Kabir* and I had met on the weekend of NH7 Weekender, 2012 in Delhi. The lead singer of a famous blues band from Shillong was crooning about falling madly in love on stage. While she hit the perfect notes, a not so perfect ass was standing in front of me was continually stepping on my toes. On protesting, the jerk picked a fight with my entire set of friends and finally bouncers had to be involved to make the guy leave.
Later, I was standing in line to get a drink, when the jerk showed up again. He was slurring and obviously bombed out of his mind. This time, I didn’t have friends around me and I got genuinely fearful because he was huge and could have probably crushed me between his fist. Luckily, the young guy standing behind noticed the escalating tip, and spoke out, “Dude, why don’t take on somebody your own size?”
“Mind your business, man. This girl is being a massive pain and I’m about to teach her a lesson,” he said as he moved to swing his arm. Before I could react, this second guy’s arm connected with the jerk’s jaw. The impact made a crunch sound, and sent the idiot flying backwards. By this time, security had caught up and started questioning the people standing around. After answering all their questions, I turned to my saviour, “Thanks for helping me. My friends aren’t around and this guy has bothered us enough today. I don’t know what I would have done if you hadn’t shown up.”
“It’s really not a big deal, honestly. I saw him bothering you, and I had to jump in,” he said with a slight smile at me. I could see he had a dimple.
“I’m Aakansha*, and you are..?” I asked, offering my hand.
“Kabir. Nice to meet you, Aakansha. I only hope it could have been under happier circumstances,” he said, smiling wider and enveloping my hand in his warm one. Then, looking around, he asked, “Would you like me to escort you to your group?”
“Sure,” I said a little breathlessly while slowly registering on how good he looked.
He ended up spending the entire evening with my friends and I. My best friend Rupali* got worried and said to me in a sotto voice, “Hasn’t he come with friends? How come he had just abandoned them to hang with us?”
“I don’t know why, but I’m really hoping it’s because of me,” I was getting the familiar feeling of butterflies in my stomach.
However, her question seemed valid, so I asked him later, when she was out of earshot.
“I’d come here with a friend and his girlfriend. They’re so involved that I’ve been feeling like a third wheel so far. I thought this, I could hang out with the coolest girl here, and give them a little privacy, but if you don’t prefer my company anymore, I could leave?”
“No!” I said a little too quickly, then looking at his bemused face, I amended, “I mean, of course you should hang out with us, we don’t want you interrupting love, do we?”
“No, we certainly don’t want to interrupt love..,” he whispered looking straight into my eyes. I could barely hold it together.
For the remaining two days, he continued hanging out with my friends and I at the concert venue, and we discovered that we lived very close together in Saket. He asked for my number so he could take me out on a date, and we parted way. I honestly thought that I would not hear from him ever again, and so was very surprised when he called just two days later, “I haven’t been able to concentrate on work, fought with my boss and it’s all your fault.”
“WHAT? How is it my fault?”
“I can’t stop thinking about you,” he sounded miffed.
“You say the sweetest thing, but then sound pissed as hell?” I was intending it to be an observational fact, but it come out more like a question.
“Come meet me and I’ll tell you exactly what’s going on in my head,” he was flirting, and I felt a little unsure about his hot and cold attitude, but I wanted to say yes more than anything and so, I did. We set up to meet at a coffee shop near his house.
“You look good enough to eat, Aakansha, and if I knew you better, we wouldn’t even be having this coffee,” he was quite adept at flirting.
“Hey, mister. I don’t know you well enough to be speaking like this,” I was smiling ear-to-ear while saying this.
After the nicest date to happen in the universe. We went for a walk, where he spotted someone he knew. I could tell by his stance that it wasn’t a particularly pleasant encounter. He just waved at the guy, who also halfheartedly waved back.
I couldn’t stand the curiosity, “Someone you know?”
“Yes, he was my best friend.”
