Athavra is a simple man with a clean heart who finds a woman with a cleaner conscience but messy habits. Will it work in a world of dogmatism where a woman who is a hot-mess cannot be a good wife?
We often come across the term “opposites attract” when discussing relationships. References can be traced to Plato’s Symposium, which addresses the idea that soulmates are two halves of a soul, each possessing characteristics that the other desires. When these two beings find each other, even though they are poles apart, things just seem to fall in sync.
In the cold, heavy night of Delhi, amidst the smog and Marlboro lights, Atharva sat down outside a bar, his usual spot that held special memories of his college years. It always felt like home, no matter the timeline. With the last drag, he took a deep dive down the nostalgic lane when a voice pierced his thoughts — his pram-friend Naman, the last person Atharva anticipated meeting here. He would take a dig at Atharva’s OCD, mocking that one day his heart would be stolen by an extreme opposite.
Atharva was a merit student, acing academics and life. He is an open book to Naman, so the dilemma on his face is easy enough to know that something isn’t right. Atharva wasn’t necessarily a complicated person, an honest worker with a decent job who loved nothing more than watching a football match on weekends and had a few friends after college; no one was significant, though, to share his Marlboro. Naman looked at his face, and raised eyebrow meant he was all ears. That’s when Atharva began talking- “I met someone.” In a long sigh, screamed Naman, “Finally!”
It happened about a few months ago. Atharva was working till late that day. He came down to the café when he saw a girl dressed in a myriad of colours and a patched Bohemian jacket over a pristine white dress — engaged in a fight, Naina. She had loud expressions that could be heard through soundproof walls, captivating hand gestures, fierce yet round-pretty eyes, and curls that fell perfectly on her face — she looked magnificent. Something rang in his brain, and for the first time, he felt the urge that he needed to talk to her. He walked up to her table after the other guy had left and mustered the courage to introduce himself when she said, “I didn’t order that coffee.” It took her a second to realise what had happened, and she looked flushed. The perfect icebreaker moment had occurred.
Naina offered him a seat and got talking. It felt like they had known each other for years, and time just passed when they realised it was getting late and they should probably head home.
They continued meeting with venues changing in a timeline from a café to theatres to restaurants and so on. Naina wasn’t exactly what had come to his mind when he thought of his ideal match, but he liked the idea that their conversations never hit a roadblock and felt comfortable showing his true self to her. Although there were times over the past two months he had his share of second thoughts. His OCD and the constant need to keep clean and plan ahead in time were completely contrasting to this carefree live-in-the-moment girl. He’d wonder if they’re truly compatible. Soon distance began creeping in, noticeable in the relationship. Fights became usual as she believed he was trying to change her — all for his overthinking and dogmatic doubts.
It was after one such fight Atharva had found his way back to this college bar, where he sat in a dilemma that had been chewing away at his thoughts. Naina wasn’t a project — a broken thing that needed to be fixed. Then what was with the attraction? More so, what was with his attraction towards someone who was imperfectly perfect? The never-ending question- a guy like me who is a straight arrow with a girl like her?
Hearing the question, Naman interrupted him with affirmative expressions, “She isn’t the problem, you know. We are. I overheard my mother talking to my aunt that day how she needed to find me a decent, family-oriented, beautiful wife who could take care of me. I didn’t think much about that conversation until later. We are inculcated with such values of the ideal persona of a woman while growing up that they vibrate when we genuinely start looking for a partner. Knowingly or unknowingly, we are why these stereotypes wouldn’t budge from our society. And it is funny how most of us have different criteria for women. One, we can date, and the other, we can marry. Now, you’re wondering that because she is fierce, unconventional, forthcoming and not exactly put together, it gives you the right to take her casually. Who amongst us is anyway put together? We often forget that in life, things aren’t necessarily black or white. And we don’t appreciate the beauty that comes with a little colour.”
Atharva’s heart sank, and maybe this was the first time he had realised the whimsical error of his own ways. That’s when he began thinking, in retrospect, about her and how unknowingly he might have sometimes nudged her into becoming a toned-down version of herself. He was lost in the memories of the times he had pestered her to lower her voice when in reality their voices were at the same decibel. He had nudged her to be more like him and less like herself. But that wasn’t love, and he knew he’d not been an ideal partner himself. Maybe it was because of his family’s expectations or the societal norms that dictated how a woman should be. But he didn’t want to continue this way anymore.
The times when he had genuinely felt happy and at ease was when Naina was truly herself. The same bold expressions and fierce attitude are what had made him fall in love with her. It was as if she already knew what had been lacking in his life. It all made sense, somehow, that theirs was a yin-yang relationship.
A lightning bolt had hit our lover boy, who sat upright and decided it was time to go home, meet her and apologise. The conundrum had begun wasting away — the conundrum that had clouded his heart lifted because of his friend, and for the first time, he could see things clearly.
He stopped at a food truck to pick her favourite chicken wings and knew that it was time he had his heart and mind in place with the woman who had him laugh at things he had never imagined.