You stole my heart
But I’ll let you keep it.
My husband and I ate super with our hostel boys; all twenty-two seated at three long wooden tables end to end. They were pleading with us to tell them our “love story.” At home, I was not the revered “Principal,” just one of the family. We were compelled to give in —I hoped it matched up to their dreams and high romantic Hindi movie expectations; the kinds with A-Z in them.
I began my dialogue and the room of teenage boys went silent (which was an extraordinary phenomenon). A crowd of eager faces surrounded me, straining to catch every word. I assured them it would be the “shortened summary” rather than the “full version.” But they continued to press and demand, Tell us, Aunty, how did you meet? How did you fall in love? We were cornered, so I began:
Once Upon A Time
“Uncle and I were volunteers at a children’s home along with a British fellow, Brian. One sunny hot day, Brian went across the dusty campus to see Uncle (Ken) and announced that he needed to talk to him concerning a serious matter. Obviously, Uncle showed immediate concern. Brian did not work up gently to the matter, he burst forth like a bomb; “It’s about Frieda.” Ken looked alarmed, “What’s wrong? Is she sick?” Brian looked impatient and shook his head. “No! She’s fine! Open up your eyes, don’t you see her? There she is across the campus! Ask her to marry you!” Brian turned abruptly and left Ken feeling rather befuddled and highly perplexed.
Next, Brian made his way to the opposite side of the campus where I was. Again, his approach was straight to the target; he drew cupid’s arrow, “Frieda, you’d better start praying, because Ken (Uncle) is going to ask you to marry him.” Now I was the one who was puzzled. What a remarkable thing to say!
Dear Brian left the two of us in a state of wonderous confusion, that is, we were both doubting if it was true? What was true? Truthfully, was it what we wanted? And in truth, it had never occurred to either of us before. Whoa! Were we mixed up!
I began to think about Brian’s declaration, but became so emotionally excited, that taking Brian’s advice seriously was difficult. He told me to pray about it, so I prayed about it the best I could. As I put the matter before God, one thought kept running in the back of my mind which blocked God answering me with a “no.” It was the over-riding thought that I wanted to marry Ken. I had to tell God quite firmly, and yet as politely and sincerely as possible, “Lord, if you don’t want me to marry him, you’re going to have to stop me. Otherwise, I’ll say ‘yes’.
Ken also thought about it seriously, and the more he thought about it, the more he thought Brian might have a good idea. So, Ken hatched up a plan. He decided I needed to help him go shopping in Dehradun. He was strategic with his plot, down to the last detail. First, he told me to go in the night before and meet him in Dehradun the next day. He even arranged a place for me to stay with friends. This request was unusual, obviously premeditated, and had the looks of a conspiracy. Ken and I had never done anything outside of the children’s home together. Certainly, we’d never gone shopping together; it was nothing but suspicious.
I spent the night in Dehradun and met Ken at the rendezvous spot the next day. Ah-ha! Trailing behind him were about a dozen little boys, the ones he was taking shopping. My hopes were dashed! But when he saw me, the shopping plan went kerplop. He turned to the boys and basically said, “Get lost” … of course that’s not really what he said, but that’s what he meant. He also made a rendezvous spot and time with them.
With obvious nervousness, he asked, “Do you want to get a cup of coffee?” I willingly complied; Ken loved coffee. It turned out he was a patron to the only chai shop in Dehradun which served coffee. It was Deepak’s Chai Shop, located directly across from the main post office.
We sat down across from each other on the simple, well-worn and smoothed out wooden bench from having countless bottoms sliding across it. The table was dirty and stained from numerous spills; crumbs were immediately dealt with when a young boy whisked a filthy rag across it. The crumbs went flying in different directions. It was now clean.
I began to think it might really happen like Brian said, for Ken was acting very peculiar. He was nervous, and assuredly, I felt just as nervous. Without further ado, he began his speech:
“Frieda, you are mother to all those girls at the home, and I am father to the boys; it’s like a family. I think it would be a good idea for us to get married… what do you think?”
It was not a romantic red-roses lined poem, nor the on his knee’s stance,
BUT HE WAS SERIOUS, AND HAD ASKED ME
For me, nothing at that moment was more important than to answer his question. I had prayed about it. I loved Ken and held him in respect, but had never expected to be asked this question.
God did not stop me… I wasn’t ill, I could still talk, there was no lightning bolt that had struck me, nor any apparent negative response from God, so in answer to Ken’s question, I replied, “Yes, it seems good.”
And there you have it, an agreement was struck. He breathed a sigh of relief, and said, “Let’s go get some lunch.” Then he took me for lunch at a more expensive restaurant to celebrate.
Our short romance, no dates, and Ken’s proposal may not have been a Bollywood production, but the great thing is that we’ve had a marriage that has lasted now for nearly 45 years, and I suppose that’s how the Hindi movie love story ends up, with humour, a few times of unhappiness, and lots of emotions. Sure, marriages are full of all those things, but ours ends in a “happily ever after.”