A Near Engagement
The other day I had a couple hours to kill before we met for dinner, so I took my camera and went for a walk. I was actually headed to one place in particular, but the ladies I wanted to photograph weren’t there, so instead of immediately turning around I decided to continue on down a road where I hadn’t been.
As I meandered, I stopped to take many photos along the way. Inevitably kids along the road ask me to take their photos as well and I’m usually always pretty happy to do it. Sometimes, adults ask me to take their photos as well, so I wasn’t all that surprised by one 20-something guy slowly walking along nearby me. I also noticed that the straps on his sandals dragged on the group with every step and served no visible purpose. Eventually this man rallied the courage to approach me. Instead of immediately asking me for a photo, he proceeded to have a conversation with me entirely in Hindi, despite my insistence that I didn’t understand anything.
I welcomed a bicycle delivery man’s interruption and saw it as a chance to get on with my photo walk. The young man caught back up and eventually understood that I was just walking around taking photos. So he motioned for me to follow him to a good photo location.
So I did follow him. And he did take me to a beautiful place. I’m not so good photographing landscape, but the field and the houses beyond were definitely a beautiful sight. I looked at him to show my appreciate for the scene, but he gestured to the kid pooing in the outdoor toilet behind him. Yuck! He wasn’t taking me to the field, but to the Indian portapotty.
By this point the guy was my friend. I used my two Hindi sentences on him and impressed him thoroughly. The only problem was he couldn’t get my name right for the life of him. My name is Lizzie. Raji? Li-zi. Liji? Li-Zi. Lisi? As we walked further I would sometimes hear him say something quietly like Raju or Ruji, then I’d correct him again and we’d repeat the conversation. (Truth is, I can’t remember his name either. It was something with an A, so lets just call him Ameer for the rest of this post.)
Mostly I was just walking along and he and a few kids were following me. That’s really quite normal in India, so when he suggested a second place to go, I didn’t mind acquiescing.
The next place Ameer took me was to a house and he immediately ran inside and motioned for me to wait outside for a moment. Before I could even look at my surroundings at least five new kids ran up to me and wanted me to take their photos. The older girls knew a few English words and told me they were his sister. They pulled me over to the adjoining house and dragged a woman, who was sewing, outside to have her photo taken as well. I supposed that it was the woman’s husband who came home in that minute and told me No, thank you. The girls pleaded and he conceded, so I took a few photos of their entire family.
After the photo session, I said goodbye and started to walk away. As I walked by the house where Ameer was, I saw him next to the water pump very intently grooming himself. He was still clothed, but he was most definitely washing his entire body, completely sudsy, and washing as fast as he could.
The girls insisted I take their grandmother’s photo, and that I sit down to do so. They pulled up a red plastic chair and I sat down, snapped a couple photos and immediately Ameer came over sporting a new shirt and shoes. He gave me a How do you like me now? look and then the entire family encircled me with expectant eyes.
They want me to marry this man!!! The thought screamed through my head as I quickly stood up and made my escape. To my dismay, Ameer followed me and continued walking with me. My pace was brisker this time, but that didn’t deter him any because now he was wearing polished white sneakers!
Even as we walked away from his home, he continued offering me chai and coffee because he realized they were two words we had in common.
Then, all of the sudden out of NOWHERE, Ameer knew a phrase in English. “Kiss me,” he said. Ick, no way. I sternly told him no and even glared at him, but he continued to walk with me, even singing as we walked. You wouldn’t believe it, but he had another phrase tucked away. “This is my girlfriend,” he said to me, about me. This time I stopped and looked directly at him and said no. I stepped up my game and I said “I am…” and then I pointed to the center of my forehead (the dot) and indicated a line just above that where my hairline meets my forehead. (The combo of the two indicates that a woman is married.)
Victory! He understood! We continued walking, my destination in sight. He asked if I had a baby and when I said no baby and not pregnant I think I lost all credibility and he didn’t believe me anymore. No matter because we reached my destination.
Had I been interested, I am certain I could have had a second husband.