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We fell into step and then came the inevitable question; Where are you from? Which is almost always followed by; First time in India?
I know that if I answer that second question I will be subject to yet another; What is it that you like about India?
I’m not really able to give an exact answer to that question because things often fall into place when I come here. India just feels right to me. But I settled for something about colors and vitality, when she exclaimed;
- I hate to live in India!
I didn’t know what would be an appropriate answer, but before I could think of something she went on somewhat triumphantly; - I used to live in London.
She was walking with a certain self-assurance. High heels, tight jeans, an elegant blouse, a classy handbag and long, slightly curvy hair drawn back with fashionable sun glasses.
I came back for my wedding, she went on, and her voice was so full of spite that I needn’t turn my face to see what her body language gave away. It was the way she said it. As if she had been a spectator to her own wedding, rather than taking part in a happy occasion.
Somehow I could see a strong-willed mother looming in the background. Asking her daughter to leave London and come home. Reminding her of family obligations. Traditions. Expectations. And a daughter at the other end of the line; full of disobedience yet not being able to dismiss her mother entirely.
- You see I just got married, she said, as if she wanted to underline what she just had told me. But I think I’m going back, she said in a voice full of willfulness.
I couldn’t resist it, and said: - And will your husband come with you to London? - My husband likes to live in India, she said in a short tone unveiling an incipient gap between husband and wife. And went on; - I will go, and see what happens. But both the certainty and willfulness in her voice was replaced by a hint of doubt.
- We’re here, she said and nodded towards an entrance. I had almost forgotten why I was walking along with her. It had been just a short walk and not many words spoken really. Still she had allowed me, a chance stranger, a peep into her life that seemed full of confusion and frustration at the time.
And then she was lost to me.
The encounter stayed with me through a bowl of pasta. I was silently repeating her words as I lingered over coffee. It was a chance meeting, still alive in my imagination, and I can’t let go of her. I sometimes wonder about her whereabouts. Her husband. I hope she has a good life. After all.
Anne-Trine Benjaminsen lives in Stavanger, Norway.
She is a frequent traveller to India, and passionate about Indian literature. She works as a web publisher in the Norwegian oil service industry.
Pastime hobbies apart from reading include writing, photography and various creative projects.”
* Delhi Bed and Breakfast Guest