Dating is all fun and games, until you fall in love with someone who belongs in an institution for the criminally insane. It all started the usual way: I met a handsome stranger, he smiled at me, discreetly asked for my phone number, I tried my best to ignore the tingly sensation between my legs, provided him with my sister’s phone number (for some inexplicable reason) and made a hasty exit. He called soon after, and my sister handed me the phone, with one eyebrow raised; I sheepishly obliged, and the rest was your garden variety of ‘butterflies in the stomach,' followed by the stuff of nightmares.

Everything was hunky dory for the first six months, and then my false sense of independence led me to accept a part-time job. Between my classes and the job, the time we used to waste in the name of love got significantly diminished. At first, he offered a very ‘pragmatic’ solution - that I stay up till five in the morning talking to him on the phone to make up for lost time. I tried. I failed. He reprimanded me by introducing me to every profanity available in his limited vocabulary. It was so sudden, that I was dumbstruck. I decided at once to break up with him. Unfortunately, I had no idea that the decision to break up and get back with him would last another four and a half years.

Obviously, he apologised, begged me not to leave him, and claimed that he was so scared of losing me that it was affecting his 'decision-making skills.' Waterworks, along with the ever effective Norman Bates charm. Any sane person would have preferred to bungee jump without a cord than to continue the relationship, but not me. In my defence, I was a socially awkward teenager, who was supposedly ‘in love’ for the very first time in my life. I, ridiculously, believed that this was how relationships were supposed to be.

And then started the cycle of abuse: arguments, abuses, threats and apologies. Once, we got into an argument over my choice of clothing. The next day, he swallowed sleeping pills right in front of my eyes, while I made futile attempts of knocking them out of his hands. I tried swallowing some myself--in the hope of scaring him enough to stop--but I lacked both theatrics as well as the knowledge of the right amount of pills that can be successfully swallowed without dying. Panicked, I called his friends, and eventually, he was taken to some back alley clinic. I didn't speak to him for one whole week, but that didn't end there.

Not so long after that incident, I got into the National Institute of Fashion Technology, Hyderabad(NIFT). To this day, I wonder, "Why he did not use his usual antics to stop me from leaving?" I guess, he had some redeeming qualities after all. Teary eyed we parted. I still remember his sullen expression at the railway platform. I left my hometown thinking that distance might do us some good. It did me as good as a fur coat in Delhi summers.

Fashion college and my boyfriend had one thing in common: they were both hell bent on draining me of every last bit of sanity I had left. How I hated the faculties who would overstay their welcome even by a mere 10-15 minutes. Not because I hated the classes, but because I was supposed to call my boyfriend during every break and let him know that I loved him. Our hostel rules dictated that the latest acceptable time of entry was 10 PM. According to my boyfriend, it was imperative for my own safety that I get in by 9, regardless of circumstances. I was a puppet, and the strings were more than 800 kilometres long. Jealousy is usually a part of the package when you are in a relationship as such. He had all of my social media and email passwords, and kept track of every mail or message I sent. Never mind his fake email accounts I found out about later, which were primarily used for ‘harmless’ conversations with random women who swore by their aptitude for fellatio.

First semester into my stint at college, he visited Hyderabad. In all fairness, I might have suggested the idea and he was the one bearing all the expenses. We had a lovely time together, which might've had something to do with all the sex we were having. Sex was always great, except the times I would ask him to stop because it hurt, and he would conveniently ignore me. After that, every now and then, he would remind me how much money he had to spend on that trip. Once, after an argument, he suggested that I return him the money because I wasn't 'worthy' of that expenditure. Railway tickets: ₹ 5000, Hotel booking: ₹ 5000, emergency contraceptive pills: ₹ 100, boyfriend asking for his money’s worth: priceless. One useful tip: do not ever try to re-enact celebrity couple nudies in a cheap hotel room. Especially, if your partner has psychotic tendencies. The results always looks like some hardcore manatee mating ritual, and the photographs can be used to blackmail you into submission for years.

Whenever the long distance roughing up got a little too much for me, college vacations would appear right around the corner. People who believe elephants have good memory have obviously never met my ex boyfriend. He would take me on romantic long drives and recount every unwitting mistake I had made in the past semester. Mistakes such as over-reaching the acceptable quota of friends. Funny incident: once we were having our usual ‘on the verge of violence’ arguments, and I, foolishly, decided to make a logical retort. His reaction was to demand that I immediately get out of the car, in the middle of nowhere, at around nine o’clock in the night, without my wallet or phone. What good are all those friends if they don’t have telepathic superpowers? Luckily, after 15 minutes, my boyfriend was convinced that I had got all the fresh air that was required. Ah, my knight in shining armour. Another incident involved us having a regular clash of opinions, and he crashed his car against a tree because I would not budge from my views. Life teaches you a lot of things. That day, I learned that not every car has airbags, and seatbelts are to be worn at all times. Sorry, Shaktimaan.

Of all the stupid arguments I employed to convince myself against leaving him, ‘He has never physically abused me,’ was on top of that list. That changed when he visited during my college summer internship in Delhi. We were having an argument in the middle of the night, and I decided to test his patience by raising my voice around two decibels higher than his. Next thing I knew, my face was planted on the bed, with my wrists painfully pinned behind my back. I still remember the weave pattern on the bed sheet; the curse of being a fashion designer. You would think this would have given me enough courage to dump him, but it did not. The thing about such relationships is that the person on the receiving end of the abuse is kind of like a dog on a treadmill: you definitely know this is not going well, but you don't know how to stop it without inflicting some serious damage.

It all ended after five LONG years. I wish I could tell you that I amassed enough courage to stand up to him, and delivered a swift kick in his groins before a dramatic exit, but that was not the case. The poor schmuck committed a massive faux-pas by raising his voice in front of my elder sister. The thing is, my sister was kind of aware of the censored versions of my circumstances, but she hesitated to intervene. Sibling relationships can be tricky at times. Getting back to the story, though - now, imagine yourself witnessing a wildfire, while there is a massive lightning storm raging along with a volcanic eruption in the background. That is absolutely nothing compared to the fierce monologue that rained on the poor fellow. I witnessed Aphrodite turn into Medusa. There were not-so-hollow threats made to his life. My loving mama bear of a sister, verbally illustrated multiple scenarios where at least one of his body parts might be mutilated in ways that would have put the SAW series to shame. I stood there dumb founded. Apparently, that was the only thing I was good at. I would have bowed to my sister, but I was scared that a well deserved slap might accelerate towards me too. It was the possibly the unluckiest day for my ex, because my brother in law, who was just getting back from work, witnessed the scene too. He then narrated a hundred creative ways that could be used to ruin somebody’s life, with a demeanour that was apt for delivering sympathies at a funeral. I have never seen a person face a firing squad, but I am sure that such an unfortunate individual would have shared the same facial expression as my ex bore at the time of this multifarious verbal onslaught.

However, not everything was unpleasant in those five years. We had some lovely moments together as well. Moments like the time we went full retard in a pani puri eating competition. The poor pani puriwalah was the only person rooting for our relationship. I'm sure he was imagining babies with pani puri gobbling superpowers, whenever he looked at us. But none of these happy moments could even out the times where I felt utterly helpless and loathed to the very last fibre of my existence.

Nothing is as resilient as human spirit. I am older and comparatively wiser now, but I wouldn’t go as far as expecting the same from him. The things that I decided to keep from that relationship are the lessons I learned about the illusions of love, and a marvellously kitschy pair of plush cats with ‘Made for each other’ imprinted on them in glitter.

If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, and needs help getting out, get in touch with Chayn India here.

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