By Suparnaa Chadda
I met him when Tara was six years old. We were colleagues in a popular FM station in Delhi. His suave sense of dressing, articulate conversations and a pedigreed education made him irresistible to my own convent sensibilities. Sparks flew from the word go and, before I knew it, we dove deep down into a roaring love affair.
Staying back late after work, talking for hours, sharing cigarettes, enjoying the city’s cafes, or simply listening to eighties’ music soon became a happy routine. As did sneaking to the roof of the office to steal a peck or driving out of the city at the drop of the hat, enjoying year ends and new beginnings together.
He was quite certain from the beginning of the end. The relationship would not culminate in matrimony. I refused to see the elephant in the room; my present was too beautiful for me to worry about the future. Or maybe my lovelorn heart hoped things would work out somehow. The universe would conspire; I couldn’t be unlucky in love again; the gods would relent for sure. So what if he was from a different religion. So what if I had a failed past marriage and a child in tow.
He would motivate me to follow my heart. Travelling extensively – from filming a documentary in the most militarized zone in Kashmir, bringing forth the plight of humans stuck through an earthquake, to quoting John Lennon’s Imagine in the most religiously polarized audiences – it seemed I could bring about a change. I felt beautiful and it reflected in my persona and work.
The night we broke up, as he had finally decided to move on, complying with his family’s decision of getting married to an ‘untainted’ Muslim girl, we both howled in each other’s arms, hopelessly. “I will burn in hell for what I put you through”. I still remember his remorse that night but he was duty-bound by his family.
Only at the end of a heady romance of three years did it hit me for the first time, like a bolt from the blue. I saw myself as how the world perceived me: a divorcee with a liability. In my own bubble I had failed to recognize what the world promptly envisaged.
Overnight, I transformed from a strong-headed idealist, starry-eyed girl who would take on all the ills of the world, into a woman with a failed past. The bubble burst, making me realize that I’m no longer Simply Suparnaa, as I so proudly proclaimed. I am a woman who took impractical decisions and did not make the mark of an ideal life partner any more.
Soon after, he called to share the news of his wedding. That was the last we spoke. I chose it that way. No calls or texts or seeking each other’s company. And so it was for many years. His mother would message on occasion, sharing recipes that I so enjoyed earlier or dropping a note just to stay connected. It meant a lot before, since he revered his mother and it made me feel like I belonged in his family.
Subsequently, I politely requested her not to connect, as it hindered for me to move beyond what was now my past. That was the last I heard of her. Much later, over a long-distance call, he called to share that she’d passed away. Someone he was the closest to in this world. Now he had a small girl whom he and his wife had named Tahira. So close to the name Tara, I remember thinking then.
Over the years, our contact remained to an occasional birthday or a New Year wish. That too dwindled, consciously on my part first – consciously because I got an inkling from his conversations that all was not well in paradise. I was pretty sure to stand by the decision we took those many years back to let go and not look back.
Having said this, I must admit, I did sometime look up his social-media profiles, trying to see what Tahira looked like or how beautiful his wife was or how happy they were as a family.
Then he disappeared from all public platforms. His last seen WhatsApp time was many months ago. And his status read, ‘What goes around comes around’. I was intrigued, since before his disappearance he called to ask if I was okay. It led me to text an old colleague to figure if he, in fact, was okay. The colleague had met him months earlier and he had seemed fine. He offered to find out more, an offer I declined.
The same colleague messaged me a few weeks later to say that he, alas, had passed away and was survived by a wife and a daughter. Died of a heart attack, enjoyed his last biryani meal and succumbed to a 90% artery blockage.
The conversations outside his house, where along with me some of our old colleagues came to pay obeisance, were stories of stressed work situations and strained home scenarios. He had cut himself off from everyone from his past, and even changed his numbers.
In fact, things within the family were so bad that on the day after he passed away, they were actually booked to fly to Singapore to another old colleague’s house as an attempt to forge familial ties.
Now he lay in the morgue of a hospital. And the last I saw him, I realized, was that night we howled after a meal, underneath the flyover near the office. It felt like a distant memory.
I saw his little girl walk out of the house with her nanny close behind. We looked at each other for a brief moment. Her forehead was broad and wide just like his. She smiled and walked back, unaware of her Abbu’s absence from her life, now forever.
Tahira… Just as old now as Tara had been when I met him for the first time.
Suparnaa Chadda is an author, entrepreneur, gender activist and spiritual enthusiast. She has founded the Simply Suparnaa Media Network with SABERA, an award show recognizing good, and #Likeaboss, a leadership web series