So when the man came back from America, I think the first thing he did was to break up with me. On the phone. When I was at work.
My instincts saw it coming. But it was still a shock. I didn’t want him to explain. So when he said, ‘I’ve been thinking, and I don’t think you and I will work out,’ I just said okay and hung up.
He called back. He wanted to explain. I said I don’t need an explanation. But he begged me to let him explain and letting him do that is possibly the worst crime I’ve perpetrated on myself.
And this is what he said: I’ve had time to think when I was away from you and in America. Spending time with my mom, sister and her family made me realize that I need to father children. And I know you can never be a mom. So it’s best we call it off now. Also I don’t think I was as into this relationship as you were. I don’t think I was even really in it. You just forced me and I went with it. And I don’t think that’s fair to you.
I can’t remember what happened next. I was hysterical and angry and begging in equal parts. And I was at work. I told my then manager, Jeff who is a real sweetheart by the way, that I can’t work anymore and I need to take off. He just said, ‘Bullette, take care.’ That’s what he used to call me. But even so, I finished my tasks for the day and went to Ista hotel where fortunately for me, my best friend Anu and her husband were staying.
I drowned my sorrows in a posh place. We sat by the pool, drinking beer, and being quiet. Every now and then I’d burst into tears. And ask Anu, ‘How can he say I will never have a child?’, ‘How can he say I forced him into a relationship?’, ‘How can a woman force a man?’ Even the waiters couldn’t bear to see my suffering – they bought us plates of food to eat – compliments of the hotel and a ‘Ma’am, please take care’ thrown in. Sweet. And so I wept even more.
It was a nightmare.
Until then I honestly hadn’t given any thought to becoming a mother. It always seemed like something that could happen in the distant future. But suddenly I was being told without any medical basis that I’d forever be sterile and barren. And suddenly becoming a mother was most important to me. I was so distraught even Eliot didn’t help.
I refused to break-up. I begged and pleaded. Our friends suggested we both take fertility tests. But he was stubborn. It ended with a lot of hate and ugliness.
I knew it was his family. I knew he loved me. He even said so when we broke up. He was always indecisive; I kept hoping this was one of those stages and that I’d make him see reason.
By then I’d joined a gym near my house and was working religiously for two hours every day. I had finally begun to lose weight. I thought if I could change the way I look, it might still be fine.
I want to kick myself now for thinking like this.
And I want to kick myself some more for the number of astrologers I got in touch with, and the number of ritualistic prayers I performed, the number of temples I visited. And everyone said just one thing – he loves you, he’s going through a bad phase, you both will definitely marry, your horoscopes are a perfect match.
The thing is, never break the rules you’ve set for yourself. I had three:
- Never get romantically involved with a student or colleague
- Never fall in love/make out with your best friend
- Never, please God, shag a virgin
And with this man, I’d broken all my own rules. It was natural I would suffer.
But I continued valiantly with my gym. We still spoke on the phone. And he still called like before. But I couldn’t have a conversation without begging him to come back. It’s awful when you do that and before long we weren’t speaking on the phone either. And the more I tried to find the logic in his decision, the uglier it all got.
‘Look, I don’t want to discuss this anymore. We are incompatible. I want someone cheerful and healthy.’
‘And I’m not? We aren’t compatible? I’ll get healthy. Every woman I know has PCOD, it’s not serious. Just give me some time, please. And we are not compatible, what the fuck are you talking about?’
‘Please don’t swear. I was never into you.’
‘I will fucking swear if I fucking want to. You were never into me? Why the fuck did you sleep with me then?’
‘No, really, why the fuck did you sleep with me?’
‘Because you forced me to, okay? I slept with you because you forced me to.’
‘I forced you to? How the fuck can a woman force a man to do something like that? I know you were a virgin and all that but even you should know that’s not possible.’
‘There are all kinds of forcing.’
‘Like what? Did I book us into a hotel room? You picked me up and took me to the hotel, remember?’
‘Yes, because you forced me to.’
‘What will you say next? That I raped you?’
‘I think you did. Now let’s just leave it be, okay?’
‘No, dammit, I won’t just leave it be. What the fuck are you talking about? Why are we doing this? We love each other. We shouldn’t be doing this. Is it your parents?’
‘I got to go now. My mom’s calling.’
This and variations of this conversation happened for the next three months. I’m tenacious that way.
It wasn’t so much about the break-up; it was the way it was happening. There was no apology, no ‘Sorry, I really wish I didn’t have to do it. But I’ve made up my mind. But I want us to be friends, you are important to me. I want you to be happy.’ No, none of these things.
I’ve always believed that every break-up has two sides. Every story has two different interpretations at least. And both are right. But in this, I can swear there was only one side – my side. I was being cheated and I was being hurt – senselessly, meaninglessly, and without even an apology. And that, I couldn’t handle.
