Three Years Earlier
Raj opened the door, coming face to face with Ananya. She gave him a tense half smile, stepping into his apartment. He leaned down, giving her a quick kiss before shutting the door behind them.
“Hey, I thought you were busy toni-”
“I’m going to Columbia.”
He froze, unsure of whether he had heard her correctly. “Columbia? The country?” He asked lightly, ignoring the dread building up in his stomach.
She smiled but shook her head. “The university.”
“In New York.”
She nodded slowly, releasing a shaky breath. He ran a hand through his hair, not quite knowing how to respond.
“I thought you were going to send in your manuscript.” He stated, trying to stay calm. She looked away guiltily and he raised his eyebrows. “You’re not sending in your manuscript.”
She gave him a helpless look, shaking her head. “I…”
He looked at her incredulously, throwing his hands up. “Ananya, what the hell? It’s fantastic, that’s what you’ve dreamed of for years!”
“I know, Raj, but Amma-”
“How long are you going to keep living for Amma?!” He asked sharply, his anger flaring.
“She’s my mother!” She said defensively. “And besides, I don’t even know if I’ll dislike medical school. I should at least give it a chance.” He gritted his teeth, frustration seeping through.
“Ananya, medical school isn’t some fucking hobby. You can’t just be like ‘Mommy wants me to, so I’m going to invest six years of my time in this field that I don’t even like!’” He said, sarcasm lacing his tone. He immediately knew he had made a mistake, her face hardening.
“Don’t even go there, Raj. This is my choice.”
They stared at each other, breathing heavily as they struggled to contain their anger.
He took a deep breath, pushing away his frustration. “Alright fine, let’s assume that you do want to do this. What about us?”
She stilled, swallowing nervously. “What about us?”
He tilted his head, his gaze narrowing. “If you go to Columbia, that’s at least six years for us to be apart. I can’t move, I’ve already started grad work in my lab.”
She hesitated. “I… I don’t know.” She stated honestly, her heart tightening painfully. She knew what was coming and yet…
Raj looked stunned. He gathered himself, struggling to voice how he felt. “You don’t know?”
“Ananya, you can’t-” He broke off, exhaling. “I thought we were a team.” He said quietly.
“I thought you would be supportive of this.”
“I am! If it’s what you actually want to do, then I will be supportive but I just… we would be apart for six years, Ananya, that’s not a decision you make on a spur of the moment.”
“What makes you think this was a spur of the moment decision?” She asked sharply.
“Oh really? What exactly was your grand plan if you did indeed decide to stay for medical school?”
“I thought that you would come out after grad school, and that we could make it work until then.”
He raised an eyebrow. “Yeah? And what about how much it costs to fly out to New York? Would I transfer? What about the fact that we wouldn’t be living together for six years after our marriage? What about your residency? Do we move again then?” He threw the questions at her, and she grew defensive, disliking his tone.
“Stop being so damned condescending, Raj.”
“Condescending?! These are decisions we should be making together. Forgive me if I’m a little angry right now.”
“Forgive me if I assumed that you would be supportive.” She snapped back, her voice growing in pitch. He threw his hands up, laughing disbelievingly.
“I can’t believe you. You can’t just make decisions based on what your mother wants. You’re almost 23, not 13, and you’re in a relationship. Grow the fuck up.” He said scornfully. She recoiled as if she had been slapped, hurt evident on her face.
“My parents are all I have, Raj! I can’t just-”
Hurt sliced sharply through him, his stomach twisting. His throat felt hot, but he ignored it, replacing it with anger instead.
“Clearly, your lack of consideration for my presence extends further than I thought.” He retorted. His voice sounded hoarse to his own ears, his heart pounding painfully. Ananya’s eyes flashed in hurt she quickly masked.
“Are you really comparing our relationship to mine with my parents?”
“No, I just think you underestimate how much support you would get for doing what you want.”
Ananya’s voice was punctuated by hurt and frustration. “You don’t understand, Raj, because you’ve never had to live with this type of expectation.”
Raj’s mouth fell open disbelievingly. “I’ve never had to live with the pressure of expectation? Honey, all of us live with that.” Anger bubbled up at his patronizing tone but she ignored it, trying to explain herself.
“Not like this, not like the way my mom is. Your parents are different! You don’t understand what it’s like to live with someone who expects so fucking much of you all the time, who expects you to be perfect and then some. You don’t understand what it’s like to live under the constant fear of disappointing them, you’ve never had to deal with that.” She drew a shaky breath, her face streaked with tears.
“Of course I understand! That’s an expectation that every parent puts on their child.” He said, cringing at the words as soon as they left his mouth. Ananya gave him a look, shaking her head.
“Really Raj? Let me ask you this — if your mother told you that this was her biggest dream, and that you are the only person who can fulfill it, what would you do?”
