He said: I love you. I want to marry you.
She said: I love you too. Yes, I will marry you.
He said: But let’s not tell my mother about the kids from your previous marriage. And pretend you are younger to me.
She said… nothing actually. She only saw red flags fluttering all around her. She grabbed her things and caught the next train back to her hometown.
This is the end of a love story many women would relate to. Some men would be left scratching their heads though, not sure what really was wrong. Especially when everything was cruising along so smoothly.
Such was the case of Mayank and Priti. Introduced to each other by common friends, it did not take much for them to get close. He was already divorced, while she was fighting a messy case with her husband at the time. He was a police officer, and knew a thing or two about the law, and became a quasi-counsel to her. They opened up about their personal lives to one another as confidants do, and became the best of buddies. But that’s what they were – there was nothing romantic or sexual between them.
As is not uncommon, the divorce had left Mayank to fend for himself. He had also been hurt bad by another girl with whom he had a live-in for over three years. He supported and funded her aspirations, covering her education and expenses, but she was unfaithful to him while they were together. And then she left him coldly without a word to marry another man. All this only added to the wounds of an abusive and traumatic childhood he had been through.
Priti in turn became Mayank’s counsellor on personal matters. They would talk long hours, and he would tell her of his loneliness and of his search for someone to love. He was posted in remote locations, with zero chances of meeting someone he could like. She would feel bad for him, and took it upon herself to help him both as a friend and to reciprocate the support he had become to her. It was time to play matchmaker.
She could think of no one more suitable for Mayank than Riya, her best friend from school. Riya was also single, was career-oriented, had suffered her share of childhood abuse, and been through a string of disappointing relationships. She was not open to being involved with any man, at least for a while, but Priti used her persuasive powers to get her and Mayank talking.
They did but Riya could not get the expected response from him. He either did not talk much, or was more interested in talking about or to Priti. It came as no surprise to Riya when he blurted out his feeling for Priti; she had figured at the outset that he was not interested in her and was only playing along to please Priti. Riya was not offended or angry, but had a good laugh instead. She wished Mayank the best and continued her life single, and happy for it.
Mayank had been holding himself back from expressing his love for Priti pending her divorce, but he figured he could not any longer. He confessed his feelings for her. At first Priti thought he was fooling around for laughs, but realized he was serious when he shared what he truly felt. He had found in Priti a soul-partner, one he could share what was in his heart and mind, one he could envision making a home to settle down in life with. He was besotted with her giggles and laughter emanating from a carefree approach to life, with her sense of compassion and care, and with her beauty. He was truly in love with her, and she could see it for herself.
Things changed fast between them. They became a couple, even if their bed of roses had the thorns of her unresolved divorce case. She even got close his elder sister, who was like a second mother to him. Mayank was starstruck with Priti, finding in her the perfect blend of the modern and the traditional. Compatibility was not an issue with their shared interests in the choice of friends, entertainment and music. He formally proposed to her.
Mayank managed to secure a transfer to be in Delhi where Priti lived. He bought a new house, and they got busy doing it up for a future together. One where they could live new dreams. She got down to fast-tracking her divorce case.
There was a dark cloud hanging over their relationship though – in the form of his mother who liked to exercise control over everyone. An independent house was needed as she might not be accepting of Priti’s two children from her previous marriage, and they had to have a place to visit her. Priti found it an acceptable compromise for the sake of one she loved dearly.
And then the glass shattered. The stresses of his job and personal life had made Mayank a heavy drinker. A few pegs down one evening, he asked Priti never to tell his mother that she had been married earlier and about her kids. And that she was older to Mayank. If his mother got to know, she would not only disapprove of their union but would ensure they never stayed together.
Mayank dozed off soon after, but Priti lay awake next to him all night. By the following morning, he was his usual self, with no memory of what he had said. But his words got etched in her heart and mind. He was not the man who could be trusted to stand up for her, for her children, for her as the woman she was. She left for her hometown while he was at work, saying she had her court dates coming up. She cried all the way, as her utopia crashed all around.
She went quiet on Mayank. At first he assumed she was busy with the legal battles, but he eventually saw the writing on the wall. She had left him, and left him for good. Her divorce came through, and she immersed herself in her career and in looking after the kids. She could forgive Mayank, but not society with its prejudices against divorced women, especially those with children.