Human relationships are rarely that complex as we perceive them to be. What seems to be a complexity to us is actually just a hurdle which needs to be crossed. What we need is the will and the courage of conviction to cross it and once we have done that everything falls into place. And sometimes, in addition, we also need a little push, a little nudge to take us on the right path.
This is what happened with me when Kunal, my ex-boyfriend met Nandini, my daughter while we were on a mother-daughter trip to Goa. It had been a long and dreary summer and in spite of our best efforts, we had not been able to get out of the city. I had been too caught up at work, Nandini had her college project followed by her internship and so getting away had been impossible. Then when she got free I was still unable to take time out. Even her father my ex-husband had also not had the time.
Then just at the fag end of summer when her college was about to begin, we managed to snatch a weekend and were able to get away for five days. We were really looking forward to the much-needed break. Nandini was excited and so was I. We both loved spending time with each other and since we had common interests too, we found holidays to be the best times to be together, away from everything.
Nandini was my only child who had come into this world within two years of my getting married. I had not really anticipated becoming a mother so soon after my marriage but then it had happened. I remember that after the initial shock, I had started looking forward to having a child of my own though my husband Arun had not been so keen. It had taken him a while to come around but then eventually he had. But what had irked me was that he had made it seem as though my getting pregnant had been my fault and somewhere I should have been more careful. The thing was that we were still getting used to the idea of being married, having a spouse to share our lives with and also taking care of the home and the hearth. So it wasn’t easy and on top of that, this additional responsibility was not something that we looked forward to. But call it my maternal instincts or whatever, I took to the idea very quickly but Arun took his own time. Even after Nandini was born and we were faced with some financial difficulty he would not hesitate to remind me of my carelessness. And I would look at him with a baffled expression on my face which gradually got replaced by expressions of anger and disgust. Anyways life continued to move on. We both got better jobs, Nandini started going to school and life was quite ordinary and run-of-the-mill.
Before we knew it we were celebrating Nandini’s sixth birthday. Though Arun loved us, the love that he had for his own self overtook his feelings for everyone else. In his eyes, he was the most important person in the world and therefore deserved everything best in life. His comfort, his food, his clothes, his plans always had to take precedence over those of the others. Though it wasn’t easy for me to accept this kind of an attitude,till the time I did not have my daughter, it was relatively easy for me to pander to his whims but once Nandini came into the world, it began to get difficult. He was very clear in his head that he came first. So if both were hungry and I was responsible for organizing food for them then his food had to be organized first. The child could keep bawling, crying her heart out but the man’s heart would not melt. I would find his behaviour totally unacceptable and irrational and would get very upset with him but he couldn’t ever understand the reason for my anger. These kinds of instances would lead to fights between us. He could never control his tongue and when he was angry he would just lose all sense of reasoning and would bring the house down. Now I wasn’t a pushover either but could not match up to his lung power. And though I could argue back and would do that after I point I would get fed up and give up. I would walk out of the room and ignore him for the rest of the day. And he, after eating or whatever else he wanted to do would be back to his normal self till the next time. For a while, I continued to tolerate his obnoxious behaviour but what both of us were not realizing was the fact that we were drifting apart. Slowly but surely we were moving away from each other.
What I had begun to figure out by then was that he was selfish in every respect and also a male chauvinist. I could be a close second to him but never the first. And if I managed to be better than him in some respect he would just trash my achievement and make it seem unimportant and trivial.He was clear that he had to be the best at everything whether it was at work, home or anywhere else. But then much to his dismay, I started doing extremely well at work and forging ahead in my career and at a pace that was faster than his. In spite of my million other responsibilities, I was able to put in the required amount of hard work which he didn’t for his own reasons and therefore his progress was much slower than mine. And did he have ego issues!!
