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In Conversation With

Manjari-Praveen opens up about their story of love, mistakes and the moments of realization

To anyone who is wondering who is Manjari and Praveen, you can stop the wonderment as it’s essential to know what they are rather knowing who they are. Praveen and Manjari are just like you and I. This Valentine’s day, we get to know the common people, who are bit by the love bug and celebrating each day in their life as a festival like it is. To embark on a journey to know about their story of love, their mistakes, realizing the mistakes and the moments of revelations as they are no different than our own life events. We are pleasantly bewildered by these two wonderful beings as we don’t know which part should we leave and which we should we let it stay. They are all fun-filled moments that gurantee a hearty laugh. They talk about their school days, college lives, married life and work life too. They work at the same place now. I have to say that their school day stories reminded me of the wonderful movie Gantumoote (2019). Just like the film, their lives are warming up the heart. They talk about the taboo that’s associated with using contraceptives and declare that the taboo itself should be broken. They talk about the much needed awareness in the society about knowing the difference between physical needs and planning for a child. Let’s listen what they have to say:

How do you two know each other?

Praveen: We were classmates since our 9th grade. We are friends ever since then.
Manjari: Come on Praveen, Can you be more enthusiastic?!, said mockingly. she adds, “Let me tell the story. I was in my 9th grade, section B. Praveen was a newly joined student to the class adjacent to mine, section A. He immediately got my eye as a new addition to 9th grade doesn’t happen usually. I got a crush on him too. He transferred from Thiruvottiyur to Perambur to continue his schooling. When I was a bit disappointed that he didn’t join my section, he was put in my class as the seats were full in the other class. I was bubbling all of a suddent with sudden enthusiasm just to have a new guy in the class. But there wasn’t a bond between us that’s created so suddenly. He didn’t even know I existed back then”, said sarcastically.

So tell us, When did the bond begin to create?

Manjari: I got to create a lot of opportunities just to talk to him in class. I bonded easily with people as I was very extroverted and I still am. There was nothing more than a friendship between us as he had other plans to woo another girl from our class. That really bummed me out as I had a bit of crush on him. And my friends added fuel to the fire, said, I had no chance with him anymore. It infuriated me a bit at that age. And I told on him to the teachers about his intentions with the other girl.
Praveen: “I guess the cat is out of the bag now,” said mockingly and also proudly.
M: He got caught red-handed with teachers and his parents. The teachers even decided to transfer him out of the school. But things worked in my favour as the teachers decided to transfer the other girl and just warned and retained him. It was quite shocking for all of us to witness such sevearity.

P: I just pursued something so little that didn’t deserve these severe actions. But what can I say? Expressing love was frowned upon and still being the same. Studies should be the priority but forbidding one from love is not accepted. It just needs advice and direction at the right time for the young minds.
M: After the girl’s departure, Praveen got quite lonely. So, I was there to give him my shoulder. We were good friends. I didn’t leverage my chances on him right after that.
P: Yea, to listen to the beginning of our love story, you have to wait. We are just in our school days., said assuringly.
M: Yea, now we are in our 10th grade, participating in science exhibition. We were doing projects side by side. I was talkative and it came handy for me to be a vivid presenter.
P: Yea, her brilliance really goes out of the way when she gets her hand on a project. She is remarkable. I usually take the back seat.

