How We Met
Dan and I met at a speakeasy in New York City. He asked to buy me a drink, and I said yes. Half an hour into one of the best conversations I’ve ever had at a bar, I realised that I needed to leave for a friend’s birthday party out of the city. This meant that when Dan asked to buy me another drink, I had to turn him down.
On my way to the event on the Amtrak, I realised how it must’ve come off – like I’d used the typical ‘a friend needs me’ blow off! I texted him telling him that I had the best time at the bar and that I’d love to see him again. Thank God I did, because later, Dan told me that he thought he’d never see me again that night! Little did he know that, two years later, he’d be down on one knee during a proposal!
We went for our a second date on a weeknight. It was on a rooftop, and we talked for eight hours straight! I remember it distinctly, because I went into work the next day with only two hours of sleep! I’m a big believer in gut feelings, and I think that, by the way we opened up to each other on only the second time we met, it felt like we had known each other all along. There was a familiarity and a connection there that neither of us thought that we’d ever find.
After two months of casually seeing each other, Dan asked me if I’d like to go to Boston with him for a UMiami vs. Boston College game; I went to UM & he’s from Boston. I don’t think he had any plans for me to meet the family, but as fate would have it, we passed by his sister’s house for a few minutes – and those few minutes were a game-changer. Seeing him interact and play with his nieces, something hit me. I realised that my heart was at peace around him and that he embodied every single quality I always imagined, and hoped, for my partner to have.
I remember this distinctive calm feeling that I had never had in the US before. I’m from India, and came to America for college, deciding to stay for work afterwards. I felt that, around Dan, I was home. After two years of dating, one very awkward (at first!) holiday to Iceland to meet my Punjabi family, a cross country move from New York to Los Angeles, and a million adventures later, he finally popped the question!
Dan and I had definitely talked about a future together, but, because of the Coronavirus pandemic, all of our travel plans for this year had been cancelled. Despite this, we were still able to visit his family’s lake house in Newport, Vermont! It was the most grounding, peaceful, away-from-all-the-noise-trip, and we both really needed it. I wasn’t expecting a proposal at all, though! I didn’t ever think that he’d be able to figure out the logistics during a pandemic!
One day of the trip, Dan said that we should take the boat out to a nice restaurant on the water, and that I should dress up nicely. I was super excited to be able to put on a nice dress after four months of pyjamas, as well as being able to actually eat out! The boat ride was beautiful. Dan got pretty sentimental – which in the moment, I chalked off to him having a few beers. Little did I know!
We got to the boating dock, and Dan’s four nieces were holding up a sign that read ‘Will You Marry Me?‘. I don’t think my heart has ever beaten so fast. I looked at him and he went down on one knee – I swear that I have absolutely no memory of what he said; all I remember is crying! He was down there for about five minutes and had to repeat “I guess that’s a yes…?!”. Of course, I replied with the loudest ‘yes’ (and more tears!). We celebrated with his family, and got back on the boat for the most stunning sunset I have ever seen in my life, with a view of Canadian mountains.
Of course, finding him and saying yes to marrying him was an absolute dream come true, but to top it off, I found out later that he had FaceTimed my uncle in India, who’s always been a father figure to me, but especially so after my dad passed away eight years ago, and asked him for his blessings. He also imported an ethically-sourced diamond ring from South Africa, which happens to be my favorite country in the whole world. These gestures are two amongst a million reasons I love him more and more every day.
The Cross-Culture Hurdle
A few months into dating, I knew that Dan was the one. Unfortunately, for me, it just wasn’t that simple. Once our relationship got serious, I started to worry about our cultural differences. Thoughts like ‘will he ever accept my culture?, ‘what will my parents say?’, and ‘will he like my big, loud Punjabi family?’ were piling up in my head, as my heart and my brain played tug-of-war.
Although I’ve been in the US for eight years, it was still hard to shake off the idea that I was ‘supposed to’ marry within my religion, my caste, and my culture. It got to the point where I almost thought about giving up and calling it quits; my brain had convinced me that the relationship would just be too hard. When I expressed this to Dan one day, he said: “You and our family will always be first. Nothing else matters”. Feeling very conflicted, I had a late-night FaceTime venting session with my best friend. I remember her saying: “Sometimes in life, you just have to jump and take a leap of faith. Let life figure the rest out.” So that’s what I did!
During my next visit to India, I told my family about our relationship. Like many Indian parents, they had their apprehensions. I’m fortunate to have parents who, ultimately, believe in love. They’ve given me immense freedom to make choices for myself and follow my dreams. Even, then, though, there are stereotypes of Americans that are so ingrained in our society that they couldn’t help but wonder if this relationship would be right for me, who they still see as their little girl!
Unfortunately, instead of looking at an individual’s qualities, a lot of parents can be crippled by societal constructs of who we’re ‘supposed to’ marry. I knew that, no matter what I said, it wouldn’t influence my family’s viewpoints unless they met Dan and saw what I had; that stereotypes are gross generalisations and oversimplified ideas of things that are unfamiliar.
Meeting The Family
After days of convincing, my finally family decided to take a trip to Iceland to meet Dan, who would fly there from the US for the weekend. The first time he met my mum, he immediately touched her feet. This is a tradition to show respect in our culture, and it made a significant impact on my parents. I’ll never forget it. At the end of the trip, I asked my uncle to step aside for a chat. I asked him what he thought of Dan. I was so nervous – his acceptance has always meant everything to me. He took a sip of his beer, and took a long pause. Then, he said: “I would be so happy if this is the guy you marry. I think your dad would be, too.” He’s a man of few words, so that sentence meant the absolute world to me!
From then on, the relationship was so far beyond anything I ever could have expected. Dan learnt the family tree, including all of my extended relatives, indulged in spicy Punjabi food, binged Bollywood classics, and learnt to cook butter chicken with my mother. Not only did he accept my culture, he embraced it all. He approached it with the purest love, utmost curiosity and a willingness to learn.
At time went on, my parents, especially my mum, started loving him – probably more than they love me! It was then that I realised that, before we’re anything else, we’re all human. If you’d have told me three years ago that I would meet someone who, quite literally, grew up on the opposite side of the world, yet whose values, principles, goals and habits would align so uncannily with mine, I would tell you that you were crazy. As we now prepare for our Hindu/Catholic wedding, I can’t help but think back to those words:
“Sometimes in life, you just have to jump and take a leap of faith. Let life figure the rest out.”
Where We Are Now
Dan and I are currently quarantining in our apartment in Los Angeles. We are hoping for things to get back to normal soon, so that we can kick-off the planning for our Hindu/Catholic weddings in India & Boston. Hopefully they can happen next year – fingers crossed! As for the future, we are just focusing on staying safe and staying together. We plan on visiting my family in India soon. Hopefully at some point, we can add a puppy to our family, too!