Story Collection - Chaalbaaz

Un-Communication

It takes more than love to sustain a relationship. Shashank and Sameera were realising this as they had started living together. Only three months had passed but the charms of living alone had become clear to them.

“Shashank. I don’t think this works like this.” Sameera said as Shashank tried to put the bed together, for the second time this month. Sameera couldn’t sleep on the bed if it was even slightly tilted. She had gotten the bed built when they had shifted. However, Shashank opened it last month because he wanted to change the orientation of the bed. This meant that either they had to call the company which Shashank didn’t want to spend money on or Shashank had to fix it right, which he had failed at till now.

“You sure, it wasn’t like this before. I think it was like this only.” Shashank said a little irritated.

“It isn’t level. It would be like before once it’s level.” Sameera said coldly. She wasn’t inflexible with most things. She didn’t care if Shashank threw a towel here or there or if Shashank wanted to eat something one day that she didn’t like much. But she couldn’t handle an uneven bed. While part of it was in her mind, part of it was the back injury that she had a few years earlier. After that, doctor had suggested her to sleep on the ground for a long time. It was only in the past year or so that she had started sleeping on the bed. But she had to insure that it was completely stable and level.

Shashank screwed the last nut and as soon as he sat, the bed tilted to one side visibly.

“Chuck it. I’ll do it tomorrow.” Shashank said throwing the pillow. Sameera bit her lip before she could say something. She had been saying one thing or the other for the past few weeks and she was tired. It wouldn’t do anything but start a fight.

The two lay down on the bed and within a few minutes, Shashank was snoring. Sameera picked her pillow and a blanket, put it on the floor and went to sleep. She had been doing this for the past few days. Shashank was a deep sleeper and usually woke up after her. This meant that as far as she knew, he didn’t have a clue that she was sleeping on the floor.

Until the bed was made right, she thought that this was the best option as whenever she brought the topic of getting the bed fixed by the company, Shashank would say it’s a waste of money.

Money! Something that was almost as important in a relationship as money. This was brand new information that living together had brought to them. Somehow, their combined expenses were higher than there individual expenses. Both were living in PGs that were extremely cheap whereas now they were living in a 1 BHK that was costlier that the PGs and buying other stuff had been really costly.

Adding other expenses and she had started to regret the decision of living together. She wished she could say something to Shashank about it but he was so excited about them together that she didn’t want to say anything. He even contributed more to the combined expenses than her despite having less savings because of that.

Shashank woke up in the middle of the night to a terrible nightmare. He gulped down the water even before he could open his eyes properly. He touched on Sameera’s side and found that she wasn’t there. He had expected that. The first time Shashank had found out Sameera sleeping on the floor, he had felt immense sadness. He had gone to the shop to get the bed alignment corrected. They had told him that Shashank had accidentally broken something and it would require a complete change of the bed. The cost was too much and while Shashank had been trying to get the money to replace the bed, he didn’t want Sameera to know the truth.

Thus, he had been hiding behind his zeal to fix the unfixable bed.

“A few more days love.” Shashank said softly and kept looking at Sameera. He was longing for Sameera. His nightmares had become frequent and he knew they would only stop once Sameera was beside him sleeping comfortably.

Sameera stirred and Shashank quickly moved back to his place. He checked the watch and it was almost morning. Sameera would be waking soon. He closed his eyes to get a couple of hours of shut-eye.

He wished they could again go back to dating while living in their separate PGs, at least until they could earn more. He felt he had hurried in with excitement but now this living together was becoming a burden on their relationship. However, he knew he couldn’t back out now. He didn’t want Sameera to think that he has second thoughts about the relationship.

Shashank closed his eyes as he felt Sameera coming close to him. She put her hand on Shashank and kissed him softly.

“I love you Shashank.” Sameera said softly and left the room.

“I love you Sameera.” Shashank whispered and wiped a tear from his eye.

Non-Tech

Anatomy of a Breakup

A breakup is never easy. A breakup shouldn’t be easy. If it is, then it wasn’t a good relationship to begin with. At its core, a breakup is a death. In his book Sapiens, Yuval Noah Harari talks about the two realities – Objective Reality (Trees, Lions, Rivers) and Imagined Reality (Corporations, Countries, Religions). A relationship is part of the second reality. It is imagined in the mind of two people and then those two individuals share their reality with other people through stories. Stories about how these two individuals met, how they realized their feelings for each other and how they are conceiving a future together. When this myth breaks down, the relationship ends.

Thus, a relationship involves three individuals – two objectively real people and one imagined relation. It is the death of the third individual – the imagined one – that is called a breakup. The two real people exist. No physical harm has happened to them and yet, the pain is often immeasurable.

