I happened to see the trailer of a movie directed by Reitesh Deshmukh called “Ved” yesterday. The line spoken by the heroine resonated intensely with me. She says to her father-in-law, “You will never understand the pain of loving someone who never loved you back.”

Flashback to 2008, I fell insanely, intensely and crazily in love with my colleague. A very handsome, inordinately bright and talented young man. On the face of it, there was nothing wrong. It was the stuff that dreams were made of. Except that he was much younger than me and married! And married to a very nice young woman whom no one could dislike, including me. Add a lovely child to the scenario, and one cannot find anything right about the situation I was in.

I had to confess my love to him, being the emotional creature that I am. I thought a lot before doing so because we were very good friends prior to this, and I realised that there would be no going back to that comfortable and trusting relationship. Despite that, I did speak to him about my love. To my surprise, he reciprocated. We couldn’t stop talking to each other — at work, on the phone. 

During this time, I was assailed by intense guilt and wanted him to let his wife know, so he brought her over to my home. He’d told her that we were good friends. I told her the truth about my feelings for her husband and that he would always love her. This young woman, wiser than me despite being much younger, accepted all that I had to say with so much grace! Had the roles been reversed, I would have been the screaming fishwife.

Then came the bombshell! He had applied for a training program overseas and would be leaving shortly with his family. The world had come to an end for me —literally and figuratively. We had ten days before he was to leave, and we spent as much time together as possible. I, in despair, and he, in anticipation of the future. I wanted and needed reassurance of my role, if any, in his life. He was unable to give me any such assurance. And I knew that I could never live down the guilt of breaking up a family that had been built with love and commitment. It would be like “killing a mockingbird.”

We kept in touch during the time that he was overseas. His first visit back home was like old times. We were able to reconnect at a deep, soul level. Or so, I thought.

Over the years, I became more and more insecure as his life was cruising along merrily, and I was stuck, unable to let go. Because of this, my interactions with him became more acrimonious, accusatory and immature. He, on his part, started retreating and became more and more distant.

In the meantime, there another child was added to their family. I felt that life was so unfair that I was left isolated while he was becoming more happy and content. I resented his happiness! I was fast becoming a person whom even I could not recognize. Anger, hatred, jealousy, envy, depression, sadness, attachment, pettiness — you name it, I had it.

I was becoming unmasked, so to speak. I, who prided myself on my kindness, goodness, and large-heartedness, could not come to terms with the person I had become. I had fallen prey to the worst of all negative emotions — self-pity. And I kept wallowing in it, convinced that I had been wronged!

It was at this time that I had to share my misery with my cousin, with whom I have a very close bond. She heard me out and immediately said, “But I don’t think he loves you at all.” I felt like I had been slapped.

It was like I had been stripped of all my illusions. What had been so blatantly evident to my sister was not evident to me. I had been living in the happy illusion that I loved him intensely and he loved me in return. It was not until much later I realized that his marriage had been going through a tough phase and that I was like a support to him during the time he was going through the stressful period.

I foolishly had read much more into it than there actually was. Truth to tell, he had never misled me. He did not need to. I was already doing a very good job of it 🙂 convincing and deluding myself.

To cut a long story short, I decided to cut off all ties with him despite him doing his best to keep in touch. To date, he has been the one trying to keep in touch with me, but I continue to behave like a sulky child. I stopped calling, blocked his phone number and even stopped corresponding with him via email.

But all of this, dear reader, ended up causing me a lot of pain while he went on with his life like I was not even a ripple in it. The pain I face is like a conditioned response. Any reminder and it is back rearing its ugly head and reducing me to a miserable, vulnerable and pained woman. At such times even recollecting Gurudev’s teachings is of no avail. To let go is one of the most difficult things to do. Pain is inevitable, but most of us make suffering a mandate! At the root of all the pain are unrealistic expectations and a huge ego! While I know all this in theory, why is it that I cannot practice it in my life is the million-dollar question?

The Japanese term “Hikikomori” sums up, in a nutshell, what I was going through. It was first coined to describe adolescents and young adults who isolated themselves at home withdrew from most social engagement and had almost no relationships (except with close family members) for longer than six months. Hikikomori often results from emotional injuries such as rejection or failures that have not been addressed or even noticed.

I felt rejected and unloved. I disengaged from the world at large for fourteen long years! I never did feel suicidal, but life had lost much of its meaning. Well, I had opted to embrace the pain and suffering for the past 14 years. It has taken a toll on me but have I become wise? Not by a long shot. I have been suffering from “hikikomori” ever since. And the funny thing is that I am a rather “elderly adult” :)!

Fast forward to 2023. Ironically, a few weeks ago, I had to reconnect with him again. He’d faced the loss of his father, his beloved aunt and his brother-in-law within the space of a few months. He sounded more mature, wiser and at peace with himself. No demons were chasing him. He said that his requirements for happiness are somewhat minimal — insects, flowers and blue skies. And I was shaken to realize that I continue to love him intensely and immensely. That is an unalterable fact. I decided that while I had to let go of the pain, it was liberating to know that I did not have to fight the feelings I had for him. Strangely that was comforting. I also realized that there were no bad guys in my story. All the people involved (directly or collaterally) are really nice human beings but with very human failings.

I also keep remembering the quote —”At any point in time in your life, there will be at least one person who will give you pain.” Maybe this whole saga was to make me learn some important lesson. So here I am sharing my story with you all for two reasons. One, that I am a very reclusive, private person, so baring my soul does not come easily. Two, I am most certainly not the victim here, for I was at no point in time “led up the garden path.” That I chose to behave that way is an indictment of me as a person.

My journey from “hikikomori” to “kintsugi” has begun!