We were always paired together, Sameer and I. Not because we were particularly into each other, but because my best friend was seeing his best friend. And since their parents didn’t approve and wouldn’t let them go out alone, Sameer and I would be dragged along everywhere as chaperone. So plenty of “double dates” happened. We would be forced to entertain each other while Rhea and Arjun stayed lost in their own private bubble of romantic coochie-cooing.
I didn't mind hanging out with Sameer. We didn't have much in common to begin with, but we could definitely keep a conversation going for an hour or two. I was doing my Bachelor’s in Maths, he was studying Architecture, and we liked watching the same kind of movies and TV shows. We bonded over those things.
Rhea and Arjun were together for the entirety of my BSc. And so for three years, Sameer became my de facto “date” to events. Sometimes, even when R and A weren’t involved. College fests, chatting with classmates, general goofing around in the canteen (whether on his side of the campus or mine), it became a steady state of affairs to text each other saying, “Heading to XXX. Come with?” It was rarely that either of us refused those invitations. It wasn’t that we became really close friends - it just wasn’t that kind of a relationship. We were...less - because we still lived very different lives off-campus, and did our own things often enough to not become buddies with each other’s friends beyond R and A. And we were... more - because even though we were both technically single, we were almost always together through the day (except during classes).
In fact, it became so that I didn’t really feel single. And I don’t think Sameer felt single either. He was a shy guy, and so even when we were out with a gang of people instead of just R and A, he always turned to me to talk. A kind of intimacy developed. Born out of comfort and convenience, you could say. A full year of “hanging out” later, we even began texting each other regularly. About classes, about R and A’s dramatic relationship ups and downs, about our future plans…
What I hadn’t noticed then - and I realized this only much later - was that whenever Sameer and I spoke of future plans, it was about our professional goals. Never our personal ones. I’d had no idea then whether he wanted to marry early or late or at all, whether he wanted kids, whether he saw me as part of his life beyond our college years, beyond however long R and A lasted as a couple.
A couple of weeks before my final semester exams, both Sameer and I got super drunk at an ad hoc pre-exam farewell party that R and A had decided to put together. That evening, for the first time since I’d met him, Sameer put his arm around my shoulders and pulled me close. “I’m really going to miss you,” he said, slurring slightly.
My heart skipped a beat at that. Was this happening, finally? Were we, after three years of pseudo-dating, actually headed towards a conversation about this relationship of ours, whatever it was? I waited for a moment, but Sameer didn’t say anything else.
“You’ll get no chance!” I said finally. “You still have two years to go for your degree, and I’m going to be doing my Master’s here only, remember?”
“Yeah, but I won’t really be around so much after classes,” he said, burying his head in my hair. “My parents have started looking for girls already - I’ll have to start meeting the families.”
I could feel a knot forming in the pit of my stomach. What the hell was he saying?
“You’re planning to get married now?” I asked, sounding as shocked as I felt.
“Yeah...” He shrugged. “My parents always wanted me to get married as early as possible. And I figured, why not - at least it will get them off my back about it.”
I sat perfectly still, at a loss for words.
I was in for a further shock. Because he chose that moment to kiss me. It was beautiful, it was infuriating. This guy, with whom I’d spend more waking hours in the last three years than with anyone else, was kissing me right after telling me that he was about to get married to some random girl who was yet to be found by his parents?!
Finally, I said, “Don’t you think this is a bit inappropriate?”
“Did you mind?” Sameer asked, his voice very quiet. “I really like you, you know.” The look on his face almost broke my heart - he looked just so miserable.
“No, I guess not.” And that was honestly how I felt at that moment. I’d shared so much of my time and life with him for so long...why not a kiss? I reached for him and kissed him again - a kiss full of anger and frustration and desire.
We talked after that. I asked him why he’d never told me he liked me - and he said it was because he knew that I wouldn’t want to get married straight out of college, and that had always been the plan for his life, as decreed by his parents. After the talk, we kissed some more. And then we said goodbye to each other.
He was right. I would not have wanted to marry him then and there; my expectations of life were indeed very different from his. And I don’t think I would have been satisfied with a relationship either - he just wasn’t the kind of guy I’d have been happy with. His passive acceptance of the course charted by his parents proved that.
But looking back now, I wonder what on earth I was doing through those years. Why I allowed myself to act so much like a girlfriend when I wasn’t one - devoting my time, energy and attention to a relationship that had no real foundation except for the fact that his best friend and mine were seeing each other.
I guess the only good thing that came out of that whole situation was that I learnt not to assume things about people, about relationships. And I learnt not to become involved with people out of...habit.
And guess what? My relationships today - they’re better because of it. :-)