We were all very pleased when after a long sea voyage we heard that our ship was to have a fortnight’s port stay at Ile De La Reunion. It was a beautiful volcanic island near Mauritius. The Island was a French possession in the Indian Ocean where people of French, Indian and Chinese origin lived in harmony. Reunion’s hazy mountains were set off by sparkling beaches along the coastline. The vegetation was exotic, with all kinds of tropical fruit and flowers growing on the island’s different altitudes and the sunsets were like scenes from picture postcards. It was a place where hope if not love, grew in direct proportion to the romantic surroundings.
In the course of our sightseeing expeditions we came across a lot of people of Indian origin. But since we knew no French and they had forgotten their English and most of their Hindi after having been in Reunion for decades, we could not communicate. Then one day, while shopping in the city of St Denise, as I was speaking with my husband in Gujarati, I looked up to see more than a glimmer of understanding in the shop keeper’s eyes and from then on, there was no looking back. We were inundated with invites for lunches and dinners and came to meet a lot of interesting people. There were a lot of people of Tamil origin in Reunion too. Since none of us from the ship could speak Tamil, the Gujarati speaking Indians settled in Reunion translated for us, first communicating to the others in French and then to us in Gujarati.
As we drove into the countryside, we saw temples everywhere. One family positively urged us to bring as many of our friends from our ship as possible to their newly constructed temple for the Navratri celebrations. One of the ship’s young officers Sandhu, was particularly keen on attending the Dandiya Ras as he came from a Gujarati neighborhood in Mumbai and he was looking forward to meeting some young people. We had an enjoyable evening amongst well-dressed men and women in typically Indian clothes and could see that Sandhu was particularly smitten by a young girl in a blue ghagra choli. But however hard he tried to get into her circle of dancers, he seemed to be stuck in the ‘outer’ circle while she was in the ‘inner’ circle and he just could not break away from his laughing companions to get close to her.
At the end of the evening I saw the girl and Sandhu talking and gesticulating to each other animatedly for a few minutes. On the way back, an elated Sandhu told us that he had been specially invited by her to attend a wedding after a few days. Sandhu was walking on air the entire next day and was whistling a merry tune when we crossed him on the ship’s gangway on his way out to attend the wedding a few days later. We had a tiring day out sightseeing Piton de la fournais, one of the world’s most active volcanoes, but we still stayed up late in the ship’s smoke-room watching a movie that wasn’t particularly interesting, just so that we could meet Sandhu when he came in so that we could ask him if he had made another date with her. By now, my matchmaking instincts were fully aroused and I was thinking in terms of another wedding or at least an engagement before our ship sailed from Reunion Island.
When Sandhu finally came in, he was quiet and seemed a bit dispirited. On prodding him, he did disclose that he had met her at the function.” How did she look and what did she wear?” I asked, warming up to approach the issue. “She looked stunning and was dressed in red and gold” he replied but without much enthusiasm. My sudden suspicion was expressed in as many words by him. “Yes, she was the bride!”