(As told to Shahnaaz Khan)
Names changed to protect identities
I started dating Apoorva four years ago. We were in our mid 20s. I was doing my MPhil and he was starting his career as a photographer. Both trying to find our way in the chaotic capital, New Delhi. He was my sister’s former colleague and we got talking when I decided to throw her a farewell when she moved. The conversation continued for months after she moved, till we finally realised there was more than just friendship here.
It was a dream
We hail from two very different parts of the country, he is from Bihar and I am from Darjeeling. But here in this crazy city, we could lose those differences. My MPhil finished and he got a job as a photographer at a fashion retail website. My next step was a PhD and while I got a room at the hostel, we also got a place together near his office. A place we called home while we went along sowing the seeds of our future.
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In big cities, identities can be forgotten. But back home, we knew how difficult it would be for our families to accept each other. Yet for over two years, we managed to live happily in our cocoon, postponing all reality for another day.
Till the day reality struck. Delhi is a beautiful city but it has some people that can make it a living hell. One day my boyfriend called me saying he had gotten into a fight and was injured. I reached the hospital as fast as I could and saw him bleeding profusely from a stab wound, in need of stitches and emergency care. From what his colleagues told me, local ruffians were stalking a model from his office. And one day when they went too far, he stood up for her. The four guys went at him and in the scuffle, he was stabbed.
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That sight of him still sends shivers down my spine. I stayed with him in the hospital for the next two days. Thankfully the knife missed causing any serious or permanent damage. But with all that had happened his family had to be called. So came his mum, dad and uncle. And that is how our relationship became known to them. As they stayed behind for his recovery, it became very clear to them that his house was also my house. As he got better the conversation veered towards us. He told them that we were serious and wanted to marry. All our efforts went into trying to convince them.
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But in all this that was suddenly thrust upon us, he completely forgot one thing – the fact that my folks didn’t have a clue! My parents didn’t know that I was dating a boy for over three years, forget living with him. Once his folks knew, it seemed the entire dynamic of our relationship changed. My PhD was halfway through, I had another 2-3 years before completion. I didn’t want to even raise the topic of marriage before I had finished it and found a job. And he had been fine with that. Except now his parents were breathing down his neck. Living together without being married was a blot on the family name.
And if they had made the compromise to accept a girl from a different culture, the least we could do was get married as soon as possible.
Not a dream any more
It seemed the pressure of his family really got to him. What was once a carefree and loving partnership turned into a my-way-or-the-highway sort of scenario. It’s not that I didn’t love him or wasn’t interested in marrying him. But I wasn’t ready for that yet. It seemed the stabbing had left a bigger wound in our relationship than on his body. As the weeks passed, his parents began questioning my intentions. Never directly to me but I understood from the way he talked that they had planted a seed in his head. That this girl is not really in it for the long term. She’s just using you while her studies are here. Then she’ll leave you and move along. Why else would a girl in her late 20s not want to marry a guy she’s been living with for almost two years!
It’s been almost 6 months since that incident. I’ve moved back to my hostel, while my boyfriend says he wants time to mull things over. I’ll soon be visiting home. But I don’t know if I want to tell my parents yet, as he wants me to. I don’t know if I can handle any pressure from their end too, knowing that I am not mentally and emotionally prepared for marriage yet. I really want all my focus on my education but it seems time is running out. It’s “Either tell your parents and make us official for both families, or you are not serious about this relationship”. I hope I can find a middle path, something that will buy time and keep my relationship. It seems it will need a miracle right now.
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