Sunday, September 9, 2012

An Affair to Remember

Some of you young Indian women out there might often find yourselves in the excruciating position of falling for a younger guy. What's the problem with that you’ll say.  Of course by 'you' I mean the 21st century, boisterously modern, live-in relationship crusader- the kind of liberal, women’s rights upholder who sips apple martini and puts on vermilion and a colourful tunnel of bangles with equal panache.  Traditions are traditions. No matter how experimental and unconventional you are with your own life, you still want a husband who makes a solid, double digit salary in lakhs per annum. You might respect art and rhapsodize about modernist poetry over a round of paan-rasna flavoured hooka but in the end it’s the guy who pays for it that you want to pocket for your own. Of course, we all want ‘the good life’. Chetan Bhagat has lots to say about that.

But, feminine reader, I digress. The younger guy- he’s the protagonist of this story. He is the one who upturns your world and makes you go through hell. Not only is he younger, he is also lost and aimless. He adventurously defies all that comes to your mind with the word ‘stability’. As a major post-script he also earns less than you do. Social disapproval hounds you in your dreaming, waking and dazed moments. You don’t want to be a good catch. In fact you want to make the good catch. He puts you through the social blasphemy of an ‘ill matched couple.’

But then, the dotted bubble conjures up in your mind’s eye. He has a boyish charm. He smiles his dazzling Johnny Bravo smile and makes the caterpillars go bonkers in your tummy. By the time you reach the butterflies in the tummy stage, he is close enough for you to smell that lingering, masculine perfume that makes your knees weak. He is gentle, and he is harmless- so you think. He lets you be the one in charge. You anyway know more than he does, so you feel, you’ve seen the world more than he has. But even so, his youthfulness draws you. It refreshes the staleness of your own age and point of view.

You’ve discussed all this over a smoke with those intellectual friends of yours. You’ve used big words and complex sentences to sanctify your lust and that works for a while- because to your friends you say that it’s about how he has awakened a new reason to be yourself. Your friends wear the same coloured glasses. They encourage you. Go on, be yourself. Age doesn't matter. But to you it does- behind your brazen modernity, your familial bonds gnaw at you. You imagine social gatherings, what people might say, that pretty cousin of yours who did better than you when everyone thought you would. Those truck-load of expectations. No. This is your life, you say firmly and decide to throw him over. You can't live a miserable life of woeful comparison and the thought of "all that could have been" lurking at every step. Yes, so you decide to throw him over. You waver in dismay. But the feeling of buoyance carries you through those weighty moral qualms.

 Finally you decide you’ve rediscovered how to enjoy life and how to look forward to things. So you think. His childishness amuses your serene superiority, his naivety makes you feel that in some way whether he knows it or not, or accepts it or not, he needs you. Ah, but that damn age difference. Those 3 or 4 slippery years in between. The younger guy is perceptive and persistent. He senses your dilemma. More importantly he senses you have yielded. It’s complicated, you say. With women it always is, he replies with a  wisdom beyond his years that shocks you into admiration. Perhaps you are both even intellectually suited, you check a box in your pros list. He makes you feel special. Ah, but that damn age difference. If only.

And then there are those times, when his puppy dog eyes seem just that. You crave a large, muscular German Shepherd and all he looks like is a furry, little Pomeranian with black beady eyes the size of olives. You don’t want a pet, you want a companion, you explain to a friend with a sense of solemn gravity over a session of deep conditioning hair spa.

Your moral dilemma eats you up inside. Is it love? It can’t be. You send a billion texts to each other with angry, sad, happy, doubtful and neutral smileys. He sends you a kissing smiley and your heart flutters like a paper plane and settles into autopilot. You keep your distance and send a hug instead. He admits finally that he loves you. You hem and haw. What is love, you ask. It’s complicated, you repeat. Like math? He texts. No, you retort. More complicated than math? No, I didn’t mean it like that. Complicated like a girl’s mind- tongue in cheek smiley. You love the way he turns an awkward situation into a joke.

The situation goes on for a while. Your life continues in its tortuous conflicts and you feel you have a lot to think about. A lot to sort. The younger guy is strangely resilient and has found many other fish to fry- and that makes you die just a little. But then, he’s young, you conclude and shove it under the carpet. Then one day you happen to pick up his cell phone and flip through the texts that he has sent to a dozen other girls. Some of them with the same kissing smileys and the same one liners that knocked the breath out of you. But this time they really do knock the breath out you. You don’t want to run to your friends because you have been the fool. Nah, he’s not my type after all, you tell them nonchalantly over the treadmill. You do not want to confide because society has got back to you with a vengeance. Well then, you shrug. Things are the way they should be and you make plans for a movie with your girlfriends.

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