Photos: Garima Aneja 

 

‘So, you all know that I’ve taken a few days off work to go on a vacation with my friends,’ I told my very conservative family over dinner. ‘And we’ve been planning this for months now.’

The family looked at me expectantly. I continued: ‘Well, within the past few days, my friends have backed out one by one. We’re meant to make our departure in three days and we’re down to just me and another person.’My father raised an eyebrow. ‘Where are you going with this?’

‘I still would like to go on this trip with Siddhartha, because he’s going to be flying into Delhi all the way from Houston, and it just wouldn’t be fair to him if we didn’t go through with the plan.’

‘Who is this Siddhartha?’ my father demanded, realising that this other person was, in fact, a man.

‘You know his dad from the Air Force! You know his whole family,’ I said, without missing a beat.

 

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I come from a military family. My father was assigned to a different air base in India every few years, so my childhood was spent moving from town to town. We never stayed long enough for me to make good friends at school, so I sought out other military kids who understood our unique circumstances. These kids became my closest friends.

Siddhartha was also a military kid. We’d known each other as children, but lost touch. Years later, in 2006, when I was a college student in New Delhi, we ran into each other at a party. We had a fun chat but didn’t exchange numbers.

 

 

Garima and Siddhartha on their wedding day.

 

I would not see Siddhartha again until seven years later, in November 2013. My best friend was about to get married, and Siddhartha, now based in the US, was flying in for the wedding.

‘You have to keep him company,’ the bride ordered. I accepted readily. At the wedding, we drank, danced, and realised we really got along. After my friend slipped him my number, we began texting each other. The time difference between New Delhi and Houston was a pain, but we grew closer, progressing to video calls. Around this time, our mutual friends began planning a trip to Dharamkot in the north of India – a beautiful village in the hills. Siddhartha and I agreed to tag along.

 

Date No. 1

The couple on a trekking trip.

 

This brings us to May 2014. After securing my parents’ approval to travel alone with Siddhartha, we were on our own for the 10-hour bus ride to the hills. Conversation came easily because we had similar personalities and the same sense of humour. I had never felt more comfortable with anybody else. The chemistry was palpable. As the bus chugged along, we found ourselves holding hands.

Surrounded by beautiful rolling hills, we discovered our common love for travel and food. On the way back to Delhi, Siddhartha mentioned that since moving to Houston, he had missed eating Indian mangoes. I asked my mother if she could buy some for him before he headed back to the US, and he came to my house to eat them. He met my parents and easily charmed them with his pleasant disposition and good manners.

 

Date No. 2
After Siddhartha went back to the US, I moved to Mumbai for a professional singing gig. We kept up our video chats and online messaging. To get him to share more about himself, I’d initiate a game of 100 Questions once in a while. We could speak for hours about jazz music and our shared childhood experiences.

Going into this relationship, I knew I was working towards getting married. But as my feelings for Siddhartha grew over the next few months, I worried that I might be getting ahead of myself.

When I shared my concerns with my sister, she asked: ‘What do you dislike about this boy?’ I could not think of a single thing. So she said: ‘Then what’s stopping you from marrying him?’

I brought up the topic of marriage with Siddhartha, who revealed that he felt the same way. And I was his first real girlfriend.

 

“We bought cheap rings from a flea market so we could use them for sizing, to make real rings for each other.”

 

In November 2014, he flew to Mumbai for my birthday. This was our second date, and I took him to a music festival. After the event, we travelled to his parents’ home. They sensed I was more than a friend, and welcomed me with lots of questions about myself. The warm reception was a sign we could take it further.

After the visit, we travelled to Goa for a day. ‘Let’s get rings,’ he said. We bought cheap rings from a flea market so we could use them for sizing, to make real rings for each other. It’s customary in Indian culture for each person to have their spouse’s ring made. Rings in hand, we both called our parents excitedly to share the news.

‘Siddhartha and I have decided to take things further,’ I announced to mine. They were thrilled. Plus, it helped that both sets of parents already knew each other because of their shared military history. They jumped straight into the wedding planning.

 

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Date No. 3
We met again in January 2015.

‘Wear something nice,’ Siddhartha said. ‘I bet you’re going to give me my engagement ring,’ I told him, when we arrived at the restaurant. Siddhartha was wearing a suit. Could he be any more obvious? That night, we exchanged rings. Yes, it was predictable. Yet, we were so overcome with emotion, we couldn’t even finish our dinner. This was our third date. And we were engaged.

 

Happily married.

 

Ten months later, we got married and had a big wedding banquet in New Delhi. I spent some time with him in Houston before heading to Hawaii for our honeymoon. It was the longest stretch of time we’d ever spent with one another.

After that, I moved back to my parents’ house while Siddhartha arranged to move closer to me. Our five-month separation was agonising. Fortunately, he managed to get a posting to his company’s Singapore office, and I made the decision to go with him. In March 2016, we made the big move, and have been living here ever since.

 

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This article was originally published in the February 2018 issue of Her World.