What is the one thing that is the biggest hurdle for couples in India? Apart from caste-ism and vigilantes and honour killings? But what is that which bugs even the ones who have their parents’ approval?
PRIVACY! Yes you guessed right! Some personal privacy or personal space. Couples do not seem to catch a break when it comes to getting some private space for themselves in India. Wherever they go, there are prying eyes of onlookers- judging neighbours, moral police and even the ogling eyes of voyeuristic individuals. Even holding hands is considered a crime. I am sure many of you reading this are going “aah! So true”. Well I know this pain too well. So here’s an anecdote about something that happened with me and my now husband but then boyfriend way back in 2008.
In the initial days of our relationship, we both were colleagues in a small IT firm on B.B.Ganguly Street near the Lalbazar PS in Kolkata. We were lucky enough to have liberal parents and so never had to hide our relationship. He was as welcome to our house as I was to theirs. But there is no privacy there, is there?
I told my dad about this colleague of mine very soon (I had lost my mother a few years back). My dad has always been very liberal minded, so my hubby was visiting our house from quite early and he and my dad became well-acquainted. Mind it, we both were still exploring our relationship. We ourselves were not too sure about which direction it would take but still at least confiding in my dad had saved me from the lies that we usually have to spin when we go out together. His family was although still in the dark more so because they resided out of town.
In spite of this we craved for more time with each other, like any new couple would. At the office we would be busy with work, only the lunch break was available which mostly got over in eating food. After work, we returned to our respective abodes- me to my home, he to his mess. Those were not times of whatsapp or cheap data connections. We just had sms and calls. How much can we talk over them? I had house chores to do and used to take tuition for kids. So, we really did not spend much time together.
It was then that we started whiling away our time at the Central Metro station. We both had to take separate trains but from the same station. So, we started delaying boarding the train. After the office was done, we quickly walked up to the station which was just a stone's throw away and after tapping in, we used to sit and chat on one of the benches on the platform. Oh! the chats we had. I do remember them fondly.
This had been going on for sometime. The number of trains we skipped started increasing, the number of minutes I reached home late started increasing. I told my dad I was stuck at work(maybe he guessed the truth, who knew!). It was a station right in the middle of the city with offices all around. We started noticing some regular travelers. We got familiar with some daily faces. We even started noticing them noticing us. There were quite a few who pointed and gossiped too.
Then one day, as we were waiting for the train to arrive and I was already quite late, I noticed an uniformed metro official approaching us. He came right up to me and said to me, “Catch the next train coming in and go back home.” Saying this he walked away.
You can only imagine my state of surprise at this incident! I was left completely flabbergasted! What the hell! At that moment I could not confront him. I was firstly, too shocked for a quick comeback and secondly, the train was already there and I had to make it. Later on when we discussed this amongst ourselves, we concluded that this guy and maybe the others had followed our movements over the security cameras. Creepy! And they or he had the audacity to come and say to my face what I had or had not to do! Why was my spending time with a guy any of his concern? Now you see, why I started this write-up with the privacy issue in mind? Other people always try to interfere in matters which are none of their concern. I will also say there are underlying jabs of patriarchy too. He corrected me and not the guy with me. Do you get it? I was the one in the wrong for staying out late and not the guy with me. And how much late was that? Not even 7 in the evening! We were 2 consenting adults spending time with each other and when our parents were not concerned, why were any of them? It was not as if we were doing any PDA. We just sat down or stood in a corner and talked to each other. Yes, one can argue that a metro station is no place to hangout but at that time we had no other option and so we grabbed whatever our daily routine offered us. We could not go to restaurants as we had no money, we had no park benches to sit down on and obviously we cannot go to any hotel,now, can we? So, a busy metro station was our best available option.
Well we did not of course know whether that man did it in his individual capacity or all the prying officials were in on the plan, but if they had thought that this would put an end to our love story, the joke’s on them. Although that day I left but for the next few days we spent a little less time in the station. Very soon I left that office and our sojourns shifted base. So if all of them had the sadistic pleasure for a while that they broke up a couple, they did not have the last laugh. We have been married for nearly 10 years now. However, till this day we still question the man's action. What purpose did it actually serve him?