M: Yea, he let me do all the heavy lifting. He is more interested in getting to know people and their stories. He is not viciously driven by any ambition to win a race. We were really breaking the ice at that time. We shared stories about our home, the people we love and admire and the crushes we had come across. And that brought us really close to each other.
P: Yes, Sharing personal stories create a strong bond between people that lasts for a lifetime.
M: We complete our 10th grade. And it was the time, the Vijay TV show, “Kanaa Kaanum Kaalangal” was widely celebrated amongst the youngsters. The love, the friendship, the heartbreaks and the happiness that the show explored, it really struck a chord with our minds. The show was very relatable. After 10th grade, We parted ways as we did our higher studies in different schools. We shared only two years of our school days together.
P: Yea, I changed schools as I had bigger plans like doing engineering, cracking IIT Entrance examination.
M: Yea, for the whole 2 years of our higher studies, We weren’t in touch. Both of our lives took a different path.
P: We didn’t have phones to stay in contact at the time.
M: I think We met again on an annual day as an alumni to our old school after we were done with out 12th grade.
P: No, We went to the annual day after our 11th grade and our whole friends’ gand created a ruckus. The school forbid us from entering the premise for the next annual day.
M: oh yea, we only knew that we were forbidden when we went to the school the next year. They remembered the ruckus for the whole year. But still, our friends’ gang found a way to enjoy, to make it a day to be remembered. Even when we all don’t own a phone to stay in contact. We share the contact of one person in the gang and pass the news about the meet to others. We didn’t really needed phone to stay in contact. We felt we all were always in touch. Then there comes our college preparation.
P: What? you’re missing something really interesting that happened during the holidays..
M: Really, you want me to tell that too? hintingly asked about an embarrassing moment. Fine. I’ll tell. Praveen was very studious and preparing day and night to crack IIT Entrace examination.
P: Yea, that was something that existed only in my dream, not able to crack it though.

While Praveen was talking, Manjari’s attention turned towards her baby. She endeared the baby lovingly and said “Mommy will tell the story and will be back soon”

M: Yea, he was studying hard. He missed all the fun and enjoyment in life. So, he decided to et into a relationship to restore all the happiness that studies were draining him from.
P: What’s wrong in pursuing love in life? that’s why this life is created for!
M: And You must be wondering how I knew his intentions. Because I was the one he sought after *wait for it* to get ideas to woo another girl into a relationship. As a friend, I thought that was my responsibility to help him when he needs my help. I was in an another complicated relationship too at the same time. We both joined different colleges and now We have mobile phones at our service. We used to go on a double date with my ex and his ex.
P: We didn’t even know that was a thing back then.
M: Yea, We went to Vaaranam Aayiram movie in Mayajal.

So that’s the movie you both first watched together?

Praveen: You have to elaborate on that. When you say the first movie together, Do you mean if together as friends, together in a double date, together as lovers, together as a couple?

Well, you don’t you elaborate on all of them?

Manjari: Then, VA is the first movie. We went to Ayan without our ex-es. We went to Vinnai Thaandi Varuvaaya when we both were in a complicated relationship. We went to Irumbukottai Murattu Singam as the people who are in relationship with each other. We went to Yaamiruka Bayam En as a married couple.
P: See the choices of our movies. They may not be that great but they seemed to be played a part in each stages of our lives.

