Published in The Weekend Independent Magazine on 9 September 2011
So much has happened since I first wrote about having a crush on my Bangladeshi translator, Sherpa. Most notably, we got married. Nowadays, to think of describing the love of my life as a “crush” feels about as silly as the Facebook message I sent over a year ago declaring my super-sized interest in him. Though you may (reasonably) cringe at my sappiness, I can’t proceed without first declaring that there’s enough electricity between Sherpa and I to light up Dhaka. Day and night, all year round. I feel really lucky.
Now let’s turn to the main event: our wedding. Despite the fact that there were traditions from two cultures to tap into for wedding ideas, ours didn’t resemble anything either of us knew about them (which admittedly wasn’t a great deal). In fact, our transformation from employer-employee to husband and wife was unconventional from the moment I proposed to Sherpa and, after he finished laughing (it must have been the shock?), slipped the silver ring over the only finger it fit: his thumb. We hugged and shivered next to a deserted, moonlit lake. We’d been dating just four months. A couple of weeks later, Sherpa snuck out and bought me a ring, then “re-proposed” in that same special place.
Our parents weren’t to learn of our engagement until much, much later. Sadly, Sherpa wasn’t able to be with me when I made the announcement in Melbourne. This was tough, because my parents had never met him; we lost that opportunity when Sherpa’s applications for an Australian tourist visa were denied. Ironically, the immigration officials – who I’d put money on as being the toughest in the world – didn’t believe our relationship was genuine. When I returned from Melbourne, our little flat was adorned with drawings (depicting our reunion at the airport), streamers, and colourful cut-out letters on the doors, saying sweet things, like “Welcome Home, Princess.” I was so happy I cried.
Sherpa’s mother was remarkably calm when we told her we were getting married – in two days’ time. She has accepted me as part of the family, each of whom are incredibly independent and kind. Sadly, I’ve not met his father, a professor of Islamic Studies in Chittagong, because he passed away while Sherpa was still in high school. It was he who gave Sherpa his unusual name.
As it turned out, Sherpa and I didn’t get married two days later; nor the next week, or the one after that. This was due to a case of jitters – not our own, but a qazi’s. Although the qazi initially agreed to marry us, at the last minute he had second thoughts and gave us an ultimatum: either I convert to Islam or he’d have no part of it. This put us in a pickle, as I had no religion to convert from. But fortunately for us, a friend in-the-know persisted with his inquiries and found us a lawyer in Motijheel and we hastily scheduled a date. But even though it took us very little time to get ready for the big day – I wore my favourite Bangkok jumpsuit, a simple one-piece attire – somehow we managed to arrive half an hour late, and found the lawyer bristling with impatience. Refusing to delay things any further, we signed the marriage certificate before our close friend and witness Shahnaz had the chance to return from where she’d been waiting for us. Afterwards, I pulled my camera out of my bag to take the pictures that would be treasured forever, only to discover my lens had smashed en route. “Who cares,” we cried, “We’re married!” and off we went to join our close friends at the Nordic Club, who had a bottle of champagne at the ready. The cork was signed by everyone and kept as a memento – a French tradition, said our friend Cat. Sherpa and I ended the public celebrations by eating posh cakes in egg-shaped chairs at The Westin.
Sherpa’s mother was keen for us to have a large wedding, but a couple of relatives objected on the same grounds as the qazi, so we didn’t proceed with that. We also thought about having a beach wedding in Melbourne, though this remains out of the question until Air Asia credits Sherpa for the flights he paid for in January…
Yes, we’ve faced many struggles, as these few short paragraphs reveal. But we get through everything as a team, and have emerged stronger, closer and more determined to build our life together. Our first apartment, for example, had no natural light and a correspondingly high mosquito population. Construction work continued almost unabated, day and night, and it took just six steps to reach the front door from our bedroom. But we bought an aquarium and six fish, and decorated our home with a lot of enthusiasm. Even though there were times when we didn’t have quite enough to eat, it was a happy place, and we recall those days fondly.
Soon after we moved to a much larger, brighter place; now we not only have a view, but a rare one for Dhaka: our house overlooks beautiful trees – and the flowers are just about to bloom.
There was one wedding tradition we didn’t want to forsake: a honeymoon. It’s taken us a few months to get there, but by the time you read this, we’ll be hand-in-hand in Kolkata.
Have you also married a Bangladeshi? If so, The Cross Cultural Club could be for you. It’s an association of spouses who have married Bangladeshis or people of Bangladeshi origin and are now residing with their families in Bangladesh. It was established in 1990 and strives to assist newly arrived men and women who are struggling to make a new life here with their families. We endeavor to provide guidance, assistance and camaraderie.
We have regular, wonderful lunches and I’ve met some fantastically interesting women as a result.
Please click here to to visit the The Cross Culture Club’s official website.
Or send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org
I’ve also created a Facebook group called I married a Bangladeshi guy, which I hope will be useful for wives meeting other wives (or wives to be!).
