Day 42 of 100IndianTinderTales
“Lovers don’t finally meet somewhere. They’re in each other all along.” -Rumi
When I met him there was no Tinder. I knew I was sexually attracted, there was no time to ask if it was love. Plus, love had left me feeling insipid in my 20’s. 30’s needed something new.
He was young, very young. I was 30 and didn’t think I stood a chance at love or marriage. I had heard people talk in whispers, “Oh she is 32, who would want her now.” Before I got there I knew I wanted to take sexual desire in my hands. With or without love. And it was a good decision.
The sex was fabulous to say the least. It was THE language we spoke. There was no problem that couldn’t be swept under the carpet and resolved in bed. In the first month we lived together, the problems were tiny, they were what kids these days call ‘TMI’. But soon blossomed a romance that put all the TMIs to rest. Sex was still the language we spoke, in parties, in other people’s house, in rickshaws, in between movies. We were always late to all the dos we were invited to because we couldn’t get enough of each other.
This union made me deliriously happy and very creative. But this was a still a romance that I didn’t talk about. I didn’t want my girlfriends to tell me, “He is young, he will use you and leave you. You are 30, it will be difficult for you to have children. Don’t waste your time. Stop this timepass.”
Those were my worries too, I wanted love, I wanted marriage, I wanted kids, I badly wanted to fit in. Really. I was not a rebel but I was just odd, had tried various vocations, studied several things, travelled to several places, thought I was in love with several men, the incorrigible optimist who wasn’t scared of trying and yeah at 30 I didn’t have the thing most women had – husband, security, love. I felt like a loser.
But our relationship was heady, it was passionate and very engaging. We had our fights, our fights were just as passionate and sometimes violent but we had us and that served us.
After a little more than a year, our insecurities got the better of us. There was violence, there was two way mental torture, accusations, name calling, vileness I never thought I was capable of, fear I didn’t know existed.
Every evening, I would worry of what the night would hold. Night after night we fought and then one night I left. It rained that night, he hugged me and promised that he was going to change. We were going to change.
We did. I came back, cried for days. We talked and tortured each other. We knew where it hurt and aimed just there. I was detected with mild depression. My last attempt to keep him back, I now think. It felt like I was saying, “Have some sympathy, look at what loving you has done to me, accept me. I love you.”
After 4 months I went back, this time with the mission to have him and keep him. He had moved on. But I knew ours was true love and true love always worked in the end. I wanted him back so I could tell myself that I was loveable. I knew I was but only when he was around.
We met. I was desperate, he’d throw little pieces of affection at me and I would hungrily grab it. We played our power games, ownership games we knew so well. I cried several nights. I saw him with other women. I felt numb, life had no meaning.
Then one day I signed up for Vipassana and came back with a part of the mental chatter of being a loser silenced. I was desperate and read the Secret and everything in the self-help catergory. I started to feel better. Worked with children, it was therapeutic and slowly started some rewiring, telling myself, that I am good. I deserve love. I deserve respect.
It was difficult but I didn’t feel as nervous all the time. We met from time to time. He would tell me about his escapades, it hurt less and less. One day he asked me if I had met someone. As I talked, he stormed out of my house, saying, “All women are sluts, they all need one fuck and no looking back. Including you.” I didn’t call him back or say sorry.
I still felt there was something entangled in the mess. There was love somewhere trapped in our insecurities and power games. We met one last time. We talked, he still wanted to know where I was, who I was seeing and more importantly, “who I was doing?”
I wasn’t doing anyone and finally flew out to Europe. Everything was new, I had the excitement of a young child. I was happy.
Once while swapping stories with the flatmate, I told her about the relationship, she said, “Do you know that it was abuse what you went through?” I had never looked at it as abuse, abuse happened to other women. I still have problems admitting that it probably was. We just couldn’t express our needs and we fought. He got violent. I didn’t eat. I would faint all the time. I would lie. I would be sick. He would be abusive. He told me I was luring men. He cheated. I forgave. It was terrible. I cried a lot. There was love somewhere. It had gone sordid and it was behind me.
I got on Tinder and met B. Someone I didn’t think I was physically attracted to but who was bowled over by my ‘browness’. I was probably his first chance to get the brown girl off the list. He was charming and we went walking. I knew this was safe, I was safe. We walked, talked, ate, laughed and talked some more.
