Updated: Nov 18, 2022
Two friends who were romantically involved in the past meet a couple of years down the line to talk about two important decisions in their lives. During their discussion, they realise how each of them is in their own trap, and it is up to them to decide to remain within or work their way out of it.
“The Exes” by R. S. Chintalapati shows how individuals and their nature changes over time to something so polar opposite to their own that it’s unbelievable. In time, these same individuals who once rooted passionately for one side are now aggressively against it.
On a rainy night, Naveena arrived ten minutes early at the restaurant they planned to meet at and without wasting a minute, she ordered their meal and waited for him. Pouring herself a glass of water, she thought about how to approach the topic she very much intended to talk about that evening. As much as she knew he would understand, there was a part of her that couldn’t help but wonder how he would react. But to calm herself, she kept reminding herself, “After everything we have been through, he will understand.”
Taking a sip, she checked her watch, and unless she could magically make ten minutes disappear, she knew there was no way he would arrive early. Taking a deep breath, she rethought if this was the right time to discuss her decisions and decided to maybe not talk about it. She felt two hands on her shoulders.
When she turned around, there he was. Not just early but even dressed formally in a formal full-hand shirt. He looked sharp in his haircut and neatly trimmed beard. With his eyes widened, he said with a smile, “Look who has become an aunty!”
Returning a beaming smile, Naveena replied, “And look who has finally become a man!”
As he widened his arms, Naveena embraced him tightly before he embraced her back nearly four years later. Settling on either side of the table, both of them sat in silence for a moment before the waiter placed a plate of spicy noodles with a bowl of Manchurian. Putting a plate of vegetable fried rice before Prachin, the waiter spilt diced onions on the noodles and Manchurian before Naveena picked up the ketchup bottle from the centre of the table and squeezed it in a zig-zag fashion on the whole.
The waiter spilt chopped coriander on the fried rice and placed a bowl of Raita and a bowl of chickpea curry on the side. He then placed a glass filled with ice cubes and cola beside Naveena and a glass of water with a lemon on the side beside Prachin.
Wishing them to enjoy their meal, the waiter left before Naveena picked up her fork. Glancing at her, Prachin asked, “As much as I want to appreciate your memory regarding my choice of food, I’m more curious to know why you summoned me.”
With a smirk on her face, Naveena pierced her fork into a Manchurian ball as she said, “I’m hoping to apply for a divorce, and I wanted to discuss it.”
Leaning back in his chair, Prachin was no longer hungry. Picking up his glass of water, he took a sip as he noticed Naveena relishing her lunch while staring at him. Looking around for a moment to notice the nearly empty restaurant and cursing his fate, Prachin hesitantly asked, “It hasn’t even been a year, right? What went so wrong?”
Pointing her fork towards him, Naveena warned with a smile, “I’ll only tell you if you promise me to not parrot my parents’ words!”
Unable to believe how jovially she was approaching the topic, Prachin nodded in agreement before she completed him by saying, “My husband doesn’t have a personality.”
Utterly confused, Prachin faltered as he said, “Personality? I thought… I thought he cheated or abused you or something.”
Picking up another ball, Naveena smiled as she said, “Cheat? The man barely spanks his wife passionately without checking on her.”
Controlling his smile and realising there might be a hidden motivation, Prachin asked, “Are you quoting the wrong reason not to be judged?”
Staring at her ex, Naveena replied, “You think our bedroom dynamic could be the cause? That question is beneath you.”
Accepting defeat, Prachin apologised, bowing his head. For a moment, silence prevailed before Prachin repeated, “Personality? Seriously, personality?”
Twirling her fork to hold noodles, Naveena asked, “Have you ever wondered what I must have told myself to walk away from you even after spending the last two years in a long-distance relationship with you?”
Recalling the memory of how it happened via a phone call, Prachin replied, “I always told myself that you gave up on us hoping to settle with someone better.”