It’s the fairy tale we all grow up hearing and believing. We’ll meet our prince or princess, fall in love, get married and live happily ever after. But what happens if that doesn’t work this way? What happens when the order is scrambled?
Sarthak and Aditi met 15 years ago. Then, they were both young 20-year-olds, seeking vocational computer training at an institute in Hyderabad. From the beginning, Sarthak had a soft corner for innocent Aditi, helping her settle down in the new city, finding her accommodation, dealing with neighbourhood thugs for her and even being her lab partner. The course was over in four months, but their friendship continued.
Sarthak says, “We didn’t have mobile phones then. But we still kept in touch daily despite PCO booths and forbidding hostel wardens. Our bond was very intense and we discussed getting married many times.”
But there were many obstacles – she needed to support her family, he couldn’t get a job and the economy was bad during the IT bubble burst. Finally, Sarthak had to move abroad to study further, and explore his options, leaving a distraught Aditi who didn’t know if their relationship held any future. Bowing to familial pressure and the loss of close contact with Sarthak, she got married to Vinod, whose parents were her family friends. Sarthak was devastated too, but chose to accept her decision and stay friends. When he returned, he met Vinod, and knew that Aditi’s decision was wrong. A few days later, Aditi confided in him and he was right.
Aditi says, “Vinod isn’t a bad husband but he’s detached. He believes in living his life and I should live mine. Our problems are separate, our finances are separate and we don’t really offer each other emotional support. I know that he married me for the sake of society and family pressure.”
After his return, Sarthak was busy dealing with illness in the family, as well as bowing to the inevitable, and marrying Lalita. For about two years, Sarthak and Aditi were not in regular contact. After his father passed away, they got back in touch, and their bond came alive once again, with Aditi coming to rely on Sarthak for the advice and support she lacked in her own marriage.
Somewhere along the way, Sarthak confided in Aditi about an erotic dream he’d had about her. The next day, he was almost speechless when she teasingly asked him if he wanted to make it come true. Clandestinely in a secluded parking lot, the two finally went from emotional to somewhat physical – and it hasn’t stopped since. They meet every week, finding ways and avenues to spend time with each other and indulging in public displays of affections.
The two couples are friendly and even meet, all four of them, every now and then.
Do they feel guilty? Aditi says, “No, because I was never connected with my husband. Even if I tell him about our affair, I’m sure he won’t care.” Sarthak, however, says, he does feel guilty sometimes. “Perhaps because it’s human nature to be polygamous - I love my wife and Aditi equally. I am sure if my wife found out, she would be hurt and it could end in divorce. I fear that.”
The future is hazy. Sarthak says, “We never felt possessive before, even if we didn’t speak for a while. Now, it’s a more demanding relationship. We both expect the other to be available when we need them.”
Both of them are unsure of the future – but they’re clear on not breaking existing relationships to make new ones. Both have children, and would strongly like to protect them. Sarthak confesses, “I want to limit our physical interaction to avoid emotional breakdowns later.”
But for now, they’re clear they cannot stop seeing each other. They love each other, have loved each other for decades, and don’t know what else to do. Given that this kind of bond is what we all dream of, do judgement and moral stances have any place? Sarthak and Aditi don’t know, and don’t care.
(As told to Akhila Vijaykumar)