M: So, harking back to our story where we left it, I was becoming his best friend as I was giving him ideas for his relationship and helping him with his problems and it’s the same for me too. He was becoming my best friend too. We didn’t feel for each other at that time. We were really good friends without any feelings associated. I think that’s the most important thing in a relationship, being best friends to each other truly. When we went to VA as a double date, while our ex-es lost interest in the movie and slept through it. It was us who were creating memories for the moment. We were the people truly alive and present at the moment. I termed my relationship as a complicated one because my ex was controlling and possessed a bit of abusive nature. While I was being sincere in the relationship, I got cheated on. I wasn’t really open minded at the time. I was true to my words but I wasn’t offered the same sincereity. I still continued to be in that toxic relationship. I assumed that was what love. I thought these things were inevitable. My perception was wrong and I realized it later. That was how my first year into college was like. Now, Praveen will tell about his ex.
P: Oh, she wasn’t toxic. She was a very confused person. And I realized I was confused as much as she was. I wanted to pursue it just because I didn’t want to be left behind with all the fun in life. That was wrong of me. I should have pursued it only when I really liked the person.
M: He broke up and he was down. He came to cry on shoulders and I was in that toxic relationship at that point. I helped him go through the pain and be the friend that he needed at that time. And my situation was getting worse with a relationship that had no base to be there in the first place. I reached a phase where I don’t need it anymore as it only took a toll on my mental state. I decided to get out of it. I started spending more time with Praveen. I assumed that Praveen didn’t think of me that way, other than a friend. He was really smug back then.
P: Oh come on, I was just being ridiculous.
M: Yea, you weren’t really expressive of your mind. It was the year 2009. We both really liked spending time together and we didn’t have any feelings of that sort. It was a routine thing in our days to meet each other daily, talk about each other relationship problems and eat well till the hearts are full. It was the year 2010. I was already fed up with all the lies in my relationship. I couldn’t thrive with a person who only possess an impulse to control. I got out of it finally. I only thought It’s enough to have a good friendship for life than being in such a relationship. All our friends decided to go to Queen’s land amusement park. But at the last moment, except the two of us, all the others got out of it. We were frustated and wanted to go ahead as per the plan anyway. We spend the day together.
P: Actually, this is an interesting story. Listen to this.
M: Yea, We enjoyed all the rides, we ate well, we slept through the journey. There was an interesting Rope car ride in that park that changed the whole thing. The breeze was heart-warming and I even thought this was nice, why my relationship didn’t feel this way.
P: Yea, you know when you feel that you are the only two people in the world when even a thousand people surround you. I felt that way at that moment. It was romantic. The day that’s close to my heart is Feb 13th. This happened on that day.
M: We both felt the spark and but we didn’t express it to each other. We both thought it was wrong to feel that way. This spark kept finding its place between us in various moments after this.
P: Tell about the moment that happened when we went to VTV
M: yes, It was the same month. I was at the end of my toxic relationship but not yet completely out of it. Throughout the movie, It felt really hard. I had this urge to hold his hand as my heart was heavy but something stopped me. He wasn’t expressive at that time too. We were confused on the moral grounds. We were still friends but were hiding what we truly felt. I am finally out of my relationship. I started to get on with my life. Things were going well. Praveen usually visits my home and very close with my family. One day, we were spendind the day at my home. I had this urge to tell him about a dream that I had the before night but I was hesistant to say that too. I had a dream that we were in a mall and he kissed me there. And finally I gathered the courage to tell him about the dream. But he didn’t flinch. He didn’t react. He just said,” Was that all?!”.
P: By this time, I knew what was going on. I started to realize that she was interested in me.
M: This moment changed the gear in our romantic life. I remember the day, May 22, 2010. The day was scorching with heat and suddenly the rain started to pour. We were looking out the window surprisingly. After my break up, Praveen usually teases me playfully with another guy in our friends’ gang. He usually would say that my love life is over and I had to get on with this guy here after. That day, I was leaning on his shoulder and told him, I don’t want to get on with him, Why don’t you marry me instead? And he just said, “With Pleasure”. I was spellboud. I was thinking that was it. It was so simple. I was suppressing my urge and fearing a rejection or worse being riduculed. But Praveen really knew what I wanted to hear. That was the moment. We kissed. Do you remember the color of my dress on that day, Praveen?
P: Was that the stripped one? I think it’s Magenta colour. Do you remember the colour of my shirt?
M: Nah
P: She would probably say I was wearing a t-shirt. Lets not probe her further.
M: That’s it. We are happily married ever after since then. The thing that we realized that, We shouldn’t complicate any relationship and we shouldn’t need to be in such one too. We should not do that to ourselves. We don’t deserve that.
P: We both shared a bitter past and this felt right for both of us.
M: Our college days are filled with love. We have fought too. He was in Bengaluru for a job and I was in Chennai. I love how Praveen surprises me. For my first birthday, after we confessed our love to each other, Praveen shopped the whole T.nagar shopping area and bought me 100 earrings. He loves when I were long earrings. I liked the surprise and the package it was in it.
I wrote a lot of letters to his birthdays. I cherish the memories. I consolidated 21 memories as long love letter for his 21st Birthday. One such memorable birthday for me is, We went to boating in ECR. We didn’t plan on it and went with the flow. We are in the middle of the lake and I saw another strange boat approaches towards us. I was really scared. I thought We got caught in a pickle. And then He brought out a cake from that boat and surprised me. Praveen is like that. He is a lovely person. He bought me a phone for that birthday. Now, we work together. I once surprised him with a customised newspaper that I made just for him with news about him. I don’t gift materials. I tend to gift more personalized things like poetry, paintings. And His mother caught the gifts and threw them out.

