The impossible love story
Every one of us has a story to narrate. This is my story.
I am Tensin Cinsel from Bhutan, a small Buddhist Kingdom in the Himalayas. I am a freelance photojournalist by profession. I love photography more than anything in the world. Only and only the camera can put my mind to rest. I am crazy with this photography thing because when everything in the world dies, only photographs remain as a proof of our existence. I love travelling to different places and capturing its beauty. So, in the early months of 2009, I travelled to Sri Lanka as a part of my assignment. This was my maiden voyage to Sri Lanka. Little had I expect that my life would change forever after this fateful journey.
Sri Lanka is a nation famed for serene smiles, happy greetings and helpful nature. My destination was a place called Kalawila, a town near the capital city Colombo. It is a place with very small population in the province of western Sri Lanka. One fine evening, a day before commencing the shoot, I wanted to familiarize myself with the place. So I took a cab to Manhandiya. It is a beautiful small town. There were devotional Buddhist songs being played. People were busy buying and selling things. Children were playing. The air was filled with pleasant aroma of foods being cooked. Everyone seemed to be happy in this part of the world. I entered in a small shop that sold Sri Lankan handicrafts. There I met a young man named Asanka. We greeted each other with a smile. We chatted over a cup of Tea brewed from the famous Ceylon tea. I introduced myself to him. He was more than happy to meet me. So was I. I instantly came to know that we could become great friends. We chatted for a long time about Bhutan and Sri Lanka, about Buddha and Ashoka. We had so many things in common. It was getting dark. I had to leave for my room. As I gestured to leave, Asanka told me to visit him at same time the next day. I have a surprise for you tomorrow, he said. I agreed and thanked him.
The next day after shooting at the famous Brief Garden at Kalawila, I went to my new friend’s shop. Asanka saw me and said, ‘Aah yu-boh wahn’ joining his hand and bowing slightly. I smiled at him and bowed down a little, though I did not understand what he had just said to me. I later learnt from him that they greet in Sri Lanka saying ‘Aah- yu-boh-wahn’, meaning ‘May you live long.’ I was eager to know what surprise he had in store for me. All time during the day I was anticipating the surprise. I could no longer wait. So I decided to ask my friend. ‘Asanka, what is the surprise that you want to show me?’ He smiled and said, ‘wait a bit Tensin, first lets have this tea and then I will tell you.’ He poured fresh tea in two clay cups. Before I could take a sip, he said to me, ‘Tensin, today I will take you to see the traditional Sri Lankan Harvesting dance. Lots of beautiful girls come there. It is the best time of the year. This is the surprise I wanted to tell you.’ On hearing this, I was filled with joy. I kept aside my clay cup and we set out in the village nearby to see the most spectacular event of the year- the traditional Sri Lankan harvesting dance.
We arrived at the venue just on time. The dance had just started. Drums, trumpets and flutes were being played by local musicians. A group of young girls dressed in colorful costumes were preparing for the dance while the other group performed. Lots of people had gathered: men, woman and children. All were having a fabulous time. I was watching the dancers perform with much zeal. There hours went by. As the last dance just got over, a huge whistle came from the crowd followed by a thunderous applause. All the girls who danced formed a line and bowed down to the audience. Suddenly, I saw a girl so uniquely beautiful from the rest. She was wearing a yellow Sri Lankan dress. She captured my attention. I had never seen a girl so beautiful and charming like her before. I told my friend Asanka that she is the most beautiful girl tonight. He joked saying there were many girls more beautiful than her in Kalawila. Gradually the crowd began to disperse. We also headed home. That night Asanka asked me to stay at his place. So I decided to hold a night at his place.
At dinner he served me traditional Sri Lankan cuisine, kiribath with lumiris, a sort of milk rice curry. In my mind I was just thinking of the girl in yellow dress and wondered if this was a case of love at first sight. As we were having dinner, I told him how my heart was taken away by the girl at the dance festival. He smiled and said he knew the girl. Her name was Padmani. She was the younger daughter of a spice merchant. Her mother had died when she was a child. She was studying literature in a town’s college. On hearing this, my heart was filled with love and joy. There was the way to get her. There was the will. Nothing could stop me from getting the beautiful Sri Lankan girl, I thought. I told my friend to arrange a meeting between the girl and me. He was very reluctant at first. Perhaps he was afraid it was not just possible. A Love story between Sri Lanka and Bhutan was impossible, he must have thought. But the common language of human race is love. It is the only language that we all know from birth. So it seemed possible for me. I pressed him to arrange a meeting. He finally agreed reluctantly.
