Love is a funny thing. It never feels complete, even when you’re at the peak and especially when you’re just starting the climb. Even when you’re the happiest you could be, you always think there is a better place to get to and why wouldn’t you? We’ve been taught to expect better, but sometimes, people don’t even get to see how their story would end.
And that makes you want to weep from the inside.
1. Vanishing into despair
It’s her birthday today, I keep refreshing my Facebook messages, hoping she’ll reply. But she doesn’t. She hasn’t in a long time. There are no pictures to tell me what she’s doing, no updates and absolute radio silence.
This story isn’t about me, it’s about two people who meant the world to me.
I met her on my first day of college, she’d walked into an empty classroom, same as me. We quickly bonded over missed lectures, her spontaneity and my fascination with her life. She was as dramatic as someone could be. She was an atheist, something I’d never expected from someone who comes from a conservative Muslim family. One day she met a boy, Zakir.
Within a couple of months, they started dating. They never labelled it though, which I’d always found fishy. On her first birthday with him, she dared this shy boy to get her a bra. On another day he went her brought her food in the middle of the night and stood under her house, because she was craving a McDonald’s meal.
On the third day, she looked at me in all seriousness and said, ‘One day, I’m going to marry that guy’ and I believed her.
In 2014 they’d been together 8 years. They intrigued me as a couple. One minute they’d splurge on each other like money was never a problem, another minute they’d fight like cats and dogs. One minute he’d love her like she was the only person in his world and another he’d be as distant as he liked. I knew it was a love for the ages. They needed no label, they needed no validation and still they were the only couple who seemed to last.
2 years ago I lost touch with both of them, life moved on and one day her name flashed on my phone.
A short conversation later, I met her to catch up. What she told me that day, still haunts me. She got engaged. But it was to a man who wasn’t Zakir. I couldn’t control my tears when I saw her’s, something in me was sinking. Zakir took it upon himself to save his distant cousin’s reputation, when she was mistreated, abused and divorced. He married her and moved to Dubai. She couldn’t bear this and got engaged to a guy who lived far away from this country. Her last words to me were, ‘I can’t be 8kms away, knowing the guy who’s made me fall in love, is never going to be with me’.
She moved away and I still keep hitting a button, hoping things would magically refresh themselves.
2. Being an Indian
I’m an Indian. I say this to myself everyday, on some days with pride, on some days with hesitation. I left India 4 years ago and moved to Nottingham to do my Masters, like every other engineer. Today I can afford my own rent of a 2BHK in a good neighbourhood, which on most days is crowded with other Indians, some friends from my university, others students who I’ve come across, wanting to feel at home in a foreign country.
I look at the spirit in their eyes and I spiral back to a time in my life I was an excited fresher starting college, hoping to make friends across cultures, graduate my course with brilliant marks and just fit in. On my first day, I bumped into another girl from Mumbai, but she was nothing like me.
She was a free spirit. She’d dance on the bar, while I’d think about rules and germs, she’d make friends with no inhibition, while I’d wonder about racism.
She was the ying to my yang. So I wasn’t surprised that I fell in love with her. She inspired me, to forget about ‘the rules’, to let go of my inhibitions, so it felt right to let them all go for her.
It wasn’t experimental. We were in love! She made me like her, I often found myself surrounded by people from every part of the world, she freed me. Our families knew nothing and we fought to keep it that way, to keep ourselves together in our little bubble. We got a job, we stuck around in Nottingham.
If anyone was to ever look around the flat, they’d know it’s all her, it’s her spirit, it’s her smell, it’s her playlist, it’s her dream home. Because for me, she was home.
She was shot dead last year. I remember the cops pulling up outside our flat, coming in to tell me that it was a racist group who shot the girl I loved. He gave me the lilies, a greeting card that read ‘Happy Anniversary’ and a bag full of stuff that smelled like her.
I closed the door on the Police officer as he left apologizing for my loss. That’s the day I closed the door on anything foreign, on anything that made me feel like the world was a happy place. And that’s the day I opened the door to people like me, who felt lost, wronged and didn’t fit in.
So everyday I drown out the noise, because that’s all this is. But I find myself rooted to this flat, because it’s the only way I can keep her alive.
3. Dancing by myself
I was early, really early. It’s usually the opposite with me, I’d be stuck in endless meetings and a million conversations, but today I just walked out of my cabin and came straight on. In a few short minutes that seemed like hours, I found myself outside Yukta Theatre. It had been ages. It wasn’t like it used to be, it looked like a hotel now. I walked inside with nowhere else to go.
I stood stork still when I saw the garden, it was cleaner now, but it had the same rusty elephant seat that had intrigued me back in my performing days. I’d dance for hours and then collapse on this rigid elephant, it wasn’t comfortable but it felt comforting. he’d collapse right next to me.
We didn’t do anything apart. He and I, we were a team. Whether it was eat, watch a movie and mostly dance.
I took a deep breathe and started to walk in, conscious of my posture. It had been 8 years since I even thought about my posture, but being here brought it all back, his hoarse voice saying, ‘Priyanka, if you don’t stand upright, you’ll never have the posture of a dancer’. I walked past the seats that used to be filled with my family and his friends, I stopped when I saw the stage, it was empty, dimly lit, the opposite of what I was used to.
I looked around, assured myself that I was alone and got up on stage. This was the first time since I met him that, I danced alone.
He was everything I needed in a day, he was my lover, coach, partner, my best friend. But like all good things, he walked away from me.
It was this very theatre, where he told me he couldn’t do this anymore, he said he couldn’t hurt my family. I stood right under the spotlight watching him drag a suitcase and leave my life for good. I remember going home that night, waiting to confront my parents, only to get a call from my mom telling me that Dad was admitted in the hospital.
Just like our relationship, my didn’t make it. I never asked my mom, but sometimes I still wonder. I broke out of my reverie and stopped dancing as soon as I heard, ‘Mommy’, my baby girl was running towards me. I hugged her and snapped out it.
Only to hear, ‘Little girl, if you don’t stand upright, you’ll never have the posture of a dancer’.
And I stopped moving.
Love is unfinished, we just have to see how far we can go.