Break-Ups In A Pandemic: Young Indians On How They Tried To Mend Their Broken Hearts In A Lockdown

Break-Ups In A Pandemic: Young Indians On How They Tried To Mend Their Broken Hearts In A Lockdown
Shreya Takodara for Homegrown

If you’ve ever been in a relationship, you will understand that nothing catches you off-guard more than your partner uttering the words, “We need to talk.”

It’s no secret that nothing good has ever followed that statement.

Chances are, no two breakups are ever the same. Some are so solid that Taylor Swift titled her hit song ‘We Are Never Getting Back Together’ to make it clear. Some are remorseful and fill you with regret, as Rihanna expressed in ‘Stay’. When you’re ready to move on, Justin Bieber’s company with ‘Love Yourself’ will do you well.

That being said, no song ever could describe to you or prepare you for a beak-up during a pandemic. That’s because nobody imagined a protocol to follow in such a situation — who knows, maybe the usual rom-com rabbit hole and ice-cream binges would fail us as well. When the virus introduced itself to us earlier in the year, we didn’t presume it would force us into our homes, away from our loved ones. COVID-19 destroyed lives and livelihoods, and in its free time between these atrocities, managed to break some hearts, too.

A few days ago, Homegrown posed the question to you, our readers, about whether the pandemic caused a heartbreak that hurt like never before. We questioned how you chose to interpret the loss and pain, and how you navigated through the lockdown and your way to acceptance. Surely, we presumed that a break-up in a pandemic would not be similar to regular ones and the heartfelt responses we received concurred with us.

A word about our responses:

  • The age group of our respondents ranged from under 18-35 years old.
  • 83% of our respondents identify as female, and the rest 17% identify as male.
  • Most of our respondents were from Delhi and Mumbai. Others were from Indian cities of Pune and Gurgaon.
  • 17% of our respondents chose to remain anonymous.
  • For qualitative purposes, the respondents were not forced to choose from just a selection of options and were allowed to give us insight in their own words.

*Names of contributors who have requested anonymity have been changed to protect their identity.

Paying The Lockdown’s Price

  • 83% of our respondents believe that things would be different in the absence of the pandemic. If not still in their respective relationships, they would have been able to deal with the break up better.  
  • 17% of them think things would have played out the same, regardless of the lockdown.  

It may be easy to assume that the distance during the lockdown is the only reason a relationship fell apart. It’s also that it is easy to blame the failure on that singular aspect.

While no one is equipped with the appropriate knowledge of how to overcome a breakup in a pandemic, our respondents cited their insights on how, just maybe, things would have gone differently without a pandemic, and whether its onset was helpful in any way.

Bhavna Rana from Gurgaon had been served divorce papers at the beginning of lockdown. Her perspective serves to the fact that any kind of affection from elsewhere may only play the part of a distraction. She says, “Maybe. We’re all cooped in. Can’t get the help we need, meet real people, or feel real hugs. Can’t decipher who is taking advantage of our vulnerability versus actually meaning something on SMS/texts/messages,” she says.

Kabir Gupta*, on the other hand, had cut ties with his partner himself and tells us that the pandemic had little to do with that decision. The lockdown, in its own salient way, may have given way to the end of his relationship. “Not really,” he says. “The pain was there before the pandemic. And none of us tried to give pleasure.”

We wish it were black and white enough for us to say that the lockdown worked for some to mend their broken heart, while others struggled to keep up with the loss. In reality, each relationship’s complexities overwhelm the individuals to a point where clarity of thought itself seems like a mammoth task.

To Salvage Or Not To Salvage?

  • 83% of our respondents were completely overwhelmed with their break ups during the lockdown.
  • Only 17% of them saw the separation coming.

As humans, it is sometimes our tendency to try and salvage not just damaged goods, but also relationships. We hold on to that last shred of hope, that provides us with a bleak sense of confidence allowing us to believe that things will work out. Seldom, we realise that it was truly over when it was over.

David Levithan and John Green explain it well in their book Will Grayson, Will Grayson (2010). The book says, “When things break, it’s not the actual breaking that prevents them from getting back together again. It’s because a little piece gets lost – the two remaining ends couldn’t fit together even if they wanted to.” The authors imply that both individuals involved undergo an irreversible change, and no matter how hard one tries, the pieces just don’t fit perfectly anymore.

Our respondents candidly expressed whether they were able to let go of that special bond peacefully and whether the lockdown played a part in doing so.

Surbhi from Delhi had plans of moving to a new city with her partner until the pandemic and lack of resources called it off. She explains how letting go does not seem like an option in her relationship, “We couldn’t see the pandemic coming in this hot, and we had our tough times. I have no reason to resent the lockdown and what it did to us. I just know this guy and I are on our journey and we might as well just be grateful for all the bad days – the ones that made us fall in love with ourselves a little more.”

Conversely, there are also relationships where the scope of reuniting is out of the question, as is the case from Shreya Saxena from Delhi. She and her partner called it quits just a week before the nationwide lockdown took place, and with it in the picture, there seemed to be no going back. She says, “With the lockdown, it left us with no possibility of reconciling and further drifted us apart.”

Deriving Positives From Negatives

  • 100% of our respondents believe that the lockdown and quarantine situation led them to work on themselves and facilitate personal development in order to feel better!

The most glorious romantic and self-discovery films will tell you to do great things after a breakup — challenge yourself, test your limits. Does that mean a break up in itself is not a challenge that has tested your limits?

Naina Talwar from Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani (2013) would go on to successfully become a doctor after unsuccessfully closing in a relationship with Bunny. In Lakshya (2004), Karan Shergill goes so far as to join the Indian Army and participate in a war as a result of a broken heart. Not all heartbreaks result in such life-altering events to take place, and our respondents tell us how with the advent of the pandemic, they grew in their own ways.

Arva Kagzi from Mumbai tells, “I joined art class, got myself a job, started therapy and anti-anxiety medicine. I forgave and forgot my differences with my parents and now call my mom my best friend. I did 7 online courses – one on psychology to understand my own mind.” What she once considered to be a magical relationship was ended by her partner on his birthday. All things considered, she dearly leaves us with something to remember — “It is all personal growth, but love is love.”

Explaining her tumultuous experience, Riya Bhagtani says, “About personal growth, my lockdown was pretty healthy in terms of mental health because I always had dopamine rushing. I was stable and I was growing, but towards the end when everything went downhill, I was unstable but I picked myself up.” She reminds us that at the end of the day, we are all we have, and more often than not, that is just enough.

The heavy pain of separation in its true sense is supremely difficult to describe. The world can create countless ‘How To Deal With A Break Up’ guides, and yet, you will find yourself lost in a sphere full of suggestions. Breakups are capable of draining you — but an aspect we must keep in mind is that they also play the role of reintroducing yourself to you.

The loss of love is a heavy one. While we try to seal those hollows with different experiences and various kinds of affections, it is yet difficult to let go of the reminder of what scarred you in the first place. Throw yourself into the midst of a pandemic, and you’ve got yourself nothing short of a map of the most twisted self-discovery journey.

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