Interlude: When We Were Young

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.”


“Oh really?”


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?”


“Raj, I-”


“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

Artist: Adele

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.

— MN.

39 thoughts on “Interlude: When We Were Young

  1. The fight between expectation and Love…!!
    I feel so sorry for both of them…
    they are in a situation where it is tought to support one…!!
    Raj was right in his place to make her understand to follow her dream…!!
    His fight for asking about the consequences of her decision on their relationship was also correct…
    But i cant completely blame Ananya…
    She was confused and under pressure…
    she choosed what she thought was right…
    She did broke his heart…
    their conversation was really sad..!!
    They are indeed in a very tough situation…!!
    Again i hope they will move on from their hurt soon…!!
    very well written dear…
    This was a much awaited insight to their past…
    plz continue soon…tc

    Liked by 2 people

  2. That was a tough read. A very tough read. Choosing between loved ones is the worst kind of choice and no one should have to make it. And yet that is all that people end up doing. Oh Ananya and Raj. I’ll just assume it wasn’t meant to be then. 😦 That poor did get the rough end didn’t he

    Liked by 5 people

  3. I feel bad for Ananya that she had to make such a difficult decision. But I feel even worse for Raj that he never even had the luxury of making a decision.
    Ananya decided for both of them and just “informed” him after booking her tickets…
    She took him and their relationship for granted. He did not deserve this treatment after a strong 4- yr old relationship and promises of a lifetime together.
    He was right in asking her to do what she wants and Ananya in her place, is right in wanting to make her mother proud…but the biggest fault of hers was to not even discuss it with Raj. He would have understood her and supported even, if only she had given him a chance.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Wow…can I be honest and say I did not buy it. Somehow I am not convinced at how Khushi decides that their relationship can work from different states for 6yrs plus 😠 and she does not sit talk this out with her partner but makes travel arrangements… strange. I can understand fulfilling Amma’s dreams et al ; still she thinks for one person but not the other important person in her life whom she obviously chose. Come to think of it, I now see her asking Arnav for the temporary break that she did….she should break clean if she felt so strongly about pleasing her Amma.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Right about pickinAdele songs. There are 2-3 I wanted to dedicate to them. I now see where so much hurt is coming from, especially in Raj’s case. Their issues are all unresolved. They never got closure, even a clean breakup was denied because of the non-conversation. Sometimes the strong hold parents have, ruins kids lives. Sometimes they don’t even expect what we perceive they are looking from us, but their behavior and words would make us feel so. I hope Raj and Ananya find a point where they can start talking to each other and mend what’s broken.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. Now I can understand the pain of raj much much more – this updste has really helped in getting to know more about them – I don’t want to judge the characters now – will wait to read more – great going choti – loving it

    Liked by 2 people

  7. “Badi dheere jali raina, dhuan dhuan naina.”

    It’s tough. Maintaining a relationship. Thinking good of the other person constantly. No wonder we in Hindu culture had the easy way out of no way out. But taking the tough way and still coming out with flying colours is what takes the real effort.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. ahh,,,,how do u do this….before each update i think i cud pick a side by the end of chapter but u end each chap in a way where both seem right and wrong:-((
    its such a hard and sensitive decision to choose:-(

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Choices r there.. But thy not there.. Its apply in most of the situation for many of us….

    Its nt only abt Ananya here…

    Both hav acted like a bullet.. Dint give time to think or talk or for anything..

    Hope future is btr for them:)

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Life is tough … Parents have plenty of expectations from their children but some forget that their children have their limitations too … Here Ananya was keen to fulfill her parents wishes while being in a relationship with Arnav … She had to make a choice and chose to move away from him hurting him in the bargain … one only realises much later what one has lost …
    Thank you Choti …

    Liked by 2 people

  11. The conflict between the two beautifully written. Somehow I am with Raj…she should have shared her plans with him. Insensitive or she knew from past conversation his reaction and hence made the decision to go to Columbia without informing him. Long distance relationship is taxing and has it perils.

    Growing up in an enviornment with so much expectation, meeting your parents dream rather than yours….the intial need of the child maybe to fulfill parents dream.. but eventually the person will revolt and she did. Very well written.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Oho!!! Love blinds us! Quoting dumbuldore from cursed child. Our love for our children blinds us to what they may really actually want from life. It’s hard to watch your child fall on their face but yeah we should let them make their choices as well I think. It’s no body’s fault here. It’s the situation and the reactions of each which isn’t in sync!
    Somewhere the two of them have taken each other for granted isn’t it ? That’s skews your relationship totally… Waiting for more

    Liked by 2 people

  13. After going through this update, I felt sorry for Raj…………………..

    Ananya has taken a decision to please her parents, but in that she has not considered Raj……….. The relationship with parents is not comparable to that with a boyfriend but every relationship is important if you love that person………………

    Raj has always been supportive of Ananya………… He wants Ananya to follow her dream because he loves her & he wants her to be happy………….

    If Ananya loved Raj, then she would have thought about how her decision will affect Raj…………. She would have definitely discussed it out with him, before deciding anything……….. But Ananya behaved selfishly thinking about only her parents & herself…………… She should have tried to woo Raj back to continue a long distance relationship…….. But instead, she simply left without talking with him. She dint give time to Raj, to come to terms with it………………

    Hope so, this time, at least, Ananya will take the first step, to woo Raj back if she truly loves him & wants him back in her life……….