I remember the first time that it happened.I had got this promotion which meant a hike in my salary and designation which basically put me above him. Though we worked in different organizations and belonged to different fields our levels had roughly been the same when we had got married. But when I came back home that day and in all excitement shared the news with him, his reaction was quite a dampener. He was shocked, I could see that but was also trying to pretend that he was happy but never one to be able to hide his feelings, his attempt at camouflaging his real feelings was not very successful. It was as though the disbelief, the shock were too much to handle. It was like ‘ It had to be me!! How did it happen to you!?’ In fact, the expression was quite comical.
What I also learnt was that he was a poor loser. Since I had proved to be better than him professionally he had to somehow put me down. He chose to do that by making my life at home difficult. More than ever before he started finding fault with things in the house or with Nandini. The idea was to take me on a guilt trip and make me feel as though I wasn’t devoting enough time to my other more important responsibilities. But I was made of sterner stuff and never let all this bog me down. I managed to organize things, priorities them and move ahead while he was left complaining and whining.
It reached a stage where I decided that I wasn’t going to take it any longer and so decided to move out taking my daughter with me. To his credit he did try to attempt though very feebly to stop me but obviously, it didn’t make any difference. I had made up my mind so I moved out. And between my mother and a daycare centre, I was able to take care of my daughter. Within a year of living on his own Arun came back to his senses, realized his mistake and wanted me to move back but I was sure that that wasn’t happening. I wanted a divorce as I didn’t want to go back to that regressive environment. I was ambitious, driven and couldn’t be bothered with unnecessary expectations and restrictions. Also, I wanted my daughter to have a happy home. I was open to Arun meeting her, taking her out and spending time with her. I was very clear that I wasn’t going to interfere in his relationship with his daughter and he could take it forward in the manner he deemed it fit.But at the same time, I did not want her to be exposed to his tantrums, his temper or anything like that.
Seeing that I was not going to change my mind, no matter what Arun accepted my decision and we got our divorce. But though we had parted ways we did not want our daughter to be deprived of the love of both parents and so decided to remain friends with each other. It was surprising to see how someone like him who had been so egoistic, so selfish while we were married put everything aside once we separated and ended up being a pretty good father. And more than ever before I could depend on him to pick up or drop Nandini if required even at a short notice.
So thus we continued to be friends. In a few years time, he got married again, this time to a woman who was not as ambitious as me and was able to give him all the love and attention that he had probably missed in his life with me. But all credit to him. He never let go of Nandini. He had other children but she continued to be his firstborn and therefore his favourite. I couldn’t really find someone I could gel with and so continued my life as before. In fact, Nandini and I became very close over the years and could never hide anything from each other. So if I knew about her crushes, her boyfriends, then she also knew about the men I went out with or got attracted too. In fact, when she grew up I explained my reasons for parting ways with her father but I did not try to make her bitter about him or the idea of marriage.
Nandini also grew up to be a level headed, confident young girl with a mind of her own. Like me, she was also terribly ambitious and wanted to make a career in the field of Banking and Finance. As parents,both Arun and I were always there for her and by and large ended up being on the same page about her and her issues. Sometimes it made me wonder as to how one when we were not together we could be more agreeable with each other than when we were together. I guess we were not meant to be.
And then this trip to Goa happened.And most unexpectedly, once again Kunal came back into my life. Destiny I guess.
Nandini and I landed in Goa with the intention of packing as much as we could on our trip. We wanted to swim, do water sports, fo for walks, read, sleep, chat, eat, drink,the list was endless! And the time was short so we had to make the most of it. We checked into our hotel and while I was waiting for Nandini to freshen up I decided to explore the property. As I was approaching the concierge I saw this man who seemed to be making some inquiries at the hotel desk. But there was something about him that seemed familiar though I couldn’t put my finger to it. And then I heard the voice, the deep, sexy baritone and I knew who it was. That voice could only belong to one person. Kunal… after so many years also I still remembered it. I was standing right behind him, kind of transfixed, not knowing what to do. I didn’t want to interrupt him because that would mean an end of his conversation and an end to my soaking in that voice, going back in times. But then eventually he finished talking and turned. And when he turned, he saw me and the look on his face!! It was a mix of recognition, wistfulness and maybe the look when someone has been waiting for a person for a long time and then all of a sudden sees them in front of them. And then the sheer joy on his face!! I am sure the look on my face was pretty much the same. We greeted each other, hugged each other and then decided to have a coffee and catch up.
