Dear Ezra and Lian,
I had spent about 2 months in Mizoram in the winter of 2000. I left Mizoram late March 2000. I was travelling the last leg of the journey; a train travelling about 1800 kilometres from Calcutta in West Bengal to Nashik in Maharashtra. The reason I was coming back; to ask your mom to marry me.
I had visited all the family back in Mizoram. I think I passed all their tests and was properly vetted. I think it somewhat impressed them that I travelled all the way to Champhai to visit your great-grandparents. I did it all over land; no flying. From Bombay, that’s 7 days of travelling trains, buses and jeeps when you don’t know what you’re doing.
Of course, before I could consider asking your mom to say “Yes!” to me, I had to talk to her father. I needed to ask for his permission. That’s a letter for another time. Let me just say, I had no idea how I would convince an Inspector General of Police that he should let me marry his daughter. He sent her to the best of schools. She had dated a TV soap star, the sons of wealthy industrialists, even a prince. 11 guys had asked for hand in marriage and been denied….by Ruth. They didn’t even make into your grandpa’s office for the Big Question.
I was so eager to see your mom again, I took the first train I could get a ticket on and that would get me closest to her. It was going to take 36 hours as per the schedule. However, it wasn’t the best train to take. Also, the best route was to take a Calcutta to Bombay express. Instead, this train’s ultimate destination was Ahmedabad via Surat. My final station was near the Gujarat/Maharashtra state border. By car, this was still hours away from Nashik. All the same I jumped on board.
The train ended up being about 12 hours late. That meant I spent about 48 hours and 2 nights on a train. I had a “sleeper berth” in AC so it was not horrible. Still, that was 48 hours of eating nothing but chicken curry and rice or eggs and toast. 48 hours of swaying back and forth and trying not to miss the toilet or roll out of bed. No showers. Sometimes we would spend hours in the middle of nowhere, not moving at all. By the time I arrived at my final station, I felt like I had been to sea in a tin can for a week. I didn’t feel that well. I didn’t look that well. I certainly didn’t smell that well.
I stepped off the train with my backpack. (Of course, Canadian Pilgrim would have a Canadian flag patch sewn on.) I slowly made my way through a crowd of people eager to get away from our “prison”. Then I saw her, your mother. She was beautiful in a salwar kameez with a dupatta on her head (you’ve never seen your mom like this.) I began running as fast as my “sea legs” would take me. I could hear the romantic music from a Bollywood movie in my head. “Kuch Kuch Hota Hai” Something was indeed happening.
Then, I saw two police officers standing beside her. I stopped moving and wondered what was happening. Then two officers suddenly appeared beside me. One physically grabbed my backpack off my shoulder. The other pushed me forward. I thought your mom was going to run into my arms for a big hug and a kiss. No.
“Hello, Mr. Nghinglova” I greeted your grandfather in full police officer uniform. He greeted me warmly with a big smile. Around us were about 20 police officers and jawans under his command. He said, “Shall we go then?” All of us then proceeded through the train station. The crowds parted like the Red Sea for us. Everyone stared at this beautiful young lady, lots of serious policemen and this bedraggled, rail-thin, dirty smelly, tall, white guy with rare hair being pushed along. I cast a backwards glance at Mommy wondering why she never kissed me. I wasn’t exactly sure if I was being taken to Mommy’s home or to an interrogation session at the nearest police station.
We reached a car. I got in the backseat and surprisingly so did your grandpa. Mommy sat in the front with the driver. The car’s siren came on and its warning lights began to flash. Two jeeps in front of us did the same and two behind us as well. I even think a couple had roof mounted machine guns, but it was all just a blur. Most of the journey took place after dark. We raced through the darkness. We passed hundreds of vehicles for hours. It’s strange, after a while you don’t even notice the sirens wailing any more.
Grandpa, rather, Inspector General of Police, Nashik Range, Mr. B.T. Nghinglova and I made small talk. We talked about my train trip and my longer journey. Of course, he asked, like every Mizo does, “How do you find Mizoram?” (A Canadian immigrant from India once asked Ezra, “How do you find London, Ontario?” Ezra seriously said, “I got off the train and there it was.”) I told your grandfather I had fallen in love with Mizoram.
I spent all the pauses in our conversation wondering what I would say to win him over. How was I going to convince him that I would make a great husband for his daughter? I was running out of time. I figured the next day would be my one and only chance to ask him while alone.
Suddenly, words something like this, came out of his mouth; “I understand you are interested in our daughter; that you would like to marry her. From our side, we have no objection.” I said thank you, but I was so stunned I didn’t know what else to say or do. I thought that went a lot easier than I expected.
After hours of travel, we finally reached Mommy’s house in Nashik. Your grandpa went to wash up for a late dinner. I snuck a big hug and kiss with Mommy while he was gone. Then Mommy went to get ready for dinner as well. While I waited, I looked at the mantle over the fireplace. There was a trophy. The statuette was of a man. He had one arm pointing straight in front of him while holding a pistol. I read the inscription. It read something like this; “State of Maharashtra Police Shooting Champion, 1994”.
I was sure glad he said, “Yes”. I didn’t want to imagine what he would have done if he had said, “No”.