He fell silent for a moment, searching for words. His silence was telling enough, and she fixed him with a knowing look. “I don’t know what I would do.” He acquiesced reluctantly. He quickly followed it up with another statement, “But I do know that this isn’t what you want, and I just want you to fulfill your dream.” His fingers gently brushed a stray piece of hair behind her ear. She briefly closed her eyes the way she always did, leaning against his palm as he cupped her face.
“This doesn’t mean I’m not pursuing my dream, Raj. I can still write. She just wants the best for me, Raj, and she’s not wrong you know. It is hard to make a career of writing.” She looked up at him, pleading for him to understand. He pressed his lips together in a tight line, dropping his hand.
“I want what’s best for you too, Ananya! And we are a team, and decisions like this are decisions we should be making together.” His voice rose, anger permeating his voice.
“You were the one who told me that I should make a decision that I think is best for me, and that is what I am fucking doing.”
“Look, I have no problem with you moving out to New York if you want to, but I cannot believe that you wouldn’t even consider the impact it had on me.”
“I wasn’t aware that I required your permission to make choices.”
Raj threw up his hands, exasperated. “I’m fucking done. You know that’s not what I meant.”
“No, I don’t know! I don’t fucking know what you mean, I don’t understand why after all of this time of you telling me that you would support whatever decision I made, you’re so against me moving to New York.”
“Because I’d be apart from you for up to six years! Is this not a worry for you?”
“I have faith that we’d survive.” She said quietly. “But I don’t know if you do.”
“I’m trying to be pragmatic. What happens when we want to start a family, Ananya? I’m not saying it can’t be done, I’m just… I think it’s worth considering both the pros and the cons.”
“This is the one way I can make my mom proud of me, Raj. It means so much to her.” She said, looking away. His heart broke at how small her voice sounded, laden with the craving for approval. He swallowed the lump in his throat, reaching for her.
“Anya, she is proud of you. You know that, right?
She shook her head, moving back. “No, Raj, I have to do this for her. And for myself. I can’t live with the possibility of this opportunity over my head.” Determination entered her voice, and she met his gaze stoically. His hand fell to his side, the fight leaving him.
“So you’ve decided.”
They stared at each other for a long time and she broke her gaze away, nodding. “I leave Friday.”
He felt as if the wind had been knocked out of him, his heart completely empty. “Friday? You — wait, you booked the tickets before you came here?”
Her gaze shot back to him, guilt and apology written all over her face. “Raj…” She reached out but he took his hands away, overwhelmed by hurt. His throat prickled with unshed tears, rushing their way to the front of his eyes.
“I don’t want to hear it, Ananya. I’m done.” He said quietly. He turned and walked away, his heart pounding in his ears. He could feel her gaze at his back and he squashed the urge to turn back and wrap her in a tight hug as the tears spilled over.
He sank down onto his bed and put his head into his hands, his chest squeezing painfully. He heard her release a shuddering sigh. Her footsteps faded away, and the door clicked as she left, leaving the apartment completely silent.
He went through the rest of the week in a daze, barely able to concentrate. He seemed to have acquired an extended migraine, his head pounding as he stepped into his apartment on Friday afternoon. He glanced at his phone, absentmindedly flicking through the missed calls list.
He stared at her name, populating most of his screen. He had ignored her calls and texts, unwilling to talk until he had had time to think. Swallowing, he placed his phone to his ear, calling her home phone number.
“Hi Amma. Is Ananya there?” He asked in a carefully measured tone, keeping his temper in check as he heard Radha’s voice over the phone.
“Nahi, she left this morning for Columbia. I thought you had gone to see her off…?” Radha trailed off and he could hear the understanding seep into her voice. All of the emotions he thought he had a handle on came bubbling up again, and it took all of his energy to keep himself from succumbing to the hurt and the anger.
“Raj, is everything –”
“I have to go, Amma.” He said, interrupting her. Cursing mentally, he amended his statement. “I’m sorry, I just… forgot that I had to attend a seminar that starts in fifteen minutes. Say hi to Appa for me.” He hung up the phone, his heart aching as he stared at the photo on his wall of the two of them, her head thrown back in laughter.
He blinked back his tears, and then took a deep breath, setting his jaw in determination. He lifted it from the wall, placing it into the drawer by his bedside.
He was done.
Song: When We Were Young
Note: It’s a short update today, but I hope this sheds some light on where their feelings are coming from. I’m going to try to update on a Tuesday morning (in Chicago) from now on — although I can’t guarantee it’ll be weekly, I will keep the day consistent so it’s easier. Thank you for reading, and as always — the follow buttons are on the right, and let me know what you think!
A side note, this is one of my favorite, favorite songs — and it was such a challenge to pick which Adele song I wanted because all of them are so amazing.