The Case Of The Missing Butterflies In My Tummy - Agents of Ishq

The Case Of The Missing Butterflies In My Tummy

By Tinaz

Illustration by Nikhita Thomas

Anu said she’d spent most of fifth and sixth standard trying to twist Irfan into falling for her. In seventh standard, her plan came to fruition and she was the first of us to be in a relationship. It was two months of stolen glances between them and jealous giggles between us in Celine Miss’s class, before the PT sir – Nizar sir, caught the two of them walking on the boys’ corridor and took them aside to “talk”. There was no getting past Nizar sir, we knew, but A was sneaky and she was confident she could do it. We weren’t sure if her boyfriend could, though. He was an always bored looking fellow, and I can’t remember if that was her doing or not. He had the mysterious, jet-black long hair, lanky bad boy charm, sans the “bad”. The lunch bell rang and Anu came back with her normally bouncy hair swinging sadly on her navy blue pinafore-d shoulders, and we offered speeches of condolences before the next period’s teacher came in.

We assured her that she would get someone better, maybe in the ninth standard.

Two years passed and most of us disbanded and formed smaller groups of three. I’d forgotten Anu’s quest for romance, mainly because I was too busy focussing on my own. Naveed was popular, nerdy, curly-haired and armed with dimples so deep, I could dig wells into them. I’d stare at him in Maths class but not English. I’d imagine writing long love letters in my best handwriting telling him how much I liked him. I’d whine to my friends about how attractive the newly sprouting podi meesha on his face was. I never imagined being with him, going on dates with him or kissing him, though my friends and all the English movies I watched told me I should be doing exactly that. I thought that maybe, like most of my life, I had starting trouble and that if I gave myself a good, hard push, I’d fall into the colourful hormone pool everyone was swimming in. I wasn’t going to rob myself of the quintessential “teenager experience” of loving and hoping and dreaming because of stage fright.

Excitement is not the word for what my body went through when I thought about being with Naveed. I convinced myself that I wasn’t feeling any butterflies in my stomach because they were still sleepy caterpillars, waiting to grow. So I wrote him a letter. On a white sheet of paper, I wrote what I imagined I should’ve felt when I thought about kissing him. And I kept doing this. Kept repeating this pattern of thinking about how “normal” people would react to attractive classmates, hot celebrities and the likes and applied it to how I thought and conversed about him.

The caterpillars in my stomach never got a chance to evolve. I let them sit there, waiting their turn.


Two relationships, four years and a move to a coconut tree-less Bangalore later, I got into a relationship that felt like a warm morning in an otherwise cold November. We were best friends and when I asked (shouted) him out while we were stuck in traffic in a very loud Electronic City, it felt like I was asking him to be my bestest best friend, instead of the traditional boyfriend. He said yes, and we did pretty much the same things we did before – fight, joke, help with assignments and share food—except now we held hands. I was happy but my caterpillars showed no signs of change, and they seemed to be growing in number.

It was around this time that Bangalore was opening up a rainbow-coloured world to me, and in my second year of college, I learned about asexuality. I discovered then that actually my friends and I thought about intimacy in very different ways. Until then, I thought everybody felt the way I did when I thought about sleeping with someone – squirmy. I used to pin my feelings to my Indian upbringing where we never spoke about sexual health or sexuality or anything of the sort. It surprised me how easily the term ‘asexual’ fit itself inside my stomach and made me feel warm and full, like I’d just eaten a bowl of kanji. Finally, I felt free to tailor my own fantasies and not fit myself into hand-me-down ideas of fantasy.

I felt like I was in love, not with somebody, but with this newfound knowledge of myself. My caterpillars had finally grown into blue butterflies that made me giggle and occasionally hiccup.

I was slightly jolted out of my Shah Rukh Khan’s heroine moment when I realised I had a boyfriend who wasn’t ace.  I wasn’t sure about breaking up with him because he was also my best friend. But I knew I had to pursue this part of myself as devotedly and persistently as Anu did Irfan.

Sitting at Tata Cha, our conversation kept going in circles like the rings of tea in my cup. He was convinced that we could make it work. I was confident that we would be losing something in the process.


This was almost two years ago. And although I’m not sure if I’ve learnt a whole lot about myself, I know I’ve gotten more comfortable with who I am. The space around me doesn’t feel balmy and pressurised, like the inside of a pressure cooker. Rather, when I spend time with myself, it’s like watching a good K-drama with some ramen after a hard day.

I stepped out of that hormone pool I had forced myself into five years ago and honestly, I’ve never felt freer. Maybe cycling’s more my thing. Who knows?

Tinaz is usually found looking up at clouds or doing unpaid promo for Korean dramas on Netflix. She loves 2am chais and constantly updating her ‘To Read’ list. She writes occasionally at 



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