Picking up from where I left off last time; I’m curious to know which of the four you picked as my likely bed-mate. Take a guess if you haven’t already….
I come from quite a traditional, loving, Roman-Catholic, Indian background. Despite my conventional upbringing, my close friends always knew that the person I chose to live my life with, would have to be someone mighty unconventional. When exposed to the multi-faceted personality traits I possess; any insane (not a typo) human being is bound to be driven even more insane. I appear smart, elegant, calm and poised. And that I am. But what most people don’t know, is that there’s a raging storm beneath… of ideas, travel plans, art, emotions, imagined emotions, and I’m quite certain, a great deal of crazy.
My freaky wavelengths matched one other that fateful night and that’s how I ended up, deliriously happy, in this very inconvenient marriage. I said yes to the German. PS- that sounded like all four companions asked; but no they didn’t. And the German had the sense to romance me silly, shine a diamond in my face and ask while on another train four years later. I had to say yes.
There I go, off-tracking again. Let me explain inconvenient to you. Don’t get me wrong, there is no sorrow, no tales of woe in this description but one big herculean load of inconvenience. It’s become a running gag between us that the easiest thing in our relationship was falling in love. All the rest…
To begin with, there was two of everything intruding into our budding relationship: countries, culture, language, religion, food tastes, time zones and the biggest demon of all- bureaucracy.
All because two people in love wanted to legally endorse their relationship and live together, ugly paperwork reared its frenzied head. Germany wanted to prove I wasn’t an Indian marrying their son just to have a shot at a better life. (Read: work and stay permission and unrestricted access to Schengen countries). And so in the months that followed, the paper piled high and our pockets sunk lower. There we were awaiting German Government approval to say we could get married and I had no ulterior motives. Imagine that! I didn’t know I was on the edge of the pan, about to be pushed into the fire.
A representative of the German consulate showed up unannounced at my door-step and conducted his own little investigation-involving my parents, neighbours and hand-written letters- to ensure I wasn’t already married. My sleepy neighbours were roused from their sacred afternoon siesta and with IDs in hand, they came to the aid of their unmarried-girl-next-door. As if the indignity of this wasn’t enough, I had to endure embarrassing tales from the neighbours about my childhood; in the presence of Mr-I-Represent-the-German-Consulate-Do-Not-Mess-With-Me.
Several months later, after our documents were tired of playing ping-pong between Hamburg and Delhi; I was called to a final interview in Mumbai. All the lady had to do, was check my papers and either approve or disapprove. But no, she felt obliged to subject me to detailed questions of how, when and where we met; all the while cross-checking travel dates on both our passports. And then I was fingerprinted. The number of times I had to remind myself I wasn’t a criminal: countless.
My linguistic abilities were also put to test as a pre-requisite for my German Marriage Visa (yes, something like that exists!). I needed to pass a German Language A1 exam. Try learning German in Goa which at the time had no formal course, working two jobs and training the fiancée in Indian tradition! I’m kidding about the last part.
I’ve always wanted to be married in Church and my now husband doesn’t have a religion. Do the math. Catholic girl, no religion boy. I’m going to spare you the gory details of the church approval and pre-marriage course. Let’s just leave it at difficult. (I’m saying this through clenched teeth.)
Over the four years it took us to sort through the sea of differences and celebrate them along the way, I was always struck by how integral technology had become to our relationship. I felt like I had a new body part: a screen, sometimes in plural. We had a go at every obscure App available. After one too many virtual dates, your nerves get frayed and all you long for is to meet each other on a Friday evening, being able to touch, smell the coffee, devour the Bhel Puri or Bratwurst and to do so regularly. Not every couple of months. Finally, we now have that reality and its sheer bliss to have an actual date with no screens presiding.
There’s a lot you miss out when in a long distance relationship but an equal amount you learn about each other: patience levels when your internet connection drops 15 times in one call. How tame or wild your temper is when you’re apart for seven agonizing months. Your ability at understanding the spirit of a message and not only the letter, because when you have a native German speaker communicating in English, there’s a lot that’s lost in translation. We’ve somersaulted down that tricky slope a million times. I’ve only just begun speaking German more fluently and I already told my colleague to have fun at an event he explained and I understood as a choir practice. Turns out he was singing at a funeral.
As a mixed couple, our biggest decision was in which country to begin. My husband is quite the travel enthusiast himself, having a dozen countries he’s visited and two he’d lived in besides Germany: India and Slovakia. He was originally on an internship program to China and a week before he could leave, things fell through and India was his only option. Despite weeping protests from his mother he took it. The rest is history. Her fears of her son falling prey to some exotic force came true: Me!
My parents were suspiciously happy and supportive when I told them I was dating a German. Something had to be amiss, but they didn’t let on. Not until Kay asked them for my hand in marriage and they said yes. Once the ring was on my finger, their questions came out in anxious gasps: WHAT DO YOU MEAN HE HAS NO RELIGION? What will you write on paper? What about the kids? How do you know it will work out? He’s German and not a football fan?
Eventually both sets of parents came around and their acceptance far exceeded our expectations. The first time they met however was close to a mini disaster as there was no common language. Three bottles of wine saved the day as I quietly made sure every glass was brimming. Soon enough there were tears and laughter and photos and presents. My parents were talking German and Kay’s replied in English (or so they all thought). Believe me, it is a blessing they don’t have words to communicate. Just faces, hands and feet.
Our inconvenient marriage was born after we had two surreal weddings in Germany and Goa, complete with a Polterabend (German tradition of smashing porcelain for luck) and a Roce (Indian tradition of bathing the couple in coconut milk). More about this in the future…
Hamburg came out at the top in our country selection and here’s where we are before we jump to another country. It is bursting with history and we live in a multi-cultural district called St Georg. The vibe here is such an erratic and non-judgmental one, it inspires me every day. A Portuguese church, prostitutes, Turkish restaurants, gay bars, Afghani shops, petite coffee shops, druggies, an English theater, a Kinder-garden and gifted street musicians happily co-exist. My favorite is a drummer who regularly whacks the life out his drums at the main train station, producing some intoxicating tunes that the crowds can’t help but dance to.
Being in a mixed relationship is as exciting as it is challenging. Each day holds something new for us to learn as a couple and it is rare if it isn’t inconvenient. I have a German language B1 exam next week and Kay is mastering the German tax system that is much kinder to married couples.
Our tastes in food are such that our breakfast table often has sausages, cheese, coconut milk, chapatti, dhal and baguette all at the same time. People have the most questions about the food we eat. “Is it German or Indian?” Do you eat spicy or bland?” “Do you fight over food?”
We tell them that it’s never one or the other, it’s never yours over mine. It’s a compromise, a meeting half-way between. A blend of two or more tastes. And that’s how I like to think our relationship works. A coming together of very inconvenient factors, stripped of their inconvenience by the big ‘L’, the four letter force we share.
On that note, Auf Wiedersehen, and May the Force be with you!