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I Married a Total Stranger


After the henna ceremony, two of my cousins took me aside and gave me the CliffsNotes on the birds and bees. Combine an Indian upbringing with a Catholic-school education, and my knowledge of sex was limited to "It is a sin." Despite blushing profusely and begging them to stop, I completed the crash course, and we all laughed.

On the wedding day, my groom, dressed in a brocade coat, arrived in a flower-decked Mercedes — a modern-day maharaja. Together, we circled the holy fire seven times (a tradition called Saat Pheras); then, under a canopy of frangipanis and orchids, we were wedded for seven lifetimes. The Pheras are the most important part of the wedding ceremony. In Hinduism, the fire is considered the sustainer of life, and it is only after the Saat Pheras are completed that a couple is declared man and wife. Each Phera is taken to invoke the blessings of specific gods and goddesses, who then grant the seven blessings: financial stability, health, faith, trust and love, progeny, togetherness, and loyalty and unity forever.

On my wedding night, a sense of calm finally washed over me, as I made my leap from bride to wife (armed with the Kama Sutra, which my cousins had downloaded onto my PDA as a gift).

After our 10-day honeymoon, we were ceremoniously dispatched to Manhattan. My life was packed into six bursting suitcases. When my husband had described our apartment, I'd pictured a life-size dollhouse with separate dining and living rooms, bedrooms, balconies — a tall building with a green garden. Instead, my new home turned out to be smaller than my bedroom in India. The trade-off: From the 40th floor the view was unsurpassable. My husband's American friends called, asking about the wedding and curious to see if I had a nose ring. I was just as eager to meet them.

The next day, my banker husband went to work, and I was home alone for the first time. I eyed his walk-in closet, courageously moving his suits into a smaller armoire. Judging from what remained, I had married an avid golfer, skier, and board-game player. That evening, he moved his clothes back into the walk-in, offering to share it. Still, it seemed I had too many things for the space. My neighbor suggested unplugging the refrigerator to maximize storage (a trick she had used). It seemed extreme, but by the second week, I was considering it. After all, I discovered that New York delivers coffee and anything else, even in a blizzard.

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