Leila Cama was in a grey state of mind. She had been in a relationship with the suave Rohan Mehra for a couple of years. Yet, when someone asked her if she was seeing someone, it seemed like a trick question.
Her lover was a sophisticated 30-something Mumbai-based architect, who self-confessedly knew the difference between a Chardonnay and a Pinot Noir. Not that it made a difference to Leila. In her now-prehistoric Parsi Colony days, she and her friends would chug cheap Goa-sourced port wine in a battered Fiat. The best days of her life.
She often wondered where those friends had gone, thinking, how sometimes we drift away from the people we love the most, on purpose. How else will we have beautiful memories?
Somewhere between ‘friends with benefits’ and ‘I love you unto death’
Leila was in a relationship where plenty of Gen-Z folk find themselves these days — a situationshipShutterstock
Leila was in a relationship where plenty of Gen-Z folk find themselves these days — a situationship. Somewhere between “friends with benefits” and “I love you unto death”. Laced with loads of sex (at least hers was) and plenty of ‘I love you” declarations, whispered while alternately spooning one another on a rainy morning. Or in the elevator, while unlucky-in-love strangers looked on with aching hearts.
Leila could not place a finger on when it happened. She was coming to terms with the fact that “it” might even be a thing. Both she and Rohan reeked of money that was old and real. And love that was new and intangible.
“Fancy us growing old together?” Leila asked Rohan one evening, over dinner in a Chinese restaurant overlooking the Arabian Sea. Rohan, poker-faced, asked Leila to pass him another one of the scrumptious duck rolls she was painstakingly curating from the ingredients on the table —
Rohan’s favourite, Peking Duck (also his preferred position in bed). Leila knew it all.
Another night, as Leila stood outside Rohan’s plush flat in Nariman Point, she wondered if Rohan’s dry martinis portended his leaving her high and dry.
‘Where are we going with this, Rohan?’
Did Rohan like his Peking Duck enough to have it everyday?Pixabay
Forever. The word had crossed her mind only a couple of hours earlier, as she daintily slipped into the provocative lingerie Rohan had gifted her that day. “The next time we do it, I want you in this,” he had told her. In a sadomasochistic sort of way. That night they made the sweetest love. Three times perhaps, maybe four. Leila was not counting. Maybe the sex would not have been as good if we were committed, she thought as they climaxed in unison. Spent, she lay in Rohan’s arms as a gentle breeze from the window of his 16th floor apartment caressed their naked skin.
Leila found herself staring at a piece of art on the wall overhead. As terrifyingly morbid as her relationship.
“Where are we going with this, Rohan?” She could not help herself. Of late, nights spent without Rohan had been lonely as hell. Mundane days at the law firm she worked at only compounded her loneliness.
That night was the first night she felt lonely with him. Perhaps it was the feeling that one day she would be lying in bed alone, thinking of Rohan and what might have been.
It is not the sex, no matter how exquisitely beautiful it is. In the end, we simply want someone to be with us. To accept our light. And our darkness, including the kind we hide from them.
Rohan jumped out of bed in a fit of anger and made himself a stiff martini, before going out to the balcony. Leila gently flicked the solitary strand of grey hair that was toying with her lips, before getting up to join her lover. She had noticed that dreaded wisp only a few days after she had popped the question to Rohan. About the possibility of growing old together.
While “Fifty Shades of Grey” might well be the defining theme of many a situationship, it is that one grey shade that eventually loses its charm in the eyes of the very lovers who had previously basked in its aura of uncertainty. Making them yearn for things in black and white. The solace a sense of clarity offers.
Being in a situationship had been far more complicated for Leila than she ever expected. All around her, she saw happiness in the most endearing forms. The joy of families celebrating first birthdays, Navjotes. Perhaps it was the exhilaration that stems from the thought of loving someone forever. Our bodies have expiry dates, not our souls.
In the end, most of us succumb to a definition of love in black and white
We love exploring a myriad shades of grey in our lives for the sheer comfort they afford usPixabay
“This isn’t what I signed up for,” Rohan said, with a fierceness Leila had never witnessed in him before. She burst into tears. “It’s not like I asked you to get married, Rohan!” she screamed, letting out all the sadness that had been festering inside her over the past few months.
“Well, what did you bloody expect? I don’t want to have to come home to someone at night. Or have those bloody Peking duck rolls made for me. Have you wondered if I might prefer Bombay Duck?”And that is when it hit Leila. The closer she was moving towards Rohan, the farther he was moving away.
‘What about love?” One pathetic last attempt at salvaging the relationship. “What about it?”
Rohan and Leila split after two years of dating. Of being in a situationship, that is. Broke up, as they might have in a traditional relationship. Was the breakup any less impactful? Not for Leila, at least. She spent days in bed, sobbing and bingeing on ice cream and Netflix.
We love exploring a myriad shades of grey in our lives for the sheer comfort they afford us.
Without putting a label on things. In the end, most of us succumb to a definition of love in black and white. That way, society seems happy, too. Years later, Leila found herself telling a friend, “I think what Rohan was trying to tell me was that no love comes with a ‘forever’ tag.”
Love is but a feeling in the now. As grey as grey can get.
Rohit Trilokekar is a novelist from Mumbai who flirts with the idea of what it means to love. His heart’s compass swerves ever so often towards Kolkata, the city he believes has the most discerning literary audience.