We started talking but before that, we ordered our coffees or rather he ordered for the both of us, (it was such a warm feeling to know that he still remembered my choice, a mocha with some extra hot chocolate) and then it was like old times. We had so much to talk, to share that we lost all track of time. I told him all about my life, my work, my divorce, my daughter and he on his part shared the story of his life. He told me that he was also divorced and had two boys who were living in New York with his ex, Kathy. We ended up having another cup without realizing that we had been sitting and chatting for almost three hours. I forgot about everything and didn’t realize that Nandini was waiting, messaging and calling( my phone being on silent, as usual!!). And then suddenly I saw my daughter walk into the coffee shop, angry, worried and exasperated all at the same time. She saw me and came rushing towards me, was about to say something when she realized that I wasn’t alone. She stopped herself and looked at me. In the meanwhile, Kunal got up and introduced himself with me filling in. He invited her to join us and I guess it was the manner in which he said it that Nandini couldn’t refuse considering that she isn’t the kinds to be too pally with strangers. On the other hand, I was nervous hell. I didn’t want her to join us but how could I not let her. I felt as if I had been caught by my daughter doing something I shouldn’t be. But I couldn’t do anything about it. She joined us and before I knew it the two were chatting away conveniently having forgotten me. Anyways soon it was dinner time, we had our food and then went back to our rooms with Kunal and Nandini making plans to spend the next day together!! Imagine!! I wondered if I was going to be a part of their plans. But of course, I was.
We walked back, and I was in a world of my own, my college days when I was young and carefree and had Kunal by my side. Where had they all gone?? Why had life changed so much? Why was henot a part of my life! But the spell, the thought process was broken by my daughter who asked me, “ Mom, is he a friend?’ She asked this question to me but on hearing it I asked myself, was he just a friend? To her, for want of a better answer, I replied in the affirmative but to my own self I had no answer. Though we hadn’t met in years, could I simply relegate him to the status of a friend when he had been so much more!! We had been on the verge of getting married, spending the rest of our life together!!But then what else?? We hadn’t set eyes on each other for so long! We hadn’t even kept in touch! Not even on social media.But then if it had meant so much, why had we not been in touch?? Why had we been cut off from each other’s lives?? I was so confused. Meeting him had unnerved me completely.I kept tossing and turning for a long time. Sleep eluded me and the questions, thoughts crowded my mind. But finally, I managed a couple of hours and woke up feeling quite sleep deprived and groggy.
As planned Kunaljoined us at breakfast and then decided to spend the day with us. I
lookedat Nandini but she seemed quite ok with the idea. And so the three of us were together that day and for the rest of our vacation. My initial uneasiness of having the two of them together also vanished within a day and we all ended up having a fantastic time. Isn’t it ironic how a number of complications just exist in our heads? I had been so stressed about how Nandini would take to Kunal, how would she behave with him, what would be his reaction to her?? All unnecessary questions, unnecessary concerns. They got along like a house on fire and at times I was the one who felt left out.
And then it was time to head back. I didn’t want to for more reasons than one.And I figured that both Kunal and Nandini could see this. Kunal on his part assured me that now that we had met once again in life we would remain in touch and Nandini, well her inquisition began the moment the flight took off. Now when I reflect upon the conversation I had with her, I can see that I had been expectingit and dreading it too. Though I had ignored the signs of the questioning while in Goa, at the back of my mind I had been expecting it. So when it actually happened I wasn’t surprised at all.
In her direct and to the point manner my daughter said, “ Mum, I know Kunal is more than a friend. Do you want to talk to me about him? Is there anything that you would like to tell me, share with me?
In a complete role reversal, I looked at her just the way a daughter would look at her mother on being asked a sensitive question. A question to which there is no straight answer. But then the need to share all that was inside me took over and putting aside all my hesitation, my awkwardness I decided to tell my daughter all about her mother and Kunal.
