I met my husband Kishan in 2005 with my friend Niko, on our very first trip to India.
How I met my husband: First time in India
We were travelling north for a month, and I still think our meeting with Kishan was a miracle. We were in the middle of no-where in the centre of rural India, and if anyone had told me then that I had just met my husband, my eyes would have popped out of their sockets in disbelief. The feeling Niko and I had with Kishan was very strong though. We both absolutely loved his smile, and although we clearly still were very naive India-travellers, we knew Kishan was genuine and honest. Today I think this is a miracle because I have realised how much the young male population of Khajuraho is interested in foreign white skin, and especially their money.
During our four days in Khajuraho, we spent all of our time with our new friends, mostly cycling in the surrounding countryside, visiting small villages nearby and talking about life. I didn’t even visit the famous temples of Khajuraho because I was sick the day Niko went to see them with Kishan and his friend, but these four days were definitely one of the highlights of my first time in India, because our connection with the locals was so special.
How I met my husband: Back in Scotland
After Niko and I left Khajuraho to continue our journey, we kept in touch with our “young Indian brother” by email. His messages for the next two years would not contain much more than “hello my dear sister”, “how is your health”, “how is your family” or “happy diwali”, and I had to read the messages out loud twice, sometimes three times to make out the meanings of Kishan’s terribly misspelled words. I was living in Edinburgh, UK at the time, and my first Indian trip had deeply moved my heart. Every few months India kept coming back to haunt me, through an Indian music concert at the yoga centre, a film (Water) at the cinema that blew me away, a postcard from our Indian brother whose fragrance took me back to India, a phone call with a background of rickshaw horns… I knew I would go back to India for a long time some day and I really wanted to learn Hindi.
How I met my husband: India again for a year
When the right time came I flew back to India, end of 2007. I didn’t know how long I was going to stay – perhaps six months, perhaps a year, perhaps more. I firstly travelled for two months round the south of India with two friends. When I spoke to Kishan on the phone about coming to Khajuraho to learn Hindi immersed in his family, I asked how long I could stay. I remember it clearly: my friends and I were sitting in a south Indian restaurant eating on those big banana leaves when Kishan rang me, and I had to go out to hear him because it was too loud inside the restaurant. I felt so much joy speaking with him! I asked him how long I could stay and he told me between two irresistible bursts of laughter “One year, two years…” I was still heart-broken from a previous relationship and the thought that I would at last be loved came to me, somehow. I didn’t know why, but I already felt extremely welcome and I knew it would be a huge relief.
And so I arrived in Khajuraho for the second time at the end of January 2008. It was really cold, and after two months in South India I had travelled fourty hours north and I didn’t have any appropriate clothing with me. It was already dark when the bus reached its final destination, at about 8 o’clock, and in that cold evening after such a long trip on my own, Kishan’s incredibly warm smile instantly comforted me. I had only seen him four days in my life and yet I felt so very welcome! I had never expected he would hug me hello, and he too was surprised by his own hug, for he had never hugged a woman before.
How I met my husband: Learning Hindi & traditional Indian family life
I spent two and a half months there in this Indian family. In the house lived Kishan with his mother, his three youngest sisters and his little brother. My very first impression that first dark evening, was that the house was totally empty. There was no furniture at all in the living room, and in the kitchen nothing except for a metal shelf containing utensils hanging off the white wall and a dilapidated wooden cupboard. After I had arrived the sisters started cooking paratha squatting on the dark cement floor. I thought the family was very poor, although today I know how comfortable the house actually was compared to their neighbours. I still very much had a “Mother Teresa” attitude at the time, and I was very naive about India. I wanted to help everybody, and it took me months to realise that all of Kishan’s friends were just after my bum and tits! He had never been interested in dating foreigners, though.
For the first three weeks I spent my days watching and getting to know the family, learning Hindi from my Teach Yourself Hindi book and trying to apply it with the family. It was very difficult at first because I couldn’t find my way round Hindi grammar, which seemed totally alien to me, and whenever I asked a grammatical question to Kishan he would just tell me “This is a helping word.” But those two and half months were an amazing kick for me, as they forced me to start practising the pronunciation of all those weird consonants, words and sentences.
I watched and watched and watched, I took photos and videos of the sisters making chapati (flat bread) on the floor and the mother cleaning grain and rice, and I would smile or pull embarrassing faces to the family when they laughed at me for eating chapati and banana together, or they would laugh at my tiny socks and I at their flip-flop, skin-coloured socks. One sister would apply henna to my hair, another drew henna on my arms, and the third enjoyed dressing me like a doll to go to a wedding.
How I met my husband: Getting closer and closer…
Kishan was a bit like my protector and saviour, because he was the only one speaking English so I depended on him for everything – a rest from Hindi, some company to go to town, some explanations on why you do this and how you do that… We would go for walks in the neighbouring countryside and he would tell me which one is the mango tree or the papaya tree or the neem tree, or whose animal cry that was. He would explain to me countless mythology stories (most of which I have forgotten), take me to visit the nearby temples or to a picnic on a friend’s farm field where we made a delicious meal, rolling chapati with our hands and cooking them on dried cow-dung. One evening, a very popular sadhu from Khajuraho died in meditation posture, and Kishan took me to see his body. The temple was packed, and he took my hand to protect me from the pushing crowd. We were not together yet and it was the last time he took my hand in Khajuraho.
It was amazing to discover traditional Indian family life with Kishan. Of course we got closer and closer as I learnt about this new life, his life. We did all we could to resist, but a few weeks after my arrival the evidence – which we hid for a solid two years – was inevitable…
Read more : Secret relationship: Development & revelation