What you need to know:
- I had been on a bus for fifteen hours traversing through Rajasthan state (the largest desert state in India which is almost as big as Kenya), on my way to a Seventh-Day Adventist (SDA) church camp in Utah Pradesh.
- To be clear, I am a staunch Catholic and, in fact, I consider myself a spiritual son to St Ignatius Loyola.
It was half past noon, on that day in 2018, and a few days to Valentine’s Day.
There was pomp and colour, a characteristic element of the Indians, given that they hold the idea of love in high regard. Honestly, love was the last thing on my mind, and for two reasons.
First, my mom made me to promise that I would not get involved in love matters until I graduated. That was before I left Kenya for India. Secondly, what do I know about girls? Zilch!
I had been on a bus for fifteen hours traversing through Rajasthan state (the largest desert state in India which is almost as big as Kenya), on my way to a Seventh-Day Adventist (SDA) church camp in Utah Pradesh.
To be clear, I am a staunch Catholic and, in fact, I consider myself a spiritual son to St Ignatius Loyola.
I vividly remember how crowds of Indians living in the villages gathered around the market place, pointing fingers at this strange looking African man the moment I alighted. Within no time, police officers were standing next to me, demanding to see my identification.
They also needed an explanation for my being on that part of the world.
But it’s not all the time that you get ambushed by authorities seeking to find out how an African got to India. It mostly depends on the part of the country in which you find yourself.
For example, people in cosmopolitan places like Mumbai, Bangalore, Udaipur and New Delhi are woke. The ladies in those parts love exploring.
They don’t ask for fare
Another thing that sets Indian girls apart is that they do not ask for fare. They are the type who spoil their men to oblivion. It’s likely because they are used to paying dowry.
Besides, there is only one man for nine women in India, and that explains why the competition for men is quite high. In my early days in India, I found it odd that girls pay newspaper adverts to find men they can marry.
I have since come to terms with that reality.
The association of SDA students in India organises a campout annually, to get Africans living in India under one roof for a week, as well as share in the gospel of Christ. It was while at the camp when a Zimbabwean girl alighted from an Uber to join us that I knew I had found the one I had been waiting for.
She was everything I have ever wanted a woman’s appearance to be. Besides, love at first sight slaps differently when you are in a foreign land, and on that, you can trust me. I was thoroughly impressed when she later walked up to me and asked for directions. As she drew closer, I noted that she had astoundingly gorgeous eyes that beamed with excitement under her light chocolate skin-tone. To date, I’m still convinced that she bathes in caramel milk, and not plain water like the rest of us.
I let our eyes meet and I imagined her beautiful, black hair spread across my pillow case. So, let’s call her Sally for the sake of this story. (But she has a prettier name, I promise).
Beauty beneath the skin
Sally and I immediately clicked. For me, it was because I loved her mental depth. Truly, I am a sucker for women whose beauty runs beneath the skin, and they can show it through stimulating conversations. We soon became inseparable and the addiction for each other would know no bounds. I had not felt so good in decades, and all I hoped for was a perfect Valentine while I melted in her arms.
During the camping week, we would sneak out to grab some wine and enjoy each other’s company while the rest of the campers were deep asleep. Bible studies and evening prayer sessions turned into late night walks and moments to count stars and get lost into each other’s arms.
We had open conversations, and as days passed by, I got to know more about her. She revealed about her triumphs, pain, ambitions, and experiences as a student of medicine abroad.
I have to confess that I have a thing for doctors, perhaps because they allow me enough time to do my work as a journalist. I can easily go for a day without communicating and hell will not break loose. In fact, I hope my future wife is a prayer warrior who will plead with God that I am not called for a scoop or a breaking story on our wedding day. Because I will easily leave the altar and rush to cover and file the story before rushing back to exchange the vows.
Coincidentally, Sally was one of the church’s student leaders, and that’s where the rain began to beat us.
“Pastor, should SDA girls date non-SDA boys?” the million-dollar question was finally fronted by a fellow young man, who was very disturbed by my newly found love.
The debate quickly spiraled into something else for two whole hours; I did not take any of it silently.
“SDA girls should date those with whom they share a common faith,” Pastor Tom declared, as if his word on the matter was law.
Sally looked at me as if about to let out a stentorian scream that would cut through the air like a hot knife cutting through butter, before she decided to stand up for herself.
“I think not. What if the boys in my church are too boring and don’t have what I want in my man?” she asked.
“Should one's denomination be the major factor in determining who my heart beats for?
Sometimes this organ just wants what it wants and there’s nothing anyone can do about it,” she said, in a matter of fact tone.
Don’t get me wrong: I love the SDA church, and I have many of my closest friends who belong to that faith. However, I think that it is Godly to let love between a man and a woman blossom.
To me, ‘one another’ is the greatest gift Jesus left us.
The debate got more heated with a number of worshippers, mostly women, echoing Sally’s sentiments.
Another non-SDA, a Kenyan brother who we shall call Brian, had also managed to steal the heart of this beautiful Zimbabwean girl (let’s call her princess). Princess was a gifted singer who always led the church’s praise and worship team.
The church was completely torn apart over this issue, and bible quotes coupled up with Ellen White teachings were being referenced from all corners of the church.
Yet, I have not met someone who can explain to me why it was seemingly wrong for me to date this incredible woman.
Actually, the more they condemned our friendship, the closer she was drawn to me.
By the end of the week, the conversation had now become political and moved from the Catholic in me to how she dressed, remained ‘stubborn’, counted stars with me, and the fact that we shared a plate during meals.
Sally and I were not allowed to experience our first Valentine’s together because of too much politicking from the church council and some members.
On the day we hoped to celebrate love, Sally was holed up in a church council meeting the entire day. She remained unmoved and refused to change her stance about our relationship.
Brother Maombi from Senegal did not want to hear that Sally could be dating a non-SDA man. The man in question, after walking around all day with two bibles and a hymn book, puts them next to his pillow and sleeps.
“You are what the devil uses to tempt us, and we will not accept,” Brother Maombi told me later that night.
Yesterday, Sally called to refresh my memory and we managed to have a hearty laugh at everything that happened.
She says that their church has now split into two groups; with part of the flock moving away with Mr. Maombi, who now does not allow 'earthly things ' like high heels, lipstick, curvy dresses, and dating non-SDA’s in his congregation.
“After the camp, princess and I went away with you and your friend, and we are no longer part of them, as they remind us all the time,” said Sally.