drifted apart. I tried helping her, talking to her and telling her how she is not happy. As expected, she shut me down. Now that I know, HE had shut me down. He had built a wall around her against any one who dared to stand against her love. She was alone and I couldn’t help her. Why? Because, she didn’t want me to help her. She was convincing herself that this is the love of her life and she will do anything to make it work. Even if that meant being accused of cheating and being the deal breaker in the relationship. He would put the blame on her, each time it was him. “You make me do this, I love you.” “I wouldn’t be with others if you would stop being a bit*h”. He was obsessive, controlling and demanding. Her dignity, her worth and her aspirations were crushed over by the weight of that four letter word: LOVE. “Love is hard, they say.” Years later, she would tell me it wasn’t love. “It was attachment, fear and the dire need to prove to the world and myself that I can’t be wrong. This can’t be wrong.” It took her two years. Two years to realize that she was losing the time of her life. She was losing herself. To whom? This man who’d threaten her, blackmail her emotionally and make her feel guilty even when she gave her all. She was not happy. Love is supposed to make you happy.
I met Ananya last week. She has that spark back in her eyes. Her smile echoes of her happiness.
Although she has a deep scar of regret, she has decided to fix what’s broken. She is open to a new life. She has moved to Bangalore. She has made great friends there. She is going places, doing exciting things and dreaming big. She is now the Ananya I always knew and I can’t be happier to see her this way. But there are zillions of Ananyas who never hit the realization. They keep on burning themselves to light up the fire of male chauvinism. It chills my soul to think what if Ananya had prolonged this relationship, married him and had his kids. Would she still have taken the step to walk out? What exactly binds a woman so hard that she lets go of all she is? It could be the unconditional love of a woman, her emotional attachment or her fear of society. It gets worse if you get married, have kids or if you are in a country like India. You are a young, contemporary woman. Yet when you fall in love, you fall hard. Physical intimacy becomes more like an obligation to take it to the wedding aisle. Friends and family become a societal pressure to continue it forever. But no one, but you knows what happens inside the four walls. If its breaking you down all the time, its time you talk about it.
Every night, Srishti is startled by screams and abuses coming from the next door. Sunaina, her neighbour, is not happy in her marriage. She is a successful architect and a mother of two. Yet, she suffers. Srishti has tried to encourage her to make a strong move. But Sunaina turns her a deaf ear. “What will happen to my kids?” I ask is it normal what your kids are growing up watching? You are making it feel normal. Would you be happy to see them follow a similar fate in the future? I bet not. We can’t be caught up in this bewildered cobweb of tyranny and call it love. It’s not. We know it. Love is mutual respect. The day it goes, nothing matters. Come what may, the truth is this is one life and it’s exclusively yours. Your stand can change the lives of everybody around you for good. These stories are not one in a million. As unfortunate as it may be, it is the cold truth of this cosmopolitan society. Everybody around us goes through it at some point; be it the madly-in-love teenage Ananya or the intimidated mother Sunaina. You don’t know when Ananya can become a Sunaina. Woman out there, know when to STOP giving in. Watch this extensively appreciated BBC documentary screened in 2014, “Murdered by my boyfriend”. It might sound extremist but it perfectly displays the endless possibilities of your incessant silence. This compelling movie transcends from the life of a young, carefree 17-year-old Ashley to a ruined, bruised mother of Jasmine.It’s not just the physical torture, its the emotional trauma which we are talking about. It’s better not to be in a relationship than be in a bad one; out of loneliness, attachment or your vulnerabilities. More importantly, please break your silence. If he really loves you, he will respect your dreams, happiness and your life. He won’t need access to your Facebook account to trust you. He wouldn’t need to ask you not to wear that skirt to owe your solitary love. The day you lie to him to breathe a whiff of fresh air, know that it’s not love. The day he makes you question your self-worth, know it’s not love. And if he’s not ready to love you the way you deserve to, trust me, he is not your love. Your beautiful love is waiting out there. Watch out for the real sunshine not the hollow, reflective mirrors.