Back in 1999, my friend Scott told me some fascinating stories about his trip through India, a country I had hardly given a second thought to. He described interactions with strangers, the sound of train station food hawkers, the smells of monsoon. New words filled with reservoirs of meaning and suddenly India hit my radar. When I moved into Toronto a year later, I began to frequent the "India Bazaar" on Gerrard Street. I bought my first sari there and made friends with the Paan Walla. I re-organized the kitchen to make space for more and more jars of spice. My neighbor Paul lent me his Indian classical music collection, and I watched his scientific brain craft the best recipe for Masala Chai (spiced tea.) I thought a few times about going to visit the place, but even though I was touring the North American countryside as a single female musician, a feat considered by most to be "brave," I could barely allow myself the thought of going to India alone.
In July 2002, at a music festival in Illinois, I strolled past sitarist/vocalist Chris Hale busking in the shade of a trailer. I was thrilled to find someone performing Indian music there and invited him to an Indian dinner I was making for "whoever showed up." He brought a bunch of friends and chopped onions and garlic. We exchanged CDs and hung out in Chicago for a few days after the festival, drinking tea, watching Bollywood movies and doing post-fest laundry. A month later, a letter from him arrived in the mail, which confirmed that a genuinely relaxed friendship was in earnest. How I got to visit India for the first time is largely his fault. It's a lot more complicated than that, since you're here to read about our wedding, but some history is in order.
A strange mix of east and west, Chris was born in Albany, NY, but accompanied his parents (at the age of one) to Nepal where they were both working as doctors in a remote mountain village. He spent his teenage years at a boarding school in India, followed by a few years at Berklee College of Music in Boston, MA, before heading back to India for another 10 years. In 2000, Chris made the move back to NY and took up residence in a predominately Mexican neighborhood in Brooklyn. Shortly before that move, Chris had hooked up with Atlanta guitarist Peter Hicks (who was born in India but raised in the US) and they had started to work on an Indian devotional music project called "Aradhna." They had just released their second album around the time when I met Chris, and I was just about to release "7 Deadly Sins." So, the distraction of touring those albums kept our interactions limited to the rare visit when one of us was traveling through for shows, or the occasional phone call, or letter. At one point, Chris disappeared off the radar during a tour to India and South America and I took off for California. In my opinion, romance with another touring musician was ridiculous. I was experienced in such matters. Musicians were trouble.
I've concluded that the most wonderful thing about making ultimatums is how good they taste when you have to eat your words later on. In August 2003, after reconnecting with Chris at another music festival, we decided we should at least try the ridiculous. To complicate matters, plans were being made that I would join Chris and Pete on a three-month trip to India (from Jan. to April 2004.) I was interested in studying the tabla (the drum most used in Indian classical music) and wanted to take a lot of photographs. I knew that traveling to India with a boy who could speak the language and was familiar with the culture would be the best possible way to experience the country, but there was a lot of unease inside of me, since I didn't know if Chris and I "would last." Both of us were committed to a life-long friendship that would allow us to enjoy an Indian trip together even if the romantic angle didn't pan out, but I didn't want to waste any time in figuring out just where the relationship was going. For four months, a lot of fur flew. Ideals were challenged, practical issues were rehashed over and over, and fears were eventually replaced by trust. By the time we left for India in January, we'd made calls to inform Chris' friends and "Indian family" that we wanted to get married there in February, and our friends and family in the West had been told to expect another celebration in Canada in June. Sometimes when I doubt the miracle of it all, I go back to the journal entries from those four months of "hacking things out" and I am aghast at how unhappy, doubting and frustrated those pages were. I'm relieved that they helped me figure out what I really needed. In the end I found that I wasn't afraid to jump in with both feet, a novel idea, after a lot of "failed" romances.
Many people have asked me why Chris and I were married in India and I've responded by saying that it made the most sense. There was a strong feeling in me that I wasn't just marrying a person, or even a family, but that I was marrying a country.
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