“I really like you, Pooja. You are different. I love the way you think. I love your passion for the causes you believe in. Above all, you are such a genuine person”, he said to her.
She looked up at him.
“It is mutual, Vivek. I cherish your companionship”, she replied.
“A woman like you doesn’t deserve to be single, Pooja! You deserve to be loved and cared for. There is so much beauty in you. You are intelligent and thoughtful, and wise from life. And yet, you are sensitive, so full of warmth, innocence and compassion. That makes you very attractive. I think you are being very unfair on yourself, denying yourself the joy of a relationship. Do you realize what you are missing?”
She stood still, her eyes fixed on the tiny speck in the distance that appeared to be a boat sailing in the river.
Without shifting her gaze, she asked, “What am I missing, Vivek?”
“So much! You deserve to be held, hugged, kissed. When was the last time somebody hugged you? Don’t you miss these little things?”
She looked up at him and smiled.
“Sometimes. I wouldn’t be human if I didn’t. But I have learned to live with not having these little things in my life.”
“But why? Why should you not have these little things in your life? You need to loosen up, Pooja.”
“No, Vivek. I don’t wish to go back to that life. I am strong now. Relationships make me weak and vulnerable. When I lose people, it is so hard for me to come out of the dependence. It is such a hard journey back to strength and independence. I can’t afford to put myself through that again. I have a lot of responsibilities and commitments. I do not have the luxury of time anymore- the time I take to heal and recover. Life will not wait for me. No, I have to be responsible.”
He shook his head.
” You have had bitter experiences in the past, Pooja. That is why you are scared to get into a relationship. Not everybody is the same. You should not hold on to the past; let it go. Free yourself from its clutches!”
“But shouldn’t you learn from your past?”
“Of course! But the learning should not snatch away your happiness.”
“What is happiness, Vivek? Is it holding hands, hugging and kissing?”
“I know what you mean. You may be happy doing the things you do, Pooja. But a relationships brings with it a different kind of happiness. And you deserve to experience that. I want to see you happy and free in the companionship of a man. In fact, I want to be that man for you. I promise you I will never hurt you or abandon you. I want you to feel secure so that you can experience the joy of a relationship. Give me a chance and I will never let you down!”
She continued to stare at the boat in the distance. It had become more visible now.
“You want to get into a relationship with me?”, she asked.
“Yes. And please don’t get me wrong. It was you I kept seeking all along in life. I ran into many women who I thought mirrored what I was seeking. But, from a closer perspective, they failed me. All along, I have been looking for you. But when I found you, it was to realize that I couldn’t own you. You were there, and yet not there. Sort of volatile. Please Pooja, I need you. I want you in my life.”
Her expression did not change.
” Why would you need me, Vivek?”
” I need you because I want to bring in happiness into your life. I want to see you smile. And I want to keep that smile for myself. I want to go to sleep with that smile in my head.”
Unruffled, she asked, “Give me a good reason as to why you need me in your life, Vivek.”
“Like I said, you deserve to be happy. And I want to be the one to make you happy.”
In the distance, she could hear the purring of the boat.
“What are you thinking?”, he asked.
She turned to him and said, ” Vivek, I was thinking of how we are speaking from such different platforms. You are a married man. You speak from within the security of a family. A family that can cater to your emotional needs on a day-to-day basis. There is very little for which you have to depend on me. You are like a man standing firmly on the bank of a river, without the risk of falling. For you, this relationship is an added dimension that you can give to your life- the joy of the intellectual companionship of a woman.”
The boat was now approaching the bank. She pointed to it and said,” I am like that boat, at the mercy of the river. I can be easily shaken. I do not have the security of a family to bank on. I have only myself. And so, if I were to get into a relationship, I would solely bank on it for my emotional fulfillment. Any turbulence in our relationship would put me at risk of falling into the river.”
She started to walk. He followed.
“You don’t really know me. How would you? You have not seen me in my moments of vulnerability or dependence. I was always vulnerable, with a very fragile self-esteem. In my teens, I did not have a father to help me overcome the feelings of worthlessness I would often feel. And so, I was always looking for the comfort of a relationship. It was my fragile self-esteem that propelled me to seek relationships. I liked that feeling of being wanted, being cherished and valued. But then, I would so easily get used to the relationship- to the presence of a person in my life, to his gestures, his mannerisms, his responses and reactions. I would get dependent on the little things that you mention- the heart-to-heart conversations, the tenderness, the holding hands, the hugs, the kisses. I would see the very meaning of my life in the relationship; I was dangerously dependent on the security it provided me. So imagine my predicament when the relationship ended. It was like being withdrawn from life support.”
She paused and sat herself on the stone bench. He sat down by her side. She spoke, almost to herself, as if lost in a distant reverie.
“It was so hard to come back to life each time- come back to being comfortable with one’s own company. It was this realization- the awareness of my fragility and dependence, that made me refrain from stepping into relationships.”
She looked at him.
“Over the years, I realized that nothing was permanent. A relationship could never assure permanence. I myself was not permanent. I therefore started filling up my solitude with meaningful endeavors that would leave behind something for the world, long after I was gone. And this made me strong for I learned to become comfortable with my solitude.”
She took a deep breath and continued:
“I have to take very good care of my mind, Vivek. I cannot afford to get used to the joy of a relationship. It would be detrimental for both of us. Of course, I will miss the little things in a relationship. But when did life promise you that you can have everything you want? These are but little pleasures- transient, fleeting moments of happiness. I seek the kind of happiness that sets me free. To me, happiness is the freedom within my mind. I want to feel free; I do not wish to be tied down by a relationship. I do not wish to be accountable to an individual. I do not want my happiness to be dependent on an individual. I want to be free- to do all the things I am passionate about. I do not want the burden of guilt- of being into a relationship with a married man. I want to be free of all such feelings that bind me.”
She looked at him with a trace of affection in her eyes.
“What I have truly missed is the joy of companionship. The kind of unspoken companionship that thrives on a silent understanding of the other’s vulnerability, fragility, struggle and pain. I cherish such companionship. Let us not bring down our relationship to anything lesser than that!”
They sat silently for some time. He stood up. She stood up too. He held her hand and they walked in silence.