Most of us believe in happily ever afters. Boy meets girl and tries to win her over, fighting with the raaste ke kaanteuntil he has won her heart. A much-awaited on-screen kiss and The End.
But in real life, doesn’t the story begin after the kiss? And this story doesn’t really have its figurative end 3 hours later with the drop of a curtain. This story keeps going on. Unfortunately, no one talks about the joy or frustration of sharing mundaneness with a partner. Someone with whom you witness life. Someone you see changing with time and someone who sees you the same way. That’s not the same thing. That takes more than a rush of oestrogen and testosterone.
That takes patience, compromises, understanding and selflessness. That’s a tough deal. But that’s also the kind of relationship that lasts beyond breakups and divorces.
Somewhat like Ross and Rachel’s bond in the popular ‘90s sitcom Friends. Misunderstanding, arguments, infidelity rip the couple apart but all is not really over between them even after they have bored everyone with their fighting. They never manage to love another person to the same degree.
Their relationship began long before they started dating, back in high school when Ross looked longingly at Rachel even though she was hardly conscious of his existence. It survived in its dormant way until much later. It survived a series of relationships that were not meant to be. It had metamorphosed into a bond of friendship that would hold stronger than romance.
And where there is a true bond, words like ‘breakup’ don’t really change anything, right? Situations may have changed and it may be impossible to carry on a civil and amicable co-existence but is that enough to put an end to a relationship?
When a couple has lived through so much together, has so much history together and have a kind of shared life, it’s almost impossible to just let it all go and walk out because the relationship can’t be carried forward. It’s like Rachel says to Ross: “With us, it’s never off the table.”
Women in urban India live independent lives. They don’t get passed on from their father’s abode to their husband’s anymore. They have economic independence and much more social representation. Does the figure of the Pativrata naari continue to exist as piously in these times? No, it doesn’t, because there’s more to a woman’s life than her man.
Related reading: On Shiva, Parvati, and showing up well for partners
In such times where both genders are more self-aware, sexually and economically independent and where career calls are more important for both, our age-old notion of relationships and domesticity are naturally challenged. One doesn’t know where life will take them. But just because life is thus, does it mean relationships die?
I think relationships adapt, just like we do. Films like Imtiaz Ali’s Love Aaj Kal make more sense to our generation.
It’s when you know you have someone and no matter what the circumstances, no matter where you are, you return to that one person who belongs to you. Not for some selfish agenda. Not for home. Not for hot food and a comfortable bed. Or children. Here the return happens only because one would rather not go anywhere else.
On-again off-again relationships may still be frowned upon because they don’t conform to the traditional Indian notion of heterosexual long-term monogamy, but I feel it’s a deeper idea when it comes to romance. It’s about choosing to be with someone despite knowing their flaws, despite knowing that you can walk away. It’s a decision one makes with freedom, not because of lack of choice.