Infidelity is the inconvenient truth of life.
Animals are constantly cheating on their partners. I mean, our friendly neighbourhood cat has been sleeping with a bunch of eligible, virile cats. Which is why, it took me a long while to come to terms with the possibilities of a roan cat popping out a glistening white kitten – considering her usual partner in crime has been a handsome black cat. (Or maybe that was just cruel genetics at play, and I have been accusing the poor thing of infidelity.)
We were both in protracted relationships with separate people when we met – Sampriti and I. While she was in an abusive, disparaging relationship that traumatised her with every passing day, I was in a relationship that had seen its glory days (like the Spanish football team of 2010) and was now heading for an ignominious exit (like the same side in 2014.) My ex and I had our basic ideological differences, and fought over trivialities like every other couple on earth does. But we were still functional and popular together. Unfortunately though, I have always been in long-distance relationships. Long distance relationships have the unenviable quality of pervading into your life, until all they leave is a gaping hole in your heart – an abyss born out of longing and of wanting to relive the intermittent moments of happiness and togetherness. You begin to fill the gap through extended hours of conversation over the phone, until all that you are left with is a distant memory of each other’s faces, until you are left counting the days till you meet again. And when you finally meet after what seems like an eternity – you struggle to come to terms with the altered reality of spending time with each other, and by the time you have begun to adapt to the same, it is time to part for another eternity. It is like that scene from Interstellar – an isolated spaceship filled with dwindling hope – hurtling towards unchartered territories and despair, in the hunt for a singular moment of brilliance that could alter your reality.
Meanwhile, Sampriti faced a constant barrage of misdirected and misinformed male chauvinism. She gritted her teeth through a relationship that eroded at her emotional capacity to love, routinely forgiving her ex’s many faults. He constantly subjected her to criticism, suspicion and threats aimed at damaging her pristine reputation, objectifying and insulting her – denying her when she sought refuge in the one supposed corner of the world where she could expect to feel safe – while indulging in activities that would severely question his morals, assuming he had any. When questioned on the double standards – he’d casually dismiss the same as being part and parcel of being a man – the exact mentality that has birthed the uncontrolled sexism that is rife in the world today. She was unhappy in her relationship, but out of a misdirected sense of loyalty (which is characteristically similar to most women, even today) – she held on to him. We’d often have conversations about her moments with him after we had met; every time I was not lost in her eyes and her smile that could put million brilliant stars to shame (or I was chalking new plans of getting into her pants, albeit in the most discreet and gentlemanly way possible), I imagined strangling or shooting or smashing her ex to smithereens. He had broken her completely. It took me almost a year to reconstruct her from her fragments. She was like that abused kitten who’d be mortified every time she did something that went beyond the norms of our nascent relationship – whimpering, until I’d pick her up and comfort her till she’d purr in happiness again.
Our respective circumstances gravitated us towards each other – as we sought refuge from our dying and abusive relationships. As travellers on the same train, we conversed about life, our dreams and our regrets – while we helped each other cope and survive. And so we began to cheat on her respective exes, stealing precious minutes before class at the bar, or at walks after class. The pavements of Park Street were etched with the myriad conversations of an unlikely couple who’d pretend to be friends while transgressing the boundaries of societal norms – allowing ourselves to fall off grace, and beginning to love like vulnerable mortals susceptible to chance, temptation and love.
We were like travel weary ships anchored at the port – we allowed our interactions fleetingly, while we remained chained to the depths of our past relationships. There were innumerable moments when we almost kissed, but out of a perverted sense of loyalty to a rapidly deteriorating relationship – we restrained ourselves – causing irreversible damage to both the realities. There were millions of texts exchanged and phone calls returned, as I nearly exhausted both my father’s finances and my newly acquired vocabulary (trying to find out synonyms for love.) It felt tantalising – like the calm winds of autumn after the dark spells of rain.
Thus the fundamentals of our relationship were based out of cheating on our exes. It was partly born out of hatred for our past relationships, but mostly from the new life that we breathed into each other. It was born out of Math class, when I’d race to finish off my sums and watch Sampriti solve hers, while she’d intentionally slow down. (Let that not distract you from the fact that she’s a gold medallist in Statistics, and she can routinely kick ass in Math.) It was born out of the long due kiss in Olypub just before Durga Puja 2013, and the line conveniently stolen/modified from Love Actually: “It’s Pujo – if I don’t tell you how I feel now, I am afraid I won’t ever.”
It took me six months after that kiss, to convince her to be mine forever. It took me one original Man Utd jersey (I had to sell it, to finance my trip to Calcutta), several promises and emailed letters to earn her trust. Over the course of four years, our conversations have transitioned from romantic clichés to marketing campaigns, research papers and dreams of start-ups – interspersed with moments of brilliance when we are together. I realised the most important thing in a long distance relationship: I was as terrible at it, as I was before – only this time, I was in love with a woman who was not ready to let go even if the earth would cave in and separate us. All that we have today, is rooted in her unwavering love and possessiveness.