As a romance writer, I know an unrequited love story – predictable as it might be – is a sure bet. A heart-breaking story of a maudlin on the inside, chirpy on the outside girl/boy who loves deeply, passionately, and self-destructively is what everyone latches on to. And why not? What’s not to love? Arijit Singh has built his career on this (and tonnes of talent). The harder you cry in private and the louder you laugh in public, the more your character will resonate with your readers/consumers.
We might not have felt real love, we might not ever be in a cracker of a love story, but we all have been in unrequited love stories. We are heroes in that narrative, martyrs even. The object of our affection could be a curious mix of Beyonce and Teresa and Curie and Amal and Trevor Noah, and yet he or she would be the cruel, heartless one, unmindful of our endless love for them! There is an underlying assumption that they wouldn’t be as happy as we would make them. We look at them smiling weakly, our eyes glossed over, at our assumed misery of them. We wear our rejection, our sorrow as a badge of honour. Friends slap our backs and tip their hats to us, drink in our names. We romanticise the Devdas, Ranjhaana and Nisha (Dil To Pagal Hai) versions of us.
I have been guilty of it too. My first relationship lasted 8 years. For the first five, she didn’t know I was madly in love with her. The rest three were more embarrassing. I spent years loving her, creating alternate realities where we were lovers. I dreamt of a future where she would come crawling back to me realising the folly of her ways. She would be 40 with two kids, stuck with a wealthy, abusive husband, and I – still unmarried and waiting for her – will be her knight in shining armour.
It wasn’t until many years later that I realised how I naïve I was. I too thought of myself like a heartbroken shayar with no shayaris to boot. Little do we understand that even shayars/poets – crazy talented as they might be – they are also playing to an audience. I was caught in the romanticised notion of it all. Nonsense. Why would I or anyone do that to themselves? It is an ongoing assault on ourselves. Why would we selflessly love someone with no hope of that being reciprocated?