How did your family approach all this?

P: Oh, you are about hear a very funny story.
M: We are a fun couple. We don’t adhere to the stereotypes. He was in Bengaluru. I was a news presenter in Captain Media. We met two weeks once when he comes home. We went partying for his birthday on one such of his visits. Since he is just visiting his home, he keeps his bike in Bengaluru. So, I was his ride to go anywhere. We partied for his birthday. We both were drunk. But We were steady enough to handle the drive.This was how our family knows about our situation. I was dropping him off at his home and noticed a cab driver was following us all along. He somehow guessed that I would be going alone after dropping him off. Praveen noticed it too and suggested that I spend the night at his place. I informed my mom that I was doing so. I threw up in front of his gardern and managed to get into the house. He told his mom that I would be spending the night there as it was late. I slept in his sister’s room. His mom knows that we spend time together but assumed we are not that serious. The next morning, she put the question out and asked if we were serious to me. Praveen was sound asleep. His mom was asking my dad’s number to give an earful. She knew me well. She admonished me too for spending time that late together. I excused myself for a moment from her, went to his room and gave him a hard kick to answer all those tough questions that’s being thrown at me. He came and just told me go home and told his mom that he would discuss about it later and went back to sleep soundly. I used the moment of relief and escaped myself from the heated situation. Then the family knew and we explained our intentions. We were both strong. My family loves Praveen. They were okay as soon as his name dropped to the occasion. Praveen’s family was a bit tough to convince but he stood strong and spoke out to seal our relationship. We both belong to different caste but that didn’t really come in between as a hurdle. Since I broke the stereotype, My mom changed her perception about it too. She is willing to look for alliance for my sister, not based on these stereotypes. I practise what I preach. I don’t worship Gods and I don’t have a Puja room at my home. I don’t wear the Mangalsutra (the auspicious knot, “the license to marriage”) as I don’t believe in it. Praveen just believes in himself. He doesn’t have to incorporate the great leaders’ words into his life. He acts according to his heart unless it affects another fellow human being. We share the same belief. I would have married Praveen regardless of which caste he belongs to as I only believe in him and not the caste system. We are not controlling each other. We have freedom to lead each other lives. But at the end, the priority always stays with us, in our relationship as it is what anchoring both of us. Sure, We have fought a lot. Fights are inevitable but we must realize the grounds at the end and comes back to what is more important to us. Is winning a fight important? or winning the relationship important?. We both know nothing can’t replace the life we are living right now. We both thrive in it. We have a good companionship and truly believe in it too. We strongly believe that being the fellow travellers in a journey is what important. That’s why we didn’t believe in having children for us. We both were enough for us. We had a kid after 4 years into our marriage. We got married in 2015 at our 24 years of age. We were more into creating memories for ourselves than saving things for future. We plan leaves for Valentine’s day, the days that mark importance, like love proposed day, birthdays, new years in our lives. We celebrate them annually. We relive those memory and keep it alive every year. This is our priority. We are our prioirty. We keep the fun alive. Even a small gift can make our day. I made a treasure hunt kinda thing for his last birthday. Fun is all that matters. We didn’t plan for a child for 4 years into the marrigae. The couple has the freedom to decide when they want to be the parents. They should be able to distiguish between their physical needs and making a family. It’s hightime people are aware of the differece. No one should be forced to become a parent. We looked at all the options. We consulted doctor and told that we were not ready for children. It is essential. It shouldn’t be stigmatized.

P: We have crossed all the struggles that any common couple would have faced. We have fought a lot. But it never broke our relationship.

M: Yes, Praveen accepts and embrace the reality. He maintains the core even when I throw a fit. As the relationship grows old, We get matured too. It’s all started with school friendship and we are in the same workplace. It has come as a full circle.

What do you feel like a secret in a relationship?

M: There is no secret ingredient. Both of them should adjust and be mutual. They should not control each other’s natual instincts. They should be the best companion to each other. The relationship should be celebrated rather dumping it under a stereotype.

They are enjoying exclusive Valentine’s day with this awesome gifts and it continues…

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