The next morning I cancelled my shoot at Madhuganga River and instead went to meet the woman of my dreams, the most beautiful Padmani. I was waiting at the Brief Garden. It was a bright sunny morning on a Saturday. It was a popular tourist attraction in the area. She came alone, dressed in a white shirt and old faded blue jeans. She was shy and had no clue why I had called her at the park. I had a tough time introducing myself to her. She was slim, tall, fair, had silky dark hair and beautiful dark eyes. I said I am in love with her. My words came to her like thunder. She had least expected this from a complete stranger. She almost stood up and ran away. I held her hand and said, ‘Padmani, nothing is impossible in the world. I will marry you and take you to the happiest country in the world-Bhutan. I am a Buddhist too. I will convince your father. I hope he will agree’. Before I could say any more words, she smiled and said, ‘talk to my father and I will listen to what he says’. My head was full of questions. My heart was overflowing with love. I wanted her.
That evening, Asanka and I went to the market to buy some Watalappam, a kind of local sweet made of coconut milk and jaggery with eggs. It was luck by chance to have met a friend who would know the father of the girl I was madly in love with. We packed the sweets in a colorful jute bag and took a taxi to Padmani’s place. When we reached there, Asanka introduced me to Padmani’s father. I bowed down and said Aah-yu-boh-wahn. He smiled and was more than impressed. I thought he was very polite and kind person. He asked us to come in the house. And he called Padmani to serve us tea. My heart was racing to see her and also to see her beautiful smile. After a while, she appeared from behind the kitchen. I looked at her and smiled. She looked at me and gave a shy smile. She poured tea in crystal glasses. I thought a sip of tea served by the woman of my dreams would make me feel like I was in paradise. She silently went back to the kitchen. Her father, Asanka and I started chatting. He was a devout Buddhist too. Now it was time to tell him that I want his daughter. I gathered all my courage and said that I love Padmani and want to marry her. He was taken aback. At first he could not believe. It was impossible he must have thought. Then Asanka tried to convince. He was not ready to listen. Slowly my heart was breaking into pieces. All my dreams were beginning to shatter. As it was getting dark, Asanka and I wanted to leave. Before we got up from our chair, he said, ‘let me think tonight and tell you tomorrow’. We both bowed down in respect and left Padmani’s house.
The next day I was shooting at an ancient Buddhist temple in the area. I got a call from Asanka. He said the girl’s father wanted to meet me at the temple. I was nervous and excited at the same time. An hour later, Asanka, padmani and her father arrived at the temple. All of us paid homage to the Buddha and prayed. After our prayers, Padmanis father said, ‘I thought about your strange proposal a lot yesterday night. You are a complete stranger to me. You do not know anything about Sri Lanka. But I believe in karma. I believe there is a reason for all these things to happen. Without a strong karmic connection, a boy from Bhutan would not come to Sri Lanka and fall in love. So, in the name of Lord Buddha, I give you my daughter. Wish you both happiness and prosperity”. I could not believe what he just said. I was super excited. I looked at Padmani. She grinned and shifted her gaze away from me. Everything is fair in love and war. Everything can happen in love. And love is blind. Love knows no race, religion and other discriminations, I thought.
Three years later, Padmani gave birth to a beautiful girl at Jigmi Dorji Wangchuck national Referal Hospital, Bhutan. We named our daughter Shehara, which in Sinhalese means the bringer of good news. Today, she is happy in Bhutan. She loves to visit Paro Taktshang frequently. She likes snow and the winter season. And my life is complete with Padmani and Shehara. Every year on 14th April, we celebrate Aluth Avurudhu, the traditional Sinhalese New Year at our home. We travel every four months to Sri Lanka to see her father. I owe him gratitude beyond measurement. He agreed to send his beloved daughter as a bride in Bhutan, a place completely new to him. And I will remember my friend Asanka forever. He is a friend by destiny. Together, they made the impossible love story possible.
(This is a work of fiction)