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Niharika Prasad |Juliet without Romeo

My love story did not begin with flowers, chocolates, or candlelight dinners. It started with grief. There are several ways in which people mourn a loss. Rarely, one does not cry but acts indifferent to the tragedy. My reaction to my divorce was similar, I continued to wear my ring even though the stone failed to symbolize any bond. Maybe it gave me a false sense of protection in a senseless society. I belong to a very small town in rural India, where women complete 108 circles around a banyan tree to enhance their nuptial bliss. Where, women order customized bangles online, to display lac encased pictures with their husband. A town where a husband is worshipped even if he abuses his wife; where married women proudly mark themselves with vermillion streaked from their forehead to their nose tip on festivals. To me, that did bear an uncanny resemblance to the face of a striped chipmunk. My parents spoke about my separation in muffled whispers as if I had done a hideous crime. Neighbourhood aunties watched me with narrowed hawk-like eyes. At my workplace, I signed off my patients’ reports as Dr (Mrs.) Niharika. Isn’t ‘Dr’ enough? Or had I misspent five years of my life toiling in vain? Would a woman’s identity always be bound to a man’s? They say few lucky ones are blessed with the second bachelorhood. I struggled to find a silver lining. I hid my pain behind a smile, but my heart is so vestigial, I wanted to take it out and beat it with a saucepan. It is a flawed crystal, too fragile. I had always been a typical damsel in distress. I crumbled, unable to bear the pressure. The pressure built up akin to a dormant volcano fuming on the inside. I had to pick up all the broken pieces and rebuild myself. I wished for somebody to wipe my tears, to applaud me, but I was alone.

Writing had always been my hobby, so I decided to vent my angst on paper. I wrote in block letters- ‘Juliet without Romeo.’ I frowned like a Northern Cardinal ‘angry bird’ and looked around wrestling with the cap of my pen. My laptop was sprawled open on my bed and a neon screen stared at me invitingly. I leaned in and typed the same letters. As I scrolled down the usual, repetitious google search, one brought a smirk to my face. Now that made perfect sense. Juliet without Romeo, what would a Juliet without Romeo be, well, umm, “ALIVE” of course! It was my mini-Eureka moment. I decided to toss away the heavy backpack of my sore past, the one that had been weighing me down, the one preventing me from flying. I looked into the mirror and discovered the one person that would change my life forever. If I could not care for myself, who would? Self-love is the foundation for all other forms of love. I decided to do the things that gave me joy, such as writing. I compiled my poetry and published it into a bestseller book. I soared with academic success; my career flourished. Love manifests itself in many forms, but self-love is the most powerful form of love. It is ever-lasting as it is the one, let us say, an eighty-year-old would clutch to after the loss or death of his partner. It is the one which would keep him going for the rest of his life. It is intoxicating and liberating. In the present generation, narcissism is equated with self-love. It is a pity that self-love which is such a basic and universal form of love is still regarded as unconventional in our society. I sincerely hope that more women are allowed to embrace it, after all, it is a matter of choice. What form of love is more primitive, more fundamental, more obligatory? I felt I was strong enough, worthy enough, capable enough. Maybe all this while, I had been looking for someone to love me, but now I realized I was enough. I had transformed. I was still the princess I used to be, but I no longer needed a knight in shining armour. P.S. A True Story.

Niharika Prasad

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