I had to go back into the deep recesses of my mind to do that. But once I began there was no holding back. I told her that Kunal and I had met in college. We had been in the same class and had clicked on the first day of meeting each other. It hadn’t taken us very long to fall in love. Thereafter things had happened pretty much the way we had wanted them to. We had similar kind of career goals, we wanted a family, children and what is more our parents were aware of our relationship and were fine with it.But sometimes when things seem to be too good to be true fate intervenes and changes everything. We were in our final year of college when in a freak accident Kunal’s elder brother passed away. Now Kunal’s father ran a hotel business in Ireland and had spent most of his life shuttling between India and Ireland. As a natural progression, his brother Karan was supposed to join his father’s business and then take over from him. That was also because Kunal had no intentions of doing so. He had no interest in the hotel industry, He wanted to join the corporate world and spend his life in India. But then this was not meant to be. The sudden death of Karan meant that Kunal had to step into his shoes and be there for his parents especially for his father and his business. He had to at least for some time forget about his own life and focus on the family business. And like a dutiful son, he did exactly that. He moved to Ireland and only came back once to take his final exams whereafter his life took on a different tangent. It was all about learning the ropes of the business in order to take over it eventually. There was no time for anything else.
All this did not mean that the two of us broke up or anything like that. In fact, in the initial days, she encouraged and pushed him to be there for his parents. But then as time went by and it became clear that Kunal’s life was going to be based out of Dublin, they drifted apart and eventually had no choice but to part ways. Even if she had wanted to Aparna would not have been able to leave her life in India or her parents to go and live in Dublin. Moving on Kunal had got married to an American girl and Aparna to Arun. They had over the years completely lost touch with each other till that day in Goa.
But while relating the story of this part of her life Aparna realized that she hadn’t been able to get over Kunal and still cared deeply for him. And this seemed pretty clear to Nandini also.
And while listening to her mother, Nandini was going through a turmoil of her own. Ever since she had met Kunal, she had been struggling with her own emotions. To begin with,It had been quite a shock to see a different side of her mother. At the first meeting itself, she had realized that when her mother was with Kunal she was quite unlike the person she had known all her life. She seemed freer, more carefree, in fact quite childlike in her behaviour. There was a light in her eyes which she hadn’t ever seen before. It had been pretty obvious that the two of them had been more than friends. And that kind of irked her. Though her parents had been divorced for a while and her father had remarried and her mother had had men friends but they had always kind of come and gone. Nothing had ever been very serious or even looked serious. But this was different, some part of her felt jealous, a little threatened but she also realized that this had been an accidental meeting and there wasn’t going to be there anything after that. But then seeing her mother behave like a schoolgirl was a tad difficult to digest.
And now this confession!! She didn’t know how to react. She didn’t want to say anything that she might regret later but the revelation did not make her feel very comfortable. So one part of her wanted to tell her mother to get over it and forget about it but the other sensitive part of her realized that it was probably after a number of years that her mother seemed really happy. So could she not be nice and gracious about it? And of course, it had all even in the past. So what was the big deal!!
Thus through the entire duration of the flight, both women were lost in their own worlds,in their own thoughts. And both though for different reasons could not get Kunal out of their heads. Aparna wanted to see him again and Nandini was dreading such a development. Aparna could also sense that Nandini after listening to her had gone a little quiet. She wondered if her daughter had not liked the admission. But what was wrong with what she had told her. It had been in the past. And if she seemed happy after meeting Kunal what was wrong with that?? Wasn’t she entitled to some happiness?