Over cake, we laid out all our bruised and broken pieces on the table. There was something so similar about it, it felt like we were identical twins. There was a strange sense of validation. Someone knew. Someone so far away had felt the same way. We bonded over our pain.
When I met B, I only wanted to kill a few hours and he probably wanted to meet an exotic girl but it became a lot more in a short time. We continued to talk and bond but he retracted with some random excuse. I was angry but later made peace because with B I realised love could happen again. It was liberating. The possibility still existed. I was still attractive, still loveable.
Europe was a wonderful ego massage. It showed me I was very attractive and I consumed all the adulation unabashedly. I felt like a child in a candy store, completely spoilt for choice, blue eyes, grey eyes, green eyes and with bodies in good shape. But from the lot, the one I chose, once told me, “how I was being a prostitute” because I was assertive. He wasn’t too happy about the attention this white city gave me, it made him insecure and he was verbally abusive. The word prostitute always shut me up. This was another man who wanted to control, own and thrown in the word ‘love’ from time to time. But there were men who had delicious accents, broken English with their softer Ts, who wanted first-hand information on masala and Bollywood and didn’t mind showering me with praises.
I came back with a bag full of mixed feelings. A little fearful, a lot confused and also excited about all my experiences. I went back to Vipassana and to affirmations. Woke up everyday, telling myself, “It is safe to be Indu” “I love you.” “I deserve love.” “This world is my home and I am safe anywhere, being myself.” They seemed terribly stupid but over time it was reassuring to have my own back and my own love. And when it is safe to be who you are, you don’t have to adjust, accommodate, there is less resentment, you want less and less outside validation.
I was happier and life went on. B and I reconnected and I told him how meeting him was the highlight of my trip. He was flattered and I had found that I was loveable. It was fair, we kept talking. And the rewiring became a permanent morning feature.
Then this year, I started this project. I got back onto Tinder. This time I was looking for stories and I was clear about it. T told me stories. He was okay being vulnerable. He was okay sharing. He was a traveller, he was funny, very charming and deliciously multicultural. I decided to meet him. I knew this was just to hear stories. He was much younger, younger than any one I had ever dated. I was unafraid to be myself. He was sharing away, making me laugh in the middle of a busy day.
We discovered over two weeks that we chatted that we both are atheists, were trying to be mindful, exercised from time to time, were curious af, absolutely loved telling stories and really enjoyed each other’s jokes. We were like two young lab pups, eager and loving. Even before meeting there was a trust between us like we were born in a safe world, where strangers don’t gobble you up.
We met. There was a slight stiffness but soon conversation took care of it. And then Sangria flowed, it made sure our inhibitions flew out of the window. When we entered the bar, they’d stamped us with – ‘You are awesome’ and we proved that we were every bit awesome. The conversation was very intelligent, brimming with curiosity, laden with wordplay, cleverness and gentle humour. As our minds connected our bodies spoke out too, curiously treading new paths, connecting and bonding.
When we got out of the bar, he interwove our fingers and swayed it in all over South Mumbai. There was something magical that night which had overtaken the smell of dried fish and pee that both of us think is the quintessential Mumbai smell. And there was a joy that didn’t have any template, logic or reason. Alcohol and us worked magic that night.
Next morning, we woke up in our respective beds, me still happily buzzed while T put out the TMI disclaimer. But we continued chatting. We met again. We bonded.
We were culturally so different, it was easier to learn about my own conditioning. With T, I realised I didn’t owe him anything and he respected my boundaries.
He was leaving soon. We kissed, talked, ate and hugged and went our different ways. It was different, to finally meet a man with whom I was not planning a future, I didn’t want him to fill the gaps in my life, I didn’t want him to wash away my pain but I did want to laugh a bit more, connect and know more. I was happy to meet a man who was not afraid to be vulnerable or to admit that it was his survival instinct that made him want to step back. There was honesty and conversation and he never said that very patronising line, “I don’t want to hurt you, Indu.”
A few days after he left, I woke up to the smell of a dead pigeon in my balcony. We often messaged each other talking about Mumbai smells – Fish or Pee. Fish > Pee. Pee > Fish. I wanted to tell him, “T, Mumbai smells of a dead pigeon today. Not of fish. Not of pee. Maybe it misses you.” But the lab pup in me was way too happy to send that message, it instead sent him a lot of good cheer, love and laugher and was happy to run out and enjoy itself!