My Arranged Love story by Thomas Scarborough

I was born in England, in Yorkshire. I see myself now in a photo as a young boy, holding my mother’s hand in the snow. My wife Ester was born in Africa. She grew up on a remote plateau, under the burning African sun.

We would never have known each other by accident. We came together by arrangement, when my dying wife chose Ester to be her “replacement”. It was a most unusual experience, which led to situations one would usually never know. I sketch just one of them here, and how it taught me.

The first time I went to visit Ester’s childhood home on the plateau, we drove through a small town, then crossed a stream over a low bridge. We wound our way over a treacherous dirt pass, and through a farmyard, and pulled to a halt.

A wiry, bearded man came down the mountainside. Ester kissed him on the lips. He briefly took my hand, then dropped it. He didn’t look at me. He didn’t speak to me.

Ester wiped away tears. She said to the man, “Where are the potatoes?” He said, “There are two sacks of potatoes in the shed—but one of them is rotten.” They exchanged a few more words about potatoes, then the man walked back up the mountain.

“Who was that?” I asked. “It was my father,” said Ester.

Her father? Then why didn’t he speak to me? Why didn’t he look at me? And what happened to the customary endearments? “Good to see you, Dad. Love you, Dad.”

That first meeting with Ester’s father seemed to encapsulate one of our great cultural contrasts: a kiss on the lips, and some talk about potatoes—but where were the customary endearments? I discovered that, in many ways, Ester’s African culture was non-verbal.

As an Englishman, I was taught to articulate things. On the one hand, thoughts—on the other hand, feelings. It is more or less expected of all of us to express our thoughts accurately, and our feelings precisely. Not so in African culture.

At first this absence of thought and emotion—at it seemed to me—was hard for me. Especially, as our relationship deepened, Ester seldom said anything that seemed to mean anything—about us. I became disheartened.

But the answer revealed itself slowly. I realised more and more that it was her face which spoke, and her body. Ester had an enormously expressive face. Her cheeks would quiver. Her eyes would go dark. She would purse her lips. She would put her fingers to her face. And she had the sunniest smile.

In fact, there were so many visual cues that I thought that I would never pick them all up. Yet in time, I was surprised how fast I did—until it became second nature for me to understand her without words.

Not only that, but I came to understand her culture. A whole new world opened up to me—in people’s faces, and movements—in the shop, on the street, or in weekly worship. I had been blind to it all before.

It was a difficult but charming lesson. There is treasure in other cultures, to which we may be quite blind. At first it may all make little sense to us—even distress us, or shock us—until it all becomes clear.

About the Guest writer: Thomas Scarborough is a Congregational minister and a philosophy editor. He is the author of An Arranged Love, the true story of an arranged marriage in Africa. His book is on Amazon.

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A Cage of Desires by Shuchi Singh Kalra

Blurb: ‘There’s a kind of love that makes you go down on one knee, and there’s the kind that brings you down on both. You don’t need the latter, because no matter what you do, you cannot make anyone love you back. ‘Renu had always craved love and security, and her boring marriage, mundane existence somehow leads her to believe that, maybe, this is what love is all about. Maya, on the other hand, is a successful author who is infamous for her bold, erotic books. What do these two women have in common? How are their lives intertwined? Renu’s thirst for love and longing takes her on a poignant journey of self-exploration. The answers come to her when she finds the courage to stand up for herself, to fight her inner demons and free herself from the cage of desires.

About the author: Shuchi Singh Kalra is the Amazon bestselling author of two novels-Done with Men and I’m Big. So What!? Her short stories have appeared in Love across BordersStories for Your Valentine and NAW Anthology 2013. In her freelancing career of over a decade, Shuchi has written for major print and online publications such as FeminaGood HousekeepingHotelier InternationalHuffington Postand Home Review, among others. She has also been listed among the top women authors to follow on Twitter.

Review:  Thank you Shuchi for sharing a copy of your new book with me. It was pleasurable reading it. It took me 2 days to complete A Cage of Desires. The story is about Renu who has been married for the past 15 years to Dev who is a malingerer husband. Renu takes to writing. She is an erotica writer who writes under another name Maya and Arjun is her muse. The story is about love its raise and its fall. Love in this book is uncontrollable and destroying. I sense this story in some way gives us a route to find yourself again or rather repossess yourself after catastrophes. I think highly of Shuchi’s way of writing. She has awesome clarity in her beliefs and attitude. I did not feel this to be that normal boring kind of erotica read despite the fact there is a lot of sexual narration in the story and it has been written in the most acceptabe way. Instead it is about tough heart that materializes from tenderness, the type which can only be exposed by red and pure love form. This book is delectably unlike and Shuchi focused on an aspect of our Indian culture which is always ignored. I really like the characterisation of Renu – an Indian homemaker, who lives an ordinary bland life. The interesting part is her journey from a timid homemaker to an unconventional, free and inspiring woman. I highly recommend this book to everyone.

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