I want to write. That’s the thought I woke up to, after a lot of forced attempts at keeping myself asleep. Strange dreams were plaguing me. Something about my best friend’s wedding being around the corner. Something about my ex-boyfriend arriving at the pre-wedding event venue and acting like all is well between us. He sat down next to me, put an arm around my waist and nonchalantly started addressing my best friend, as if nothing needs to be addressed to me first, as if his touching me does not require my consent. There was also something about my birthday being due and needing to be planned in accordance with the fact that it would be overlapping with one of the wedding events.
Reality Check. I broke up with my boyfriend of eight years (fractured by multiple breaks) about a month and a half back, around three days before my 26th birthday. My best friend got married two weeks back. The last time I saw her and, coincidentally, my ex-boyfriend was at her wedding. She shifted to Hong Kong a week after. Despite that, I am going to see her again sometime soon. I am not going to see my ex-boyfriend again, or so I sincerely hope.
If I am married to anyone, I am married to the Elephant in My Room or, more precisely, the Monkey on My Back. Introductions? Stranger meet monkey. Monkey meet Stranger… Monkey should be given a name – Marriage Monster (MM), maybe? I frequently find myself introducing the monkey to quite a few strangers, who then I come to befriend by the act of frank conversation about the red-veiled skeleton in my closet.
Who am I? I am someone whose life, for the past five years, has been sub- consciously, if not consciously shaped by the fear of marriage. Sometimes the monkey gets off my back and metamorphoses into the less touchy but equally intimidating Elephant in the Room. But I have come to realize that whether I acknowledge monkey-elephant or not, MM’s weight on my back does define my decision-making. I have been escaping confrontation with MM since the third year into my no-longer-live relationship. The day we completed three years, exactly on our third anniversary, the monkey leapt onto my back. What happened that day? My ex-boyfriend proposed the idea of telling his mother about me. Harmless? Well… All hell broke loose. I’ll avoid going into the details.
More recently, the tables turned when I was the one insisting that both of us come out to our parents about each other and he was not even willing to let me wish his parents on their 50th anniversary. Now that I think about it, the day MM flashed its ugly teeth at me for the first time was the day I felt that my father would marry me off as soon as I finish my post-graduation. Choosing where I go for my postgraduate studies was the first decision I took out of fear of MM.
Between continuing to study in the city that houses my childhood home and living in a hostel in a strange city, I chose moving away from my parents. Between the two-year degree and the two-and-a-half- year-long diploma course, I chose the latter. Buying more time? I finished it in three-and-a-half years after three failed attempts at dropping out. My diploma project/ graduating film was about a woman who invites a suitor for arranged marriage into her abandoned childhood home. Go figure! I think, even in this act of committing fear to paper, I am going around in circles. Avoiding. Running away from the real confessions. I am probably also confusing you, Soon-to-be-Befriended Stranger.
Let’s leave the backstory to the backfield. Let’s ask the most relevant question. What brings me to the boiling point right now? On the same trip that I attended my best friend’s wedding, I committed to a job offer in my natal city, when I went and checked out the office, which happens to be a stone’s throw from my parents’ house. Quick update: This would be the first time since I left my childhood home that I will have to come to terms with living with my parents again. So… I come back to after giving my best friend away to the married world and start looking for a job in Bangalore. It’s a game. A challenge. Beat the one- way ticket to Delhi on the 27th of August with a better-paying job in Bangalore. Crazy, right? Some of it has been fun, too.
But. (There’s always a ‘but’.) It’s time. Time to take a toll. Time to face the Marriage Monster. Dreading it but finally considering beheading it. I am really growing sick of the fear-induced decision-making. It has created a trail of regrets, resentments. So what if my best friend has got married? So what if I am the nextin kin to be sacrificed to the married world? So what if I am 26? No, I am not running out of time. On the contrary, I have wasted A LOT of time. It’s about time I do some damage control.
I don’t want to get married. I don’t have to. Getting married makes sense if you have actually found someone who you think you can get married to. I, on the contrary, question marriage as an institution, far from considering romantic inclinations as partners for marriage. Till the time I am not sure that I am deciding in favour of or against marriage in the absence of the Marriage Monster on my back, it’s a decision best not taken. I might not want to but I know that I should return to Delhi. The job in Delhi, as a job, is more exciting than any of the options that have come my way in Bangalore. But the next question is, am I willing to compromise on independence for love? No. If that’s what I want, I will fight for living away from my parents in Delhi. But before that I will fight for living on my own terms with my parents in their house. Make it feel like home. What if there really is scope for living together in harmony? And, I repeat, I am not running out of time. I would rather say that it is about time that I respect time. Make the best of it. Start afresh. Fearlessly.
- Sabika Muzaffar
Sabika is a lyricist, writer and film maker. She writes and cooks to feel alive.
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