When I met an Afghan guy on a dance floor in Delhi I didn’t really think much of it. Well, I mean, that’s if you don’t count the mildly offensive suspicions I had about a Muslim being at a nightclub; a nightclub Muslim? Nonsensical, right? It goes against everything the stereotypes ever told us. Anyway, you can imagine the surprise I got the next day when he found me on Facebook and handed me an out-of-nowhere declaration of his undying love. From fear to fascination to the birth of a weird sort of cyber relationship thing, I learned that two people with a world of difference between them could still laugh at the same jokes.
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The key word I was looking for around the situation was ‘harmless’ – and I had been given it. I figured the visa thing wasn’t going to be a problem because I’m pretty high maintenance and he wouldn’t be able to justify the time spent wooing me into marriage against the value of a visa.
From this point our social media relationship graduated to 3-hour long Skype conversations where I would apply light makeup to suggest I naturally looked lovely at all times of the day. It took me a while to realise that he was only going to stop saying he loved me if I stopped telling him he didn’t. It’s not as if he wanted to constantly chat about it, but it was starting to seem like I did. And to be honest, relentlessly lecturing someone on what I perceive to be the rules of love and romance is seriously style cramping.
Moving on to new topics of conversation wasn’t challenging either. I discovered the best thing about involuntary becoming the love of someone’s life over night was that conversation couldn’t get much harder than that. We’d dashed right across all the jitters, awkward goodbyes and unrealistic expectations that come with dating and were almost ready to share small noises.
Although I was still pretty suspicious of the situation, my deep fascination with him and his life was growing like a stalk of beans. He was the first person I’d met from a country I’ve been curious about since 9/11. His lifestyle, culture and background were all so wildly different from mine, and I could just listen to him talk about them for hours. We had so little in common but were still able to bond over universal subjects, world issues and of course, humour. I’d never met anyone quite like him.
At 21 he was the eldest of a brood of 11. When his 36-year-old mum gave birth to his newest sister a month after we met, he joked that his parents were trying to start a football team. (Yes, of course I got hung up on the fact that she was only 8 years older than me.) He couldn’t go back to Afghanistan to meet his new sister because his final year of college didn’t finish until September (this was around May). And while he was excited to go home and see his family, I felt sad that he was also a bit apprehensive about it. His 18-year-old sister had recently been married and moved out of the family home, which meant his mum had a lot more housework without the extra pair of hands. For this reason she was keen for her eldest to get married so they could welcome a new lady into the busy home to help keep it happy. His dad wasn’t so bothered about marriage for him yet, but he did want him to go work at the factory. Both these things meant he would have to settle in Afghanistan once he returned; something he was sure he didn’t want to do after three years’ exposure to western culture and influence in India.
READ PART FIVE
Stay tuned, for part five.