Chavvi had it all. She was smart, intelligent, beautiful, hardworking, and determined. Being intelligent had ensured that her school and college life was a breeze. After school, like all students scoring above 90% she had opted for the Science stream. She didn’t hate it, so she told herself that it was a perfect choice and went on to be among the few toppers in her college. Again when it came to choosing what next, she went with what her peers were choosing. She decided Medicine was not her thing and hence she opted for the next best thing – Engineering in Computer Science. She finished it with above-average scores and then joined an IT company.

Like every girl, she had her girl gang that was with her right from school days and they shared gossip, crushes and dreams. Dreams of a perfect tomorrow with their prince charming.  Meeting up for coffee and long walks had been a thing with her girl gang since high school and that tradition continued even as they started working in different fields.

It was time for their weekly meet-up and Chavvi was super excited. She had to share this with her friends. She raced up to her bike and wore her helmet. As she reached the coffee shop she saw two of her friends were already there. She waved at them and quickened her step. Just as they sat, the last of the member joined in.  They all were aware of Chavvi’s excitement. Anu, one of the friends said “Out with it, I can’t handle the suspense.” Chavvi quipped “You know Sameer, from office? He proposed to me yesterday and I said Yes! My parents are fine with it and Sameer said he will talk to his parents this weekend”, she gushed. Everything was moving so quickly, she could hardly believe her luck. “Sameer might have to go onsite for the long term, by year-end and I want to get married before that. I can’t think of staying apart for so long.” After the initial shock, the usual rounds of congratulations and gossip and giggles continued.

Sameer came from a conservative family while Chavvi came from a more modern background. Her mother had been a working woman and she encouraged and instilled qualities of independence and great self-esteem in both her daughters. So Chavvi knew she might have to make a few changes to her lifestyle to adjust in her new family and she was fine with it. The “girl meets the family” day came and Chavvi was a tad bit nervous. She smoothed some imaginary creases from her well-pressed peach salwar-suit and looked into the mirror. Her long black hair was neatly pleated. She looked beautiful as always. She looked into her watch and was just picking her keys when she heard Sameer outside. He had come to pick her up. She loved these small chivalrous ways.

She went to his house and met his family. They all loved her and she too was instantly comfortable in their company.  Chavvi realized that though the family had a traditional way of living, they weren’t orthodox and nor were they narrow-minded. She enjoyed their company. By the end of the evening, everybody was talking on the lines of making it official and having both the families meet each other. Chavvi couldn’t contain her happiness. Her life really was perfect.

As her courtship days progressed Chavvi suddenly became aware of Sameer’s possessive attitude. It seemed harmless at first, but later it felt as if he was keeping tabs on where she was every hour. She was expected to dress differently, the once-loved look of a formal skirt and top was suddenly ‘too much’ When argued the prompt reply was, she supposedly looked better in salwar suits and as it is post-wedding she would be expected to wear just that. Chavvi who was known for her quick decisions started hesitating before taking one. She was suddenly explaining herself more and more. Whatever she did never seemed enough or right. Her friends and family were beginning to notice the change.

Around the same time, her friend Anu was planning to start her own venture. She was a fashion designer and was planning to start an online store. She approached Chavvi to help in designing the website and becoming a partner in running the business. “Chavvi I have always loved your style. You have a creative flair in you and I want you to tap it for this venture. I want you as a partner not just as a friend helping me design my site. I will teach you the technicalities but I want you to be a part of my dream. Think about it.” Chavvi was super excited when she heard about it. “I will discuss it with Sameer, she quickly replied. She was surprised at her own answer, but kept quiet.” As soon as Anu left, Chavvi called Sameer “Anu has a great idea for her online store. She wants me to help build the site and be a partner. Isn’t that great?” She quipped. She was so excited about it that she could hardly contain her happiness. Sameer just listened and finally said “I don’t think it’s a great idea for you. First of all, you work in such a good company, why do you want to waste time building a site? Secondly, I am sure Anu has no money to pay you for the site, and hence she is asking you to be a partner. Third, you are a computer engineer, not a fashion designer, why get into all this and waste time. Rather I think you should leave the job once my onsite project is confirmed. After that, till the wedding, you can enjoy and then travel with me.”

Chavvi was stunned to listen to this. “Why should I leave the job. I had informed the manager earlier and he was confident of finding me an onsite assignment along with you. If that does not work out I can always look for a job there or maybe start with Anu and then manage things from there. I am sure Anu and I can work it out.” she suggested.

“Are you crazy? You are too naïve. I never liked Anu and I am sure she is just trying to extract work from you. Why do you even have to work?  Stay at home, learn some good cooking from my mom and we will have a great time.”

By now Chavvi was too dumbfounded to speak. She just managed to say “I will call you later and hung up”. When she did not come for dinner, her mother came to her room and found her lying in her bed listlessly staring at the ceiling fan. “Chavvi is everything alright?” her mother asked. Chavvi sat up and hugged her mother. She did not know where to start, but she knew she had to tell her mother. She told her about her conversation with Sameer. “I don’t understand! That’s not the guy I fell in love with. I realized that I was changing but I thought it was a part of being in a relationship” Her mother put her arm around Chavvi to comfort her. “Chavvi I will not comment on what Sameer should and should not do, but there are a few things that concern me and I need to tell you about it. Since you have been in this relationship I have lost my confident, determined, and go-getter Chavvi and in her place have seen a new confused, doubtful and always hesitant Chavvi evolve. That is not my daughter. I did not raise her to be that. I did not say anything as I was not sure if this change was self-inflicted or due to external circumstances. A relation should not alter your personality, your trust in self, and life. I believe that every relationship in our life should be enriching. It should add something to our personality and give us a new dimension, and vise-versa only then does it mean that both the individuals involved give equal respect to each other’s thoughts and wishes. Respect for the partner has to be the most important quality in any relationship. If a relation is changing you against your wishes then it is necessary to take a step back and think hard.”

Suddenly everything was clear. Chavvi hugged her mother and said “Yes mother I forgot my worthwhile trying to please others. I will never ever do that again.” She had her dinner and slept well in many months. The next morning as she got ready for office and stepped out of the house, she found a new confidence. She reached office, met Sammer, and said “I don’t think our relationship will work. I love you, I really do, but I love myself more. I want a guy who completes me and you don’t match up to that.” So saying, she walked off with a smile on her face and the confidence to be herself.

Love means...

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