They reached home and got busy with their routines but Aparna could not stop thinking about Kunal. He on his part, though back in Ireland, would call, send messages and then after a month decided to come and see her. Aparna was really excited about the prospect of seeing him again but she could sense the discomfort in Nandini when she mentioned this to her. Nandini didn’t say anything to her but it was apparent that she wasn’t actually thrilled. She tried to act normal but the stiffness in her attitude could not be overlooked. And yes Nandini was not so comfortable with the idea of seeing her mother go back to the way she had been in Goa. She knew that this kind of attitude was not right but she couldn’t help feeling like that. She discussed her situation with a couple of close friends who all had the same view that she was being selfish and should stop judging her mother. In fact, it was her closest friend Neha who managed to put some sense in her head. She told her that Nandini was thinking only about herself. She needed to understand that her mother also needed a companion, someone with whom she could probably spend her life. Though they still didn’t know the status of her relationship with Kunal if at any point Aparna wanted to carry it forward then Nandini should support her. In fact, she told her that she should actually push her mother in that direction. She reminded her of the fact that at some point she may move out to live in with her boyfriend or to get married to him. Then her mother would be left all alone. So if there was a possibility of her finding her happiness with Kunal then Nandini should not grudge that at all. This conversation helped Nandini to clear her head and she felt quite ashamed of how she had been behaving. In fact, she felt that she should help her mother get what she wanted. But, first of all, she needed to know what was on her mind.
So all of a sudden Aparna encountered a different Nandini who wanted to know more about Kunal and his life. She could sense that somewhere her daughter was trying to gauge her mind which both amused her and love her daughter even more. Nandini on her part could see that her mother was in love with Kunal. But there was something holding her back. She had heard her tell Kunal over the phone that it would be advisable for them to wait. Wait for what?? To meet?? To get married? She wanted to know and ensure that they went ahead and did what they wanted. Nandini had spent enough time with Kunal to know that he wanted to take the relationship forward but was not being able to. She knew that she was to be blamed for that as she realized that her mother had been holding back because of her. So, therefore, she decided to take things in her hands and find a way to make the two of them meet.
As luck would have it, it was her birthday next month and she decided to throw a big party to celebrate and use that as an excuse to invite Kunal to India. She called him and fixed up everything. They decided to surprise her mother and so all the planning, the preparation was kept under wraps for the longest time.Nandini decided to give a heads up to her father as well who though initially taken aback by the development was quite supportive about it. As the day came closer it became difficult for Nandini to hide her excitement but she managed. Aparna could sense that she was up to something but couldn’t put a finger to it. She thought it was probably the party but couldn’t be sure about it.
Anyways the day of the party dawned and they all trooped towards the venue. What Aparna found surprising was that this time Nandini had included her parents in the celebration, something that she had stopped doing years ago. But then she decided to play along. They reached, everything seemed fine with Nandini’s friends coming and joining them. But Aparna could detect a bit of restlessness in her daughter. She seemed to be edgy, at times irritable. She wondered why. And then she got it. One hour into the party, the door opened and guess what!! Kunal was standing there, with a bunch of flowers, a gift beaming with joy. To say that Aparna was surprised would be an understatement. She was too shocked to even react. What was he doing there?? And what would people think?? What would Arun think? But no one seemed to be bothered. Arun who had been introduced to Kunal was having an animated conversation with him. Nandini was hovering around him, offering him a drink and making him feel comfortable. She was the only one who seemed to be in a state of immobility and inaction. Her hello to him had been stiff and very formal. She wanted to run away from there but obviously, she couldn’t.
But then she told herself that she was being silly and overly conscious about everything and needed to act normal. So she walked up to where everyone was standing and joined in the conversation. She could see that Kunal was happy to see that she had done that. He hugged her with an extra bit of warmth and all along his eyes seemed to be on her only. He was talking to the others but every once in a while would steal a glance at her, smile that smile and look away. What made Aparna awkward was her own reaction to him. Wasn’t she beyond that age where one was supposed to feel, mushy and in love? Wasn’t that for her daughter to feel? But she couldn’t help feeling that way. The party got over and everyone left which is when Kunal walked up to Aparna and asked her to join him for a coffee. Before she could say anything, Nandini almost pushed her out saying that she needed a break. And before she knew it she was in the car with Kunal and it felt so good. They ended up spending the rest of the evening together and as usual, there was so much to talk about. And then while they were in the midst of discussing her work,Kunal stopped and caught hold of her hand. He looked at her and said,” Aparna, ever since we met in Goa I have been thinking about this. I feel that the fact that fate has made us meet again means that there is something more for us. We are meant to be together and therefore I want you to consider this. I want you to marry me.’