We note that when MEN marry women from the Third World, immediately there arises a barrage of claims such as “You couldn’t get laid here”, “she just wants the visa”, “she’s only a gold-digger”, etc etc etc. I don’t know your particular situation and I am not judging it.April 25, 2013 at 12:58 am •
Today some people of 3rd world country playing marriage game for visa no doubt, why male/female of advanced country giving opportunity to them ? or now some of the 3rd work country has become investment destination for advance country, therefore, visa of those country becoming the lucrative for the people of some advanced country.March 21, 2014 at 9:13 pm •
hei jessi i habe also some italian sweeter,,, wish me if we could come your position?May 21, 2013 at 1:47 pm •
hi my name is emon and i live in uk for 4 years, i am single and looking for good girl to get married soon,if anyone interested plz e mail me asap, email@example.comJune 5, 2013 at 6:28 pm •
i am romio from bangladesh. i am single. i am 35 years . i am a primary government school teacher. i sereousy want to get marriage any ausstralian . usa , any eoropian woman and stay with her, i should take care her untill my death. i want a citizen or working vissa for coming australia. who help me ? i want a polite, gentle and good minded woman. i hate fake and liers woman. reallyi am so much seriously tell u. it is not fun and joke. i will give u real and original peace. i will give u kids and happy family, my skype id apurbakumar2. my email id firstname.lastname@example.org . my facebook id romio juleate my mobil number 00880 1712517125. already i have a international passport. if u real and agree my proposal kindly contact me. mind it at first u should believe me then take dicition. take care u, god bless u. i am waiting for ur respond,September 15, 2013 at 10:38 am •
nice everythingSeptember 25, 2013 at 7:30 am •
The Koran states that a Muslim man can marry any “woman of the book”, meaning a Muslim, Christian or Jew, unfortunately some religious leaders don’t actually follow “The Book”. Although i guess if you weren’t even a nominal Christian i can see his point, but for those “Christian” women looking to marry Muslim men i shouldn’t be a problem. The Muslim woman unfortunately is not afforded the same freedom of marry a non-muslim man no matter what though.November 19, 2013 at 7:05 pm •
I’m so happy for you, Jess – what a string of incredible events since those days when we had neighbouring cubicles in Rowville! Wishing you and Sherpa absolute bliss for many years to come. xxoxoMarch 19, 2014 at 2:05 pm •
So true! Funny times in Rowville – seems like a world away now huh?! Love your blog by the way – sooo profesh 🙂March 21, 2014 at 3:53 am •
Hi,i am Bangladeshi.My Birth day 21-11-1986.I am interested to marry Foreigner Girl.if any body interested me log on face book my id Ali Reza.December 3, 2014 at 3:24 am •
Hello jessicaJuly 28, 2015 at 11:45 pm •
I hope are you OK.you lick Bangladeshi guy ?
And you want to married Bangladeshi guy ?
Hopping happy & romantic family life for the coupleMarch 21, 2014 at 8:42 pm •
Purnima Rani Das,Father’s name- Asit Boron Das,Mother’s name- Madhobi Rani Das, some days ago she was my wife,but yesterday she married another person for going to America.Her new husband,Mr. prosenjit which is citizen of American.But is it right only for going to America,can she breakup with me?Please any friend help me to stop them for taking citizenship.Please any friend send the news to American embassy to stop them.At Narayanganj,Bangladesh.please help me.June 3, 2014 at 2:51 am •
I just sent an email to “Cross Cultural Club ” BUT the mail came back to my account. I need some help regarding my marriage in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Please kindly contact with me asap. Thank you kindly. sobur 01720593923August 18, 2014 at 11:57 pm •
Hi Sobur. Sorry to hear that. Perhaps the Cross Cultural Club has disbanded – I now live in Myanmar so I’m not sure. I hope there is another source of information to help you. Best wishes, JessAugust 19, 2014 at 8:39 pm •
This is so wonderful to read. Although my spouse and I are in Canada, he is Bangladeshi and I really love the culture. It’s nice to see that accounts of other wonderful people that aren’t afraid to push the social norms and be with someone they love, without barriers. Thank you for being an inspiration!September 18, 2014 at 10:57 am •
Thanks Bry – hope you’ll get to visit someday! Is your husband from Dhaka? All the best, JessSeptember 26, 2014 at 4:04 am •
Hi Jess,September 26, 2014 at 5:15 am •
He sure is. He came here to finish school. We are not married yet but feel that we will take that step eventually. A part of me is worried about how his family will feel about it all, but he’s reassured me that his choice is his and he’s solid in that conviction.
Ah I see! How lucky your paths crossed – that’s how I feel about Sherpa 🙂 I’m sure his parents will come around – and it’s great your man knows exactly what he wants in life! Let me know when you tie the knot 🙂September 26, 2014 at 5:28 am •
Hi Jess!!!June 9, 2016 at 2:09 pm •
It’s been nearly two years, and on Sunday, I will be heading to Dhaka with my fiancé to get married surrounded by his family & friends!!! I can’t believe that it’s already happening, and you sometimes cross my mind when I think about the unique adventure I am about to go on. I can’t wait to feel, see, and taste Dhaka and marry my love!