Dean Owen

5 years ago · 3 min. reading time · visibility ~10 ·

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The Proposal

The Proposal

It was a perfect spring day. We had feasted atop a hill amongst the ruins with a view of the majestic Rajasthani landscape in all directions. Slightly tipsy from the wine and sun we headed down the hill to our convoy of jeeps. I was not quite ready to head back to camp so I asked that they take us to a local village.

The Proposal

The dirt road was a vivid splash of colour. We past women adorned in flowing sarees of luscious vermillions, greens, magentas and rich ambers, chatting mischievously about their husbands. Elephants replaced trucks here as an eco-friendly alternative. 

The Proposal

We made our way down the Romanesquely straight road through the luscious countryside. Abruptly we turned off road and headed through a field. Thirty minutes of rough terrain brought us to a village nestled in between two tiny hills. Here there were no cars, no electricity, certainly no wifi. A piece of Earth yet discovered by the Lonely Planet.

We parked in the field next to a tethered camel.

I had prepared boxes of notepads, crayons, and pencils with rubbers. My wife took a brand new football from the picnic trunk. We made our way toward the sporadic huts that made up this community. Sarees dotted the landscape as a head would pop up in the field to stare at our distinctly foreign troupe. They would smile before bobbing back down to harvest crops.

The Proposal

Entering the village, our guide made light, but familiar conversation with some men squatting in congregation outside the first hut. The men rose up and ushered us through the village. A girl was tending to three sheep returning from the fields. A peacock nibbled at fallen seed. Small puppies were playing in the dirt. Outside the hut, boys played Sitoliya, a game involving a pillar of flat stones balanced on top of each other. They appeared to try to knock the tower over with a deformed lump of dried mud. I asked our guide to ask permission to give them the football. He told us “No problem!”, and my wife handed the boys the ball. Their eyes lit up and they quickly abandoned their game in favour of fighting over possession of the perfectly round object.

In a makeshift courtyard, a teenage girl was churning goat milk in a large clay bowl using a piece of string tied around a wooden spoon. She looked up and smiled at me.

The Proposal

We entered the hut. There was little inside, just a bench on either side, and shelf on a wall with tin bowls. I thought about my coffee table back home. In all likelihood they had never tasted coffee, let along could grasp the concept of a coffee table. The earth was their table, the ground their kitchen, their bed, their armchair, their sofa. A woman made us some tea over a mud stove in the corner. As we drank our tea, I passed the two women the boxes of notepads, crayons and pencils. They were so happy, one of them got up and left the hut with the boxes. She returned with the milk churning girl, head covered in a semi transparent veil. She spoke at length to our guide.

He turned to speak to me.

“This woman offers you her daughter for marriage” he said.

My wife and I burst out laughing, a reaction on hindsight that might not have been appropriate. 

Trying to subdue my giggles, I said

“Please tell the woman that I am extremely grateful and honoured at the proposition, but I am already married to this girl”.

“No problem!” he said, affirming my assumption that these two words featured heavily in his vocab. “You take two wives!”

I turned toward my wife, and in unison we burst out laughing again. It was one of those times when you know you are not supposed to laugh, but before we knew it, everyone in the hut was in fits of hysterics. The girl in the veil once again smiled at me. I was struck by her purity. At the same time I promised myself never to bear gifts again to complete strangers.

The funny thing is that I was almost tempted to say yes. Not in the sense of agreeing to have two wives, but more in the sense of perhaps adopting this family as “in-laws”?

“Please tell them that we could not be happier at the prospect of welcoming such a beautiful lady to our family, but we live thousands of miles away and we could not bear to separate your daughter from her family. She would probably feel very homesick and confused as we live in a city called Tokyo that is full of stress, pain, and often sadness. From the smiles of the people of this village, I cannot for one second think that our home offers a better life.”

Our guide translated my response, and they continued talking for what seemed like an hour. Finally our guide suggested we leave as it was getting dark, so we said farewell.

I looked at the girl and gave her a silent wave goodbye. 

She smiled. 

I smiled back.

The Proposal

Dean Owen is Co-Founder of Quimojo, a revolutionary new concept in Global Campus Recruitment.

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Dean Owen

5 years ago #30

Much appreciate the kind words.

Lisa Gallagher

5 years ago #29

, I've only seen photos but India does appear extremely beautiful!

Mohammed Abdul Jawad

5 years ago #28

Dean Owen I am just back from my vacation here in Jeddah on 17th August. Next year, I may plan my vacation during July/August.

Dean Owen

5 years ago #27

i hope next year dear Mohammed A. Jawad. Likewise, you will always be welcome if you ever visit China.

Mohammed Abdul Jawad

5 years ago #26

Dean Owen I would be happy to see you in Hyderabad. ..and with utmost pleasure to make you my guest. :)

Dean Owen

5 years ago #25

I love a good Biryani . I had some good ones in India and in Little India in Singapore, but I'm sure not nearly as good as a Hyderabadi Biryani. One day I hope to visit Hyderabad.

Dean Owen

5 years ago #24

I have no idea. Perhaps. I suspect they had never seen a Japanese girl in real life before judging from how the whole village wanted to touch my wife when we were leaving. Thanks for stopping by Aurorasa Sima

Mohammed Abdul Jawad

5 years ago #23

Dean Owen You should also taste Hyderabadi will relish the taste of special spices! And Hyderabad is my hometown.

