Much is made in life and literature of the guy/girl who did not love you back. It is easy to be fixated on the one who got away; unrequited love is way more exciting and memorable than requited. I see many of us on our deathbed, with spouses holding our hands, dying but thinking passionately of someone we met or knew long ago, were infatuated with and never saw again; the spouse holding our hand, by the way, crying but thinking passionately of someone they met etc etc... Couples, couples and more couples stretch from here to there where the eye can’t see, with only one thought in their greying/bald heads: Oh, how I wish I was with him/her!
Minds are shaped that way, to bitterly regret what never happened, because imaginations run away with themselves. In reality human indifference will wrap up any relationship by and by. Nobody can be wondrously spellbinding forever. Yes, yes, we know this, but we’d still like to look around now and then in slow motion with a sigh and a sad song.
This is the easy part – to miss all those soul-mate opportunities and think ourselves bound to the wrong man, wrong woman for an eternity. But what about all those we said no to, knowing very well then as now, that they were/are wrong for us? Why don’t we dwell a little more on them? After all, this is the opposite of the sad sighing and soft remorse of ‘why didn’t I get him/her?’ It should be a joyous cry of ‘hooray, I escaped this man or that woman!’ And fate does throw all those we rejected in our path once in a while. But gloating over these near-misses is at best a feeble, stray and passing thought, gone before we fully think it. A friend may say to us, ‘maybe you should have gotten together; he/she is a fab person.’ But we shake our heads immediately; nope, never was going to happen, never will happen.
So, let’s carry on closing our eyes and dreaming of the one and only who is living in California or Kuttanad with four kids, unaware of our burning passion and bad poetry, but also, now and then, celebrate the ones we are not with. Those equally certain non-couplings, pairings that could have happened but, thank God, did not. Very little is written about and celebrated about the men and women we turned down in amour and matrimony, and never, never thought twice about. Such surety deserves an applause.
As we move down our individual bumpy paths in life, focused more on what could have been, it is comic relief to review what could be. The job our fathers tried to force us into (but we steadfastly averted), the cities we almost settled in (but ran out of at first opportunity), the schools we put our kids into (and later got them out of), the house we almost bought, the car we swapped for another.... the list is endless. A little thanksgiving is in order, to pat ourselves on the back at the near-misses.
While life is quick to point at what we didn’t get, who we don’t have, it is up to us to appreciate those not with us simply because we did not want them with us.
Shinie Antony is a writer and editor based in Bangalore. Her books include The Girl Who Couldn't Love, Barefoot and Pregnant, Planet Polygamous, and the anthologies Why We Don’t Talk, An Unsuitable Woman, Boo. Winner of the Commonwealth Short Story Asia Prize for her story A Dog’s Death in 2003, she is co-founder of the Bangalore Literature Festival and director of the Bengaluru Poetry Festival.
First Published: IST