My First Year As An Expat In Amritsar Punjab
Another Facebook message pops up on my phone, “My dad thinks you live in a village. He wants to know if your hut has a toilet...” I laugh a little to myself about the misconception and decide not to mention the question to my husband. I message my friend back, “Unfortunately, your dad won’t get to find out about my toilet situation today because we’ve just arrived at the mall where we’re going to grab some KFC before we watch the premier of Black Panther 15 hours before it comes out for you guys. India does have its perks.”
India was never on my list of places to travel. I didn’t know much about the culture, and if I ever heard about Sikhism before meeting my husband, it hadn’t stuck with me. Slumdog Millionaire was pretty much my only introduction to the country. And yet, here I am - practically a local.
I met my husband, Aman, through my job at a website development company that hires people all over the world. We worked closely together on many projects and soon began chatting outside of work as well. I was oblivious, but he had a major crush on me from the very beginning. I slowly but surely fell for him and his steady way of quietly loving and supporting me from a distance. When Aman invited me to India, I was hesitant to go because I knew that we wouldn’t be able to do long distance again after meeting. But I did go, and just three months later, I came back to his home in Amritsar to stay until his American visa is approved.
Krista and Aman at the Golden Temple
For the first ten months, Aman, his immediate family, and I all lived in a small home near the city center .Where Sri Harmandir Sahib, The Golden Temple, is located. There was one bedroom for his brother and the groceries that didn’t fit in the kitchen, one bedroom for Aman and me, and his parents slept in the living room. Although in the summer, we all frequently slept on cots on the roof to get a refreshing breeze.
Vendors would push their carts up and down the narrow streets of our old neighborhood yelling out which vegetables or fabrics or desserts they had for sale. If they didn’t have what we needed, the Golden Market was a quick motorcycle ride away. Each store specializes in a specific product. We shopped there for my wedding outfit - one store for the dress fabric, one for Punjabi jutti, another for chura, and of course, the jewelry shop. But when we don’t want to go from shop to shop, we just go to Walmart.
Dress Shopping at the Golden Market
Before I arrived, Aman’s family already had a new house or korthi under construction. We moved out of the crowded inner city into the koti about seven months ago It is in a newly developed colony or subdivision just outside of the city limits. The colony has many parks, including one right outside of our front door. I was so happy because it had been a such long time since I had seen grass. It was also the perfect place for dog walks, so we got ourselves a little Beagle puppy named Zinni.
The house was designed with both Aman’s and his brother’s future families in mind. Most households in India are multi generational. And even when they’re not, Aman’s extended family spends so much time here that it feels like it is anyway. So until there’s grandchildren, we have three empty rooms in the house, which is perfect for when my family visits from America.
The Family Home
My family has come twice since I moved here - once for our wedding ceremony and once for our reception party which was eight months later. You can read more about our wedding in the post My Big Fat Punjabi-Sikh Wedding Story: Krista & Amandeep. Both of our families get along great, even though Aman’s parents don’t speak much English and my family speaks no Punjabi at all. Our dads both work construction and share pictures back and forth of the work they have done. Our brothers have bonded too much and always ditch family events to go off and do whatever bros do together - I don’t ask.
It’s always been such a big relief for me whenever I am able to spend time with my family this year. While I am totally in love with Aman and want to spend all of my life with him, he just does not get my jokes… I’m also completely dependent on him to translate conversation, drive me places, order my food, and even explain symptoms to my doctor. It’s been a big adjustment for me to give up all of the independence that I have spent the last 8 years building. At least when my family is here I can talk without an intermediary and vent without judgement.
Both families at Aman and Krista’s wedding
India is hard for me both physically and emotionally. I’ve been through lots of illnesses from inflamed eyes due to all the pollution during Diwali to typhoid fever. As well as lots of mental health issues from panic attacks in crowded places to depression due to feeling so isolated. But Aman has always been right by my side through everything. I really put him to the test on that “in sickness and health” vow. He works hard to make sure I’m taken care in every way possible.
I really did find my perfect partner in Aman. He covers for me in the areas I am weak, and he doesn’t stand in my way in the areas I am strong. And though it’s hard for him to believe, he has his own faults that I help to balance out. Aman says there’s a Punjabi saying that 1 and 1 make 11 because we are stronger together than we are apart. I don’t think I could have been in India this long without him, but because of him, I can keep going for as long as it takes.
Aman’s brother, Krista, Zinni, and Aman
*Images are courtesy of Krista and are original copyrighted content and cannot be used without the express written consent of Krista.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
This is a guest post by the lovely Krista Bornman-Singh from the blog known as Born To Singh. You might also recognise her from the article My Big Fat Punjabi-Sikh Wedding Story: Krista & Amandeep. Krista grew up in a small town in Indiana, moved to the big city of Los Angeles, and currently resides in Amritsar, India with her husband and their dog. She enjoys reading, scrolling through Instagram for hours, and mashed potatoes. She aspires to one day own two dogs.
You can subscribe to her blog Born To Singh, that she apparently never updates. Be sure to give her a follow on Instagram @kabornman and Facebook @krista.bornman Or you can even follow her fur baby @zinnigram