Culture

How Indian lovers are dealing with heartbreak, online dating, and more

"Only love can fill the void left by love"

I have been playing heartbreak girl ever since I started writing melancholy prose on Instagram last year. Writing about love and all the hurt it causes, and also how to get over it, connected me to broken hearts from all over the country, who just wanted someone to tell them that it will all be alright. In the last few weeks, ever since my podcast Love Aaj Kal went live on Saavn, I have been getting DMs by the hour, asking advice about the many problems love throws at us.

One of the first letters I got was from a 23-year-old, who, after been wooed by her 44-year-old HOD was now contemplating if she should give in to this married man with kids, and have sex with him. Even though he had categorically told her they didn't have a future. I was shook. Didn't she see that this was just leading down a path where only disappointment lay? I told her to out herself first, and only give her heart (and body) to someone who at least wanted to be with her. Another 18-year-old wrote to me about still studying with an ex, who now was dating someone else. "He takes her to all the places we used to go. I just can't bear it." That can be hard, but people don't change how they love. They usually only change who they love. And so, I told her to love herself instead, as she didn't have an option, and use this time in life to be brave. Another 20-year-old told me that she tried committing thrice when she found out that the guy she lost her virginity to, had sex with someone else an hour later. She said I was the first person she had ever told this to, and she felt a weight lift away. Fortunately, she is fine today, and moving on beautifully.

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But yes, heartbreak is a constant worry  how to move on, how to not stalk your ex on social media, how to work with them, how to not ask the question, "why did you do what you did?" As someone messaged me, "but what did I do wrong?". My own heart almost broke at that question. In my years of experience and the subsequent discovery of self-love, I have realised that we only have control over what we do, or what we feel. Asking someone else why they did what they did is the most futile question ever. Sometimes people can't deal with the situation thrown at them, or don't have answers to why they don't love you anymore, or why do they find someone else attractive. As I said in one of the podcast episodes, we start asking questions like "but I did so much for them. How could they leave me?". But you did so much because you felt like it at that time — the love you felt made you treat them a certain way. It sadly doesn't act as a guarantee for a person loving you forever. So, why hold it against them? I tell them all to move on, and instead of finding a person to love, love themselves. Because by asking these questions, you put your happiness in another person's hands, when it solely is your own responsibility. If you don't love yourself, who will?

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That could also be the common theme that emerges from everyone I have spoken to. Everyone is looking for someone to complete them, to make them happy. Everyone who has ever written to me about their love problems highlight the fact that they are not spending enough time on themselves, and that they are insecure about ever finding anyone that will love them. And so, they fall into dysfunctional relationships, let themselves be taken for granted, and just refuse to accept that someone isn't in their lives anymore. All the advice I have given, be it to the 22-year-old girl who is contemplating sleeping with a 44-year-married man or to the girl who just can't handle working with her ex, has to be to start knowing their worth. It's about being this force of positive energy that no one can deny. It's about going for all your dreams and making them true. It's about believing that they are the sun and the moon and the stars, because once they believe that, all these problems will vanish. Once you know your worth, you gracefully move on from any situation. Once you know you are brave enough to move on from a heartbreak, rest of life seems to be a piece of cake.

India is also grappling with online dating, and it's fleeting nature. Is it OK to just have sex with someone and not be emotional? How do I not get friend-zoned? Why isn't there any depth to relationships these days? What do I do now that he has blocked me on every kind of social media? And the ultimate question — how do I find true love when everyone is looking for the next best thing? For most, love is adding strife to life, thanks to the different kind of relationships that exist these days. And for most, it's hard to talk about it close friends and family, for the fear of being judged is innate. In spite of the broken hearts all around me, I find solace only in the fact that India wants to love and wants to be loved. And I tell them all, "Only love can fill the void left by love".

Aastha Atray Banan's podcast, Love Aaj Kal, is live on Saavn now. She is also a romance author, singer, and assistant editor for Sunday Midday. She can be reached on @aasthaatray on Instagram