If you are unable to grasp why the death of a myth causes so much trouble, remember that most recent wars have been for myths like countries or religions. The 2008 economic crisis was based on the meltdown of a myth. Heck! The whole concept of society in any form is based on shared myths. In a nutshell, just because it’s imagined doesn’t mean it’s not real, even if the definitions collide on the matter. And like everyone deals with death in different ways, all of us handle a breakup differently. Mainly, people can be put in three buckets –

Workers

Some of us become workaholic and put every ounce of our energy in our goals. There are two advantages of this technique. One, continuously doing something doesn’t give the mind to dwell over the matter. Second, one is productive and is able to achieve something even in a bad situation. It may be a silver lining, but something is always better than nothing. The disadvantage is that the feelings that were pushed during this period may come back like the sleep that hits you after a alcohol and caffeine fueled night-out. Worse, it may emotionally char you forever with no healing ever taking place.

Criers

Other people just let out the pain by crying and drinking. They would talk to their friends and share the pain. They would seek support and break down at every other turn. However, this has its advantages. A person like this is able to heal faster as sharing of pain helps in reducing it. This person is also inadvertently connecting to their other relationships and strengthening them. The disadvantage is that the productivity is zero and if the person doesn’t heal quickly, this person might become a burden in the other relationships.

Shutters

Finally, there are people who just become stunned, and eventually, they shut down. They end up being completely useless. Binge-watching television is one of the most prominent features in such a situation. Listening to songs while overthinking every moment of that relationship to identify the situations where things could have been improved. Looking at ways in which things can be put back together or torn apart further. Frankly, I don’t know any advantage of this situation. You aren’t productive, you aren’t healing, and you aren’t going forward. You are just stuck in a moment in time, frozen and looping. Unfortunately, this is also the place where most of us find ourselves. My advice – either pick a project to do or cry your heart out. Get out of this place ASAP!

But I’m not interested in giving an advice on a breakup. My interest is in the mechanism of the breakdown of the myth. How does a breakup happen? I believe that often, the seeds of a breakup can be found in the beginning of the relationship. It all starts with the construction of the combined myth. This combined lore consists of two stories – my story and your story.

My Story

– I saw you when you were talking to your friend.

– I fell in love with you when it was raining, and you were wearing that black dress.

– I realized it won’t work out when we fought that day.

– I told you about it when I couldn’t take it anymore.

Your Story

– I saw you when you were being a buffoon.

– I fell in love when we went out for the show under the clear sky.

– I realized that it wasn’t working when you didn’t talk to me that day.

– I believed we can work out our troubles.

When two people come together, there are many forces that are against the relationship. For some, it’s the society; for others, distance. Some must fight the financial barriers while others have to fight their own past issues. The higher the strength and the number of these forces, the higher efforts the relationship requires. The relationship is more draining and the chances of success of the relationship are also reduced. These challenges are thwarted by the strength of the relationship which comes from the shared narrative, the combined myth – the love story.

The shared lore is bound to have two different narratives – my story and your story. In an ideal world, these two stories would be identical. This would make it strong and able to handle any external force. In the real world, the two stories deviate from each other and the farther they are, the weaker the relationships become.

The worst case is when one person thinks they are in a relationship while the other thinks they are not (friend-zone anyone?). However, even in a relationship which is clear on its status, there can be small deviations which would lead to butterfly effect in the future. If the two stories start deviating and are not reconciled, eventually, the relationship will become weak and external forces will overpower the relationship. It is also important to acknowledge that the small deviations in the story would come. For one, memory is not set in stone. Second, we are not hive mind and can’t know everything about the other individual’s life and thus would take assumptions which will add those deviations.

That is why, communication is considered one of the most important pillars in a relationship. It helps in identifying the small deviations before they become too big to be handled. Constant communication helps in keeping the deviations small and manageable. No wonder that most researches on relationships conclude that almost all healthy relationships (not just romantic ones) have good communication at its core. In fact, a good relationship can falter even after years if the communication breaks down due to some reason.

Another important component in maintaining the combined narrative is conflict resolution. If the two stories are different, which one is the correct version? What is the TRUTH? Well, the truth is what both participants can agree on. Trust is the key here. It helps in conflict resolution. That is why a breakdown of trust often is the quickest path to a breakup, even faster than lack of communication. Because identifying the conflicts is of no use if they can’t be resolved.

However, it’s possible that some deviations are missed even after regular communication and deep trust. These deviations become larger and might come out in the open too late for a quick resolution. Resolving them requires both communication and trust with a lot of patience. Patience, unfortunately, is a commodity in dearth. Often, the modern life doesn’t stop, and allow people to take a breath, to contemplate, consider and resolve conflicts. This is where the relationship is at its weakest and this is where it often breaks down. The deviations continue to increase until one day, one person says – I’m done.

The shared narrative breaks and the combined myth ends. The suspension of disbelief is over and the third entity in a relationship, the imagined one, dies. It doesn’t matter if the two people were good or bad, it doesn’t matter if the two people were near or far, it doesn’t matter if the two people were rich or poor. The relationship continues as long as the two stories in the combined myth reconcile and it breaks when they deviate from each other.

To conclude, talk. Share your stories and ensure that both people have the same narrative. They are on the same page.

And for those who have already crossed the breakup bridge – mourn. It was a death.