Do you know what it would feel like to be hit by a thunderbolt just when you are drowning in a river? Those few seconds before you died? I do. What I was feeling then was exactly like that. My life had become those few seconds going on and on, stretching into eternity.
Even my mom spoke to him. She says he was rude to her. I don’t know if he was, I didn’t hear it. And I will give him the benefit of doubt. But when I’d taken the phone from her, he said just leave it be and hung up.
That’s when I contracted PTSD – Post Traumatic Sarala (his mom’s name) Disorder. Because when I called him up, she answered the phone.
‘Bhumika, this is too much. What do you think you are? You can’t decide you want to marry someone and force them to marry you. Marriage is not a child’s game, you know?’
Something in me iced over and died that day. I knew I’d lost it all, but I was still unwilling to give up, and I still had the fight in me.
‘I’m not an idiot. Your son slept with me.’
Silence and shock. Then, ‘Sushan, did you sleep with her? She’s saying you did.’ Silence. But maybe he nodded or something.
‘So what if he slept with you. It’s very common these days.’
‘Oh really? Is that how you brought up your son to be? Because I didn’t think he was like that.’
Silence. Then, ‘Even if he slept with you, why did you let him?’
‘Because I was in love with him. If he calls me tomorrow, I will still go and sleep with him because I am in love with him. But what was he doing? What is he doing? Please, this is wrong, you do not treat a girl this way, please do something; make him do what’s right.’
‘He’s a grown man. I can’t tell him what he can and cannot do. He has a really strong will. And no one can force him to do anything he doesn’t want to do.’
‘Oh finally we agree. Please tell him that. He claims that I forced him into bed and the relationship. Look, please, this is ugly, please help me. I really love him. You can’t do this. He can’t do this to me.’
‘But we don’t like you. We never did. You have no manners. Uncle completely dislikes you. We want something very different for our son.’
‘So why didn’t you tell me this before? I have spoken to you about us. You knew. So why did you pretend as if you liked me. Please, I need to speak to him, please put him on the phone and maybe I won’t bother you again.’
And he said, ‘What the fuck have you done? You’ve ruined everything. I don’t wish to talk to you anymore.’ And hung up.
And that’s what it means to have PTSD. I must be the only woman on the planet to have fought with a mother-in-law figure when I wasn’t even married to the son! Score, what?!
This conversation and many such kept swirling in my busy, over-crowded brain. So although I continued to work in the gym, I began to put on the weight I’d lost. In fact, my weight shot up by 12 kgs in a week. It was alarming. And even breathing began to tire me.
We went to a different gynec this time. She was sympathetic to my plight. She put me on the right medication for the PCOD and prescribed a thyroid test. My thyroid level was over the roof and inching towards the sky. She referred me to an endocrinologist. He put me on thyroid medication.
Here’s the thing:
If you are obese and a woman, there’s every chance that you will get PCOD.
If you are obese and a woman and you have a sedentary life-style that just involves working on a laptop and little exercise, then you will get PCOD.
If you are obese and a woman, and you have a sedentary life-style that just involves working on a laptop and little exercise, and you have PCOD, and you are stressed to the point of a nervous breakdown then, take it from me, you will also get hypothyroidism – another autoimmune disease.
I was still immensely tired, moody, suicidal, and had severe joint pain. The doctor attributed all this to hypothyroidism and he said a month of the medication should see the symptoms ease. They didn’t.
Then he thought I had fibromyalgia. And guess what? That’s autoimmune too. And I started medication for that. But that didn’t help either.
And so it went on. From October to June I suffered pain like I’d never known. And I was forever asking myself if there was a side to this story I was missing. Would I ever be a mom? Was he after all, right? Had I done something wrong? Did he have a side too? But the answer was always no. Everyone said so. Our closest friends refused to keep in touch with him. We all lost respect for the man and his family. And yet, all I wanted was to get back to the way things was. And I knew it never would. I apologized to him for speaking to his mom the way I did. And felt like a liar when I did that. And that didn’t help either.
I was hurt; I was raging. I was confused and completely bereft of any kind of confidence in anything. I had let myself down. I’d begun to feel too much too soon for a man whom I didn’t really know, after all.
A man who made me feel unattractive all the days we were together when the problem was actually his. We’d never done anything physical for the longest time – he wanted us to wait till we were married. But on a trip, things just happened. And that’s when the poor sod confessed his reluctance to do anything physical. He was a virgin and small. But when you are in love how does that matter? And I reassured him. And the next morning, he said, ‘You make me so happy. I’ve never been this happy ever before in life.’
I remembered and wondered how a man who was forced to have sex would say a thing like that? Did I force the words too? Exactly how imperious was I really? And what powers of persuasion did I really possess? Who was I? What was I doing? What had I done?
I couldn’t trust myself or my friends or my family. Who knew when and how they would hurt me? Hell, my own body was betraying me, big surprise then that the world was letting me down too.
Work was the only saving grace, I could work. It was a distraction. But soon I couldn’t even do that.
And then what?