I met Varun five years ago. It was a friend’s friend’s birthday party, and I was there with my then-boyfriend, Sunil. We spoke, we laughed, it was all fun. Everyone had a great time, and I found myself really liking Varun for his ability to turn even the most boring conversation into one that would make you laugh till you cried. Actually, that party also turned out to be the starting point for Varun’s relationship with Isha, the girl who is now his wife. Over the next few months, that whole group present at the party kept meeting up. From friends of friends, we became fast friends ourselves. We were all people who’d moved to Delhi as adults, to work in the city and build new lives, and that became our point of connection, even though we all had slightly different lifestyles and careers.
Sunil and I broke up the year after we all became friends. It was over that age-old reason - he’d met someone else, cheated “slightly” on me (he’d kissed her and insisted that it wasn’t really cheating unless there was sex involved). I was, to be honest, completely shattered. I’d imagined that after four years of being together, Sunil and I were headed towards marriage. I’d not expected this. Our breakup also caused a rift of sorts in that whole extended gang of friends. Some sided with me, some sided with Sunil. Basically, it was a mess, and I ended up shutting myself off from everyone and crying my heart out in the privacy of my home weekend after weekend.
Varun was my saviour then. He came over, insisted on cooking me food, taking me out for movies, making me laugh. As grateful as I was to him for his unquestioning friendship and support, at times I would almost hate him - this boy who thought that a broken heart could actually be mended. But what do you know, he was right. Six months passed, and finally I began to feel a lessening of the ache I carried around in my heart.
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It was about that time, when I no longer had to be teased into laughing and had started to smile all on my own, that Varun told me he really liked Isha. In fact, they’d been hanging out with each other, and he was planning to ask her out “officially”. That dimmed my joy in our friendship a bit. It was not that I resented his attraction to Isha (she was a nice girl and I was fond of her) - I worried that I was going to lose my new friend, the one who’d been responsible for bringing me out of myself and helping me believe that I deserved more than tears over a guy who hadn’t even had the balls to admit that he’d been cheating on me.
But it wasn’t Varun’s relationship with Isha that came in the way of our friendship. It was my feelings for him. I don’t know when precisely it happened, but a few months down the line, I realized that I was deeply, deeply in love with him. And impossible situation that it was - he and Isha absolutely adored each other - I began to distance myself from him. His laughter, his wit, the light that he brought into my day… I began to pull away from it all.
Isha and Varun got married year before last. And it was right before the wedding, when he was drunk out of his mind at a pre-wedding party that I couldn’t refuse the invitation to because it was Isha who called me, for “old times’ sake”, that Varun and I had a...moment. When he turned around on the balcony, held me tight and told me, “I wish you hadn’t taken so long to get over Sunil. We wasted so much time…”
Hearing those words, I fled. It was my secret dream and my worst nightmare come true, all at once. I wanted Varun to have feelings for me...but I did not want to be the girl responsible for destroying Isha’s marriage. I stayed away from all the other functions and the wedding itself claiming illness. I have not spoken to Varun since that evening. Though I do respond to Isha’s messages and sometimes bump into her at parties.
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Do I still love Varun? I do. Because I know that he meant those words, and also that he would never have spoken them out loud had he not been so drunk. I love him still because he showed me that not every guy who is attracted to a girl cheats on his partner, that there are guys who value commitment. And I love him because he brought laughter and light back into my life when I was at my lowest.
I love him. And I show my love by staying away from him and from the girl who is now his life.
* Names changed to protect privacy.
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Published on Aug 09, 2016