“Was? Something bad happened?” then realising my own nosiness, I added,” I’m sorry. You don’t have to tell me. I’m just a little curious.”
“No, no. I don’t mind. His name is Ritesh* and I used to date his sister. Then things went downside, and he accused me of treating her badly, when in fact, it was her, who had wronged me. But he wouldn’t listen, and sided with his own blood. So, we just stopped being friends.”
“Oh, I’m sorry. I can’t imagine how you would have felt. Losing your girlfriend, and then losing a best friend over the break-up. How long ago was it?”
“Two months, but I’m over her. She used me and then threw me away when she didn’t need me anymore. It was the worst feeling in the world, but now I have you,” he said with the same slightly-dimpled smile.
“Anytime you want to talk, I’m here, okay?” I felt like I could never deny him anything.
Soon, Kabir and I became a number. Rupali had insisted on meeting him again, to sign the seal of best friend approval, so to speak. After meeting him, she reluctantly gave it because I had told her about his recent past, “Are you sure you can trust him? He’s only been out of a serious relationship for two months, yet looks very intensely at you.”
I should have heard her then, but I didn’t, “When you know it’s right, why wait and dally? I like him and he likes me. Is that not enough?”
“I guess..,” she said and still looked hesitant.
It started with the little things, I would ask him to attend a birthday or party of a friend, and he would coerce me into staying in with him. Soon, it had been months before I saw the usual gang, and even Rupali called to complain, “I never see you anymore. I want my best friend back, Aakansha.”
“I know I know, it’s just that I’ve been hanging out with Kabir every chance I get. He’s got work, so do I, and we try to keep in sync as much as possible,” I was making excuses, because it was unconscionable that I neglected my friends for a boy. Yet, I couldn’t help being head-over-heels love with him.
This other time, I was talking to a colleague from office, Neeraj*, when Kabir suddenly go suspicious, “Who are you talking to? Have you found someone else?” he was attempting banter, but his face showed worry. I thought it was immensely cute that he was jealous, so I replied in kind, “Yes, I have. His name’s Neeraj and he works in my office.”
Since that incident, every time we fought, which was getting increasingly regular, he would mock me by taking Neeraj’s name. I must have been an awful person, because I enjoyed his jealousy, sometimes even egged it on.
The next time we fought, it was over some small function at his office that he wanted me to attend with him, but I had already made plans with the girls and told him so. The fight escalated until I got mad and threw a plate. Not at him, but on the ground in frustration. I had never seen myself behave this way, and felt ashamed. Well, I did until he punched the wooden part of the wall, which splintered. I missed my evening out, he missed his office party, because I had to take him to the emergency room for stitches.
All this had become such pattern in our relationship that I became excessively wary of disagreeing with him. He had a short-temper that would flare up at the slightest of provocation and it led to huge thundering fights between us. One time, a neighbour called the police thinking that he was about to attack me. I assured the neighbours that nothing of the sort would ever happen, but when Rupali got wind of it, she called immediately, “Have you completely lost your mind? How can you be with someone who treats you like this?”
“Well, I don’t treat him the best, either, you know,” I lamely justified.
“How is that better? We haven’t seen you for months, every time we meet, you say that you’re in a fight, and now even cops are getting involved. You say you’re in love with him but this is not how you treat the person you love.” I knew she was right and it was time. After talking to her a bit longer, I resolved to break it off.
But when I saw him, I got sad and afraid. Sad because the thought of leaving him made me miserable, and afraid because I had no idea how he would react. What if he got violent? I know I had assured people that it wouldn’t happen, but honestly, I had no idea. The fear worked as a catharsis of sorts, I realised that feeling unsure, afraid and constantly passive-aggressive was no way to be with the person you were in love with. I broke up with Kabir that evening. I knew I had done the right thing when a year later, I overheard him badmouth me at a party. He stopped spewing shit when he saw me, but the realisation that damage had been done came to him, and he just shrugged and walked away.
*All names have been changed.
As told to Tanvi Jain