It was in 2008 when my heart broke for the first time. I was in Class IX, sitting in the classroom and completely immersed in Eric Segal’s Love Story. Furiously turning the pages, I was oblivious to what was being taught. That afternoon, as the funny and poignant romance of Oliver and Jenny took an unexpected sad turn, Oliver’s heart broke and so did mine. Along with him. I remember going to the school washroom later to grieve and weep copiously.
It was two years later that a boy broke my heart. A phone call that never came hurt me harder than I had anticipated. I did not own a mobile phone then and had to place all my faith on the landline. It was a boy from a tuition class, numbers had been exchanged as scribblings in copies. Afternoon calls used to be received diligently, till one afternoon they stopped. Without an explanation or a preface. I remember waiting all afternoon, answering more calls than I ever had – but not hearing the voice I wanted to. I didn’t call him, but was overcome with grief and hurt. I had devoured Maitreyi Devi’s Na Hanyate — an autobiographical tale about her relationship with one of her father’s Romanian students Mircea Eliade — in one day. The night was spent burying my face into my tiny cushion and weeping, because I was too proud to shed the tears in public. I was certain that my heart was really, literally breaking and had strategically placed the paltry cushion on my chest, thinking it would help in holding the broken pieces together. I spent two days like that, making excuses for not parting with it, lest the movement would cause the pieces to scatter.
“Like the biological heart, the metaphorical heart has both size and shape,” author Sandeep Jauhar writes in his book Heart: A History. In this fascinating work, Jauhar traces the link between the biological organ and its metaphorical counterpart, and goes on to write that the biological heart might not be the seat of emotions, “but it is highly responsive to them, a record of our emotional life is written on our hearts”. I turned 26 a week back and amidst the birthday wishes had a moment of epiphany. It struck me that with age certain things hurt less. The fact that several old friends did not perhaps remember my birthday did not hurt anymore, nor did the realisation that notwithstanding the promises we had made, we are all growing apart and perhaps even detached from one another. The same, however, is not true for heartbreak. The heart might have become stronger with age, but nothing dulls the sharp sting that results every time it breaks – and it breaks often.
This struck me when a suitably long relationship ended one day. I was older and wiser and had seen it coming for a while, but it did not lessen the pain. The nature of it, however, was different. It did not keep me in bed for two days. I went to office, met my friends, did my daily chores, but the nagging ache remained as if the heart was rupturing before it would break. I don’t think I have learnt much from that episode apart from undermining how much my heart can possibly take. Distractions are aplenty, and life goes on, till one morning I find it difficult to get up from the bed. The heart, it seems, has broken again, this time without a noise and I have to spend days trying to figure what must have caused it. Sometimes even a well thought-out, “I don’t think we should meet anymore”— a decision that makes perfect sense to the mind — has ended up breaking it, albeit in retrospect.
Bereft of the luxury of time, I don’t languish – but the pain now hits in waves. Many a times I have kept memories of an agonising night neatly beside the bed, unaware of it till a song floating in the air makes it difficult for me to breathe. I break down in cars, seeing a couple look at each other in a certain way causes a lump in my throat, and strangers have often tried to console me by offering water. The humiliation of the heartbreak might have worn off rather quickly but the hurt remains.
“More than anything, the heart wants to beat,” Jauhar writes in his book. The physician is writing about the biological organ here. As far as its metaphorical counterpart is concerned, I fear, perhaps more than anything, it is fated to break.