    (orchids8888 from IF)

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Wow! Amazing chapter. What a tough choice for Ananya! It’s sad that she took her decision without confronting him. Poor Raj ! They have a lots of emotion to deal with . Looking forward to read more.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. The upheaval of emotions ranging from hurt, anger and disappointments to the scorching heat burning at the back of the throat, and unending tears; this was a heartbreaking read.

    I know it was unfair on Ananya, but I can’t help but grieve for Raj and side with him. A relationship sustains when the two individuals involved have an equal say. Ananya never offered him a chance. That she’d made up her mind and even booked tickets without considering him hurt immensely. His support was taken for granted. And even when she knew she was guilty, she left. Just like that. Turning a blind eye towards all the time and love they’d invested in their relationship. Her decision gave me this impression that she craved an escape.

    I’ll be truthful and say, I was angry with Ananya for a moment for breaking Raj’s heart. He didn’t deserve it. But that young girl was also under monumental pressure wasn’t she? Submerged under the weight of expectations and the fear of failures. Probably why I sensed a need in her to run. But not completely considering his feelings and their relationship was wrong.

    A mountain of hurt that they’ve carved for the other and themselves has to heal. I look forward to that.

    Poignancy dripped from every word you wrote and from Raj and Ananya, shone with heart wrenching beauty.

    Liked by 4 people

  16. Ananya had a dream but also a huge burden on her young shoulders in the form of expectations from her mother. Trying to please her parents and not being a disappointment to them made her blind to other things – like hurting Raj. So many young people growing up in the West (or maybe outside India) have this pressure – being children of immigrant parents, who have struggled to get where they are and can only see/visualize their children at the top. This puts tremendous pressure on these kids. These children have peer pressure, pressure from their parents and their own dreams and passions. That’s a lot of stress! So she decided to please her parents and give up her dream when she went to New York. Mabye subconsciously she knew that Raj would not approve and so did not talk to him.

    On the other hand, Raj had a better vision of where he wanted to be and even dreamt of a forever life with Ananya. So I can see his being hurt because she did not confide in him and made all these plans on her own. He felt let down and alone.

    In an ideal situation, they would have discussed this together and maybe thought of a better solution. Maybe even medical school in the same place instead of NY. But life is never “ideal” is it? People make mistakes and regret them later – hindsight is always 20/20.

    They are in the same place now and still have the same chemistry – so hopefully, they should move on to a better future together!

    Liked by 2 people

  17. Read all chapters in one go. Beautifully written. Feel bad for both of them, hope they talk it out and solve their problems. It is obvious that they still have feelings. And have not gotten over each other.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Very well written!
    It’s never easy to choose between the people you love.. No one should ever have to be on such crossroads! But life is not always fair and time and time again we are left at such crossroads!

    Liked by 1 person

  19. I’d read the first chapter quite a while ago but aj read the rest of the chapters in one sitting. Yaaar. This such a beautiful story! God you’re really talented.
    I loved how you set their meet after three years, Pooja the constant support system ananya has, Natasha grilling Raj, OMG Raj freaking Malhotra for crying out load (loved the ddlj quip!) Anju and Nick (I’m with his mamu on his name), Raj not telling anjali ananya’s part in the breakup, Raj calling Amma, Amma and ananya calling anjali di, ANYA the nickname (I have flutters Everytime he calls her that!) The lift, the second lift, the Dance and god the kiss!
    And above all that I love how you’ve made their story so realistic jaise, I can completely empathize with what ananya had to go through with her mother on the whole you’re my doctor-beti drama ( subcontinent bacha in the house :p ) and how ananya wanted to not let her down even at the cost of her own dreams. It’s just so hard to deny our parents the one thing they want from us after theyve spent their lives nurturing and providing for us. That said, bechara raj! He only wanted ananya to factor in her dreams and their relationship when deciding for her future. It’s so hard to choose between two people you so dearly love.
    Absolutely loved the interlude. Eagerly waiting for the next chapter!

    Liked by 1 person

  20. When we were young…. We masked pain behind words we should have never said and didn’t say the things we should have. We brush those tears under the rug and blame youth. I wonder at times what’s the excuse now…

    Liked by 1 person

  21. At 23, it is possible to still be immatured and she probably handled it bad with Raj. It is the cross road of your life..where you have your parents and one side is new life probsbly weighed heavy on her parents than pragmatic thinking. You have written so well with age in mind and how it can intrue sense come out in instances..

    Raj was very candid and practical in his thinking…and he loved her. Nice interlude into the past!


  22. Im surprised that she made a call without considering one half of the equation! Im not siding with Raj as such,but i can see where it hurts him, that she refuses to even consider him and their relationship as a factor. She behaved like a reigned horse and refused to see anything else past her Mother’s expectations.

    That being said, i understand why He is so hesitant in probing his feelings now, cause he might just be scared to face consequences again.

    She however seems to have thought over her conversation with him and in retrospect tried to reach out to him. And there he behaves like a man focussed on shutting her out and closed doors on what could have been revived.

    Coming to the now, they both know where they went wrong and the fact that their relationship failed has all to do with them being unable to get their point thru in clarity.

    A good friend of mine always says ‘ expectations are a death of any relationship’. She says that whatever the relationship may be, when you expectations set in, you are taking the other for granted. So however close your bond is, make a conscious effort not to expect a reaction/words/actions. This way you wont be disappointed when it doesnt happen, but will treasure it more when it does.


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