Vidya Vasant Gopaul
I met my wife on March 22, got engaged on May 10 and married on July 4 of the same year! Does that sound romantic? You bet it is!
On Saturday, March 22, fifty years ago, it was raining cats and dogs all day. A few thunders roared through the skies and I even saw some lightning. Around noon, I was driving along Hurontario Street in Mississauga to go to my best friend’s son’s birthday party.
Approaching Highway 401 going south, I saw in the distance a car parked on the shoulder with its emergency lights on. Then I saw a beautiful girl with long hair and slender figure flagging down passing cars, seeking help. In those days, there was neither CAA nor cellphone, residential house nor nearby gas station in the area, only thick bushes and tall trees on either side of the two-lane road.
Since no one stopped to help, and feeling sorry for her, I pulled over on the shoulder behind in the pouring rain. To my shock, I saw that she was an Indian girl. Back then, it was rare for Indian girls to drive, which led me to believe that she was someone sophisticated.
Cautiously and humbly, I asked, “Can I help you with anything?” I was behind her and as she turned her head towards me, the tips of her long, black and beautiful tresses gently brushed my right cheek – her hair, then and there, painting love on me with swift, soft, wet stokes. She had glowing dark brown eyes, red lips and a beautiful complexion. It was love at first sight for me and when I asked her later whether it had been so for her too, she replied, “Yes. I just loved your curly hair, soft speech, the way you were properly dressed.”
Since it was customary to not shake hands with Indian girls in those days, according to the Indian culture, I said namaste while holding both my palms together. That was another reason she said it was love at first sight for her. My greeting was respectful and cultural.
She told me that she had a flat on the passenger side. I replied, “No problem. I can fix that in no time because I do that all the time for my car.” While I was changing the tire, she held an umbrella over my head from start to finish. She expressed some romantic feelings which, even unto today, I cannot explain. Those hints led me to ask her whether, afterwards, she would go for coffee somewhere warm where we could get ourselves dry.
With no hesitation she replied, “I know there is a great restaurant at the corner of Hurontario Street and Dundas Street and it is called Orchard restaurant.” That was another thing about her that surprised and attracted me. She was not typical. Indian girls generally did not go out on dates for coffee and mostly ended up in arranged marriages.
By 2, we reached the restaurant. We decided to sit beside the window and I ordered two cups of hot coffee. During the first cup, we talked about ourselves – who we were, where we came from, likes, dislikes, religions, favourite songs, movies and how we viewed relationships. I said I was born in the beautiful and gorgeous Island of Mauritius and followed the Baha’i Faith. She told me she was born in Punjab, India and that she was from a Punjabi family. I explained to her, “I am an open-minded person. I strongly believe that both man and woman must have the same opportunities, both should help each other in a marriage and that both must have equal opportunity of choosing their own life partner. Hence, I strongly believe in love marriage.” She almost jumped out of her seat.
“You are awesome!” she said. “Our thinkings are very similar.”
By the second cup, we were discussing our parents and siblings; and by the third, we became so close, I felt comfortable and dared to ask, “Can I kiss you?”
“You mean here, in this restaurant?”
I replied, “Why not? Nobody is really watching us. Everybody is preoccupied with their own things.”
“Not so fast, Jose!” she answered.
The waitress came and asked us, “Can I help with anything else?”
We felt she had become a little surprised that we were drinking only coffee and not ordering food.
By that time, it was already 6 p.m. Suddenly, we heard someone singing Happy Birthday.
I said, “Oh my god! I missed the birthday party.”
And she said, “I missed one too. I suppose to go to my niece’s birthday party today at 3 p.m.” Then with a beautiful and joyful smile, she added, “Well, we were happy to miss the birthday parties just to be with each other.”
It was getting dark, so we decided to part ways and go home. When I escorted her to her car, we just could not leave each other. Immediately, I sat in her car and we kept talking until 8.
“Can I kiss you goodbye?”
She asked me why and I replied, “Because I love you.”
She gave me a kiss and that was it. But that kiss was the token of our love at first sight.
We went home and, right away, I called her to reminisce about our lovely date, starting from the beginning and ending at the end. We spoke well beyond midnight; and the rest, as they say, is history.
We wasted no time and secretly did our own engagement party, only the two of us, on May 10 while our parents were deciding whether or not to give us permission to marry. But why were we waiting for others to make our decision when we had already decided we wanted to spend life together forever? Moreover, we were both painfully afraid of losing each other.
Well of course that left them no choice but to grant us our wish. We got married in a very private ceremony on July 4 of the same year.
Out of that beautiful and long lasting marriage we had two beautiful children and three cute grandsons. We continue to go on coffee dates at that same Orchard restaurant every year on March 22 to keep the memory of our love at first sight alive.
Yes, the restaurant is still there!