Aparna was flabbergasted, to say the least.Though not totally unexpected, the proposal did stump her a bit. She knew she loved him, it was good to know that he felt the same about her but getting married was not something that she had given a lot of thought to. Couldn’t they just remain friends for a while before taking such a step? She didn’t want to refuse but she didn’t want to accept either. What was she to do? She looked at him and told him that much as she cared for him, she needed some time to think. She had a whole lot of things to consider and couldn’t just decide. Though disappointed Kunal understood her perspective and agreed to give her time. They called it an evening but the proposal had unsettled Aparna. On the one hand, she knew that many women in her place would have jumped at the proposal because marrying Kunal would mean a lifetime of love, company and a luxurious lifestyle. She could quit working and enjoy life without ever having to think about money or anything that money could buy. But then what about her career which had been built painstakingly and for which she had sacrificed so much. Marrying Kunal at this stage would also mean leaving her life in India and moving to a new country, a new way of life where she would have practically nothing to do. She had a set way of living. Was she willing to give it up? Not really. But if she refused would she be throwing away a chance to happiness?? Gosh, she had no answer.
Kunal stayed on for a few days but then had to leave. But before leaving he told Aparna that he would keep waiting for her answer. But six months down the line also she had no answer. Yes, she loved him but she loved her daughter too, she loved her work, she loved her life in the country of her birth. She was caught in a huge dilemma. By now Nandini also knew about her problem and she came up with this idea. She told her mother that she needed to quit worrying about her as she was old enough to take care of herself. She agreed that her other concerns were realistic and needed to be thought through. Therefore she suggested that Aparna should go to Dublin and stay with Kunalfor a few weeks or months and get an idea of what life there was like. That would give her a more realistic perspective. So taking up on that Aparna booked her tickets and flew to Dublin. Initially, she took leave from her work for a month but then extended it by another month. She realized that living with Kunal was like a breeze. He was a considerate, understanding person and not demanding at all. In fact, when after the first month Aparna started missing her work he decided to involve her in his work so that she could consider doing that in the long run as well. This actually worked well for both of them and after two months Aparna resigned from her job and decided to stay on for another six months.
Life was wonderful and full of love. It wasn’t like a teenage kind of love, rather it was a mature emotion which had maybe stayed inside the two of them for a long time and was now getting a chance to come out and express itself. They would regularly go out for walks, movies, meals. At home, they would spend a lot of time together but still give that privacy to each other. They were extremely comfortable with each other. Kunal let her be when she wanted to be left alone whether it was to go and shop or to paint which had been a long-standing hobby of hers. He regularly met up with his friends and life was perfect. The only thing was that Aparna still didn’t want to get married. She didn’t feel the need to do so. She felt that they were as good as being married and had this fear that if they put the stamp of marriage their life might change and may not remain that perfect. But Kunal was very keen that they should because he wanted to not only share his life with her but also everything that he owned. He wanted her to have a good life under all circumstances with or without him.
He sat her down one day and explained his reasons for pressing her to get married. He told her that at their age they needed to be mindful of any eventuality that maycome up and therefore she needed to be secure under all circumstances. In fact, even Nandini on one of her visits advised her mother to be more realistic about the situation and accept the proposal.Slowly but surely all the effort paid off. Aparna understood their point of view mad said the much-awaited yes.
So one Sunday morning in the month of March when the day was bright, the birds were singing, Kunal and Aparna tied the knot in the presence of Nandini, Arun, Kim and Kunal’s two sons, Chris and Tim.
And so this love story culminated happily though a tad late in the day … but that’s destiny.
GauravAugust 3, 2019
Excellent. Could not stop reading.
Sangeeta RelanAugust 3, 2019