” I think you should not marry him,” Bonnie said emphatically. I looked at her sadly. She was my last hope. Her opinion being the final sign from which my decision would be based upon. Yes, in days of confusion and indecisions, I too fell in the trap of ” looking for signs ” while contemplating a pertinent problem in want of a solution. Needless to say, these signs only led to more confusion and further indecisions.
Bonnie sighed, her face contorted with remembered pain. ” Marriage had not been easy for a Christian woman like me marrying into a family with a different religion.”
We were sitting in her spacious bedroom at that moment, but when first I came to her house and was introduced to her in-laws, I did not sense any tension between them at all. I wondered what she was talking about.
” My father-in-law had beaten my husband black and blue when he insisted on marrying me.” she continued. My eyes widened.
It was unfathomable for me how a grown man can be beaten by his father. But apparently, in that country, it is quite common.
I met Bonnie when I went for a Sunday mass in a Christian Church in the city. Praying in an empty church has always been my one solace every time my life is caught in a whirlwind. At that time, I was in the middle of a milder thunderstorm, and like a guardian angel, she sat by my side. My face must have been as gloomy as the church interior for she asked, ” What’s bothering you, child?” My answer was a quivering sigh. Tears held at bay, brimming at the eyelids where one kind word would send them cascading down my cheeks. She patted my hands and whispered to me that I should meet her after service.
Salty water burst forth like in a broken dam from my eyes when finally I related to her the whole story, sitting in a room at the second floor of the church where she taught Sunday school for children. With a motherly sympathy, she told me she will pray for me and my troubles. And she will ponder over the situation and would call me if she has an answer for me. She called after a few days. So there I sat in front of her while she dashed my hopes and dreams over coffee.
Bonnie is a beautiful tall woman from the North. She could easily be an actress or a model, in my opinion. She has those perfect cheekbones and soulful light eyes with a curtain of the thickest lashes I’ve ever seen. With her beauty complemented by her tender heart, it was easy to see why her husband fought tooth and nail to keep her. Their relationship endured countless attempts of separation from her husband’s family but without success. They even threatened to disown her husband. But nothing fazed them. Against all the odds they wed and are now blessed with three kids.
” I insisted we marry in a Christian church. Afterwards, I fought hard to remain Christian. I did not convert. My faith is all I had. It is my choice. The only thing left of my independence. I held on to it.” I could feel the passion she had for her faith very strongly. I wondered If they beat her up for that too. She did not hint on it throughout the conversation, but I thought it was more than probable.
” But then came the children.” Pain flitted in her eyes once more.
” Though my husband never asked me to convert, my in-laws, of course, would never allow my children to be Christians. This is one fight I could never win. I could never get them baptised. That tears at my heart. How will I save them from eternal damnation? I had to sneak them out of the house when they were babies just so I can take them to the church. To know the Lord.”
She looked intently into my eyes. ” You don’t want that to happen to you.”
I was speechless. I could not answer her. She was right. It will affect the children’s lives most of all. Which belief would the children cling to before they can choose one for themselves? I said goodbye to her with a heavy heart. Still undecided and all the more confused. I walked away, dazed with questions in my head. Plunged in deep reflection.
At the heights of love, everything seems so carefree, even childlike in its wantonness. So what was I doing in the middle of something so serious, an issue that keeps polarising nations apart? Whose God is the real God? Or if there is one? And which religion leads to everlasting life? And again if that is even possible? Why should we give up one for another? Why does it keep pulling people apart instead of together? It was all so complicated. Besides the culture barrier, there are religious barriers too. Why do people continually build walls to keep each other out? Is elitism such an inborn trait? If other religions do not want Christians in their flock, some Christians are not any better in accepting others too. My ardent Christian friends back home gave me stern advice against marrying outside the faith. Frowning at me, I felt the sting of their scorn for beliefs different from theirs. How ironic. Jesus himself right there written in the bible mingled with everybody. He was the coolest dude who does not possess on single elitist bone in his body.
Without an answer to my dilemma, I was only left with a conclusion that maybe people do feel safe if they belong to one “CLUB” or the other. And they fear that someone who does not clearly belong to one is dangerous and must be avoided.