Mohammed Abdul Jawad

5 years ago #22

Lisa Gallagher Good to know that you ardently wish to visit India. ..that's my beautiful country...and I love my India :)

Lisa Gallagher

5 years ago #21

I was just talking to my sister about downsizing so we can enjoy life more- it's not about the material possessions but the connections and love we share along the way. I would love to visit India and many other countries sooner than not. I would say, very telling how they took water from the well and made tea, I can only imagine how humbling that was!

Dean Owen

5 years ago #20

Thanks Deb Helfrich. I am so glad this article did not prompt a whole string of "How could anyone give their daughter away" comments or discussions on polygamy. It's so nice to see an audience that can see past that and perhaps understand that the mother's proposal was perhaps an act of love for her daughter.

Dean Owen

5 years ago #19

Thanks Lisa Gallagher, I just feel so grateful anytime I am invited into a home. To see the tea was made from water from the well in the village and the lack of material possessions is just humbling. I do hope you get the chance to visit India one day.

Dean Owen

5 years ago #18

debasish majumder, I echo the sentiment of Scottish historian William Dalrymple who said "If I had five more lives, I'd live them all in India" Thanks for your kind words.

Dean Owen

5 years ago #17

Thank you kind friend. An incredible country that captures the imagination of anyone fortunate to visit her shores. It's no wonder that authors like Mark Tully and Rudyard Kipling called India their home.

Dean Owen

5 years ago #16

I can't get enough of India, Savvy Raj. If I visited every year for the rest of my life it would not be enough. I am highly addicted to Uttapam! :)

Lisa Gallagher

5 years ago #15

What a beautiful story Dean Owen, which again, shows me your inner kindness and caring for others. I think I would have began to laugh too, it's a nervous habit when I'm not sure what to say (not a good habit of mine lol). Your response was quick witted and I believe, well intended. I love the photos and how nice of you and your wife to bring in notepads, crayons, pencils and a football. I love reading your stories because it broadens my worldview. I bet you made the girl in particular feel special on that day and I'm hoping her family felt the same after hearing your response. Well done! That must have been an uncomfortable situation though?

Mohammed Abdul Jawad

5 years ago #14

Dean Owen I am really impressed by your chiseled writings. You write well as you witness people and surroundings in their true exposure. Interesting post with an inspiring sequel!

This is a beautiful story, Dean Owen, and how lucky you are to have experienced the beauty of what seems to be a simpler way of life.

Dean Owen

5 years ago #12

You are so lucky to have done that trip! it must have been amazing. When I did my 12,000km China road trip, the original plan was to drive from Shanghai to Goa, but the admin for crossing borders was a nightmare so I gave up and just did China. But one day, I promise myself I at least want to do a road trip from New Delhi to Goa. Thanks Fatima.

🐝 Fatima G. Williams

5 years ago #11

Dean Owen India being my homeland I've never had enough of it , and I still haven't explored many parts. I once went on a road trip in 2009 where we drove about 6000 Km on the Golden Quadrilateral of India. A quadrilateral of sorts is formed by connecting Chennai, Kolkata, Delhi and Mumbai, and hence its name. We successfully completed the trip with the team of 5 covering a total of 7256kms. An unforgettable trip for me.

Dean Owen

5 years ago #10

Thanks Fatima, India really is a beautiful country and I think everyone should visit at least once, but for me, India is so big, numerous visits will never be enough.

Dean Owen

5 years ago #9

I think you'd be blessed no matter what country you came from Loribeth Pierson, especially India which is an incredible country. You should visit, it might change your perspective. Yes there will be some parents who would want their children to have a better life by marrying them off to a stranger, but that could happen in any country, even the US. Thanks for stopping by.

🐝 Fatima G. Williams

5 years ago #8

I'm glad you enjoyed the trip Dean Owen , India is a beautiful land filled with just love to give away :) Great buzz.

🐝 Fatima G. Williams

5 years ago #7

I'm glad to enjoyed the trip Dean Owen , India is a beautiful land filled with just love to give away :) Great buzz.

Dean Owen

5 years ago #6

Atleast she sees value in you! Mine would give me away for free! Thanks Pascal Derrien

Pascal Derrien

5 years ago #5

ANother kool Dean Owen story just liked it reminds me that my wife has threatened a few times to sell me on e-bay for a small price..... :-)

Dean Owen

5 years ago #4

Zed is not dead! That said, I do like Jay Z :)

Kevin Pashuk

5 years ago #3

And that's why we don't let Jay-ZEE into Canada... I am almost militant about 'ZED'

Dean Owen

5 years ago #2

Funny, I did actually think the same as I was writing it, but for years, I have resisted the temptation to Americanise my words in spite of the fact that my daughter would say eraser and XY Zee, not Zed. She cited Beyonce married a certain Jay Z, and not Jay Zed! No, for sure, a pack of condoms would have had me banished from India in all likelihood! Thanks Kevin-san.

Kevin Pashuk

5 years ago #1

A perfectly delightful story Dean Owen. While the photographs are great (for a Leica.:)) your 'word pictures' are marvelous. It's a skill I have tried to develop in my kids as they grew up. "Use your words!", I would admonish, to get them to describe something in detail. I did note a couple of culturally distictive words in your writing. In Canada, if you had brought pencils with rubbers, you would have included packs of condoms in the gift. I'm not sure they would have offered you their daughter as a bride had you brought such a gift.

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