Monday, March 19, 2012

In a state of bliss

COLUMN: Cross Connection

When Austrian Mike Mayer met Shalu Simpson in Kochi, he fell instantly in love. They talk about their life after marriage

By Shevlin Sebastian

In the 1990s, Anetta Simpson was doing a job in Heidelberg, Germany. There she happened to meet an Austrian Mike Mayer. They became friendly. After a few months, Anetta invited Michael to visit her home town of Kochi.

In 1997, Michael took up the offer and came and met Anetta's family, including her sister, Shalu, and brother Heinz. “We clicked very well,” says Shalu. At that time, she was doing her B.A. at St Teresa's College. Soon, Michael started courting her. Then he returned to Europe and they began writing letters to each other. “Michael would come once a year to see me,” says Shalu.

Finally, in 2000, Michael came with his sister, mother, and brother and met Shalu's father K.P. Simpson. “Michael had a long talk with my dad and said he was interested in marrying me,” says Shalu. “It was only after he got the green signal that Michael asked me. And I said yes.”

Michael says that he decided to marry Shalu because “she is very authentic. I did not find anything fake about her. Shalu is also very beautiful. I experienced a mysterious attraction. It is something which I cannot describe in words.”

Michael and Shalu got married on September 8, 2001 at Feldkirch, on the Swiss-Austria border. And a gallant Michael did what no newly-wed husband would do. For their honeymoon, he took along his in-laws and sister-in-law to tourist places in Switzerland, Germany, and Italy. “We also went to the Vatican and saw the Leaning Tower of Pisa,” says Shalu. “Michael was very sporting about it, but we all had a good time.”

But it took some time for Shalu to get used to life in Switzerland , where Michael was working. “Because of the language problem, initially it was a challenge to make friends,” she says. Shalu also had to get used to the potato, pasta, and cheese diet.

Once, when her parents were visiting her, Shalu's mother-in-law served cheese fondue. “The cheese is placed in a big pot placed on a burner,” she says. You can then dip into this and have it with bread or potatoes, or grilled items like egg plants and capsicum, apart from salads and white wine. “My parents thought it was an appetisier and my mother-in-law started panicking, because this is the main course,” says a smiling Shalu. “It is actually quite filling. Later, they learnt to enjoy the fondue.”

For Shalu, initially, the cold weather was enjoyable, because she had come from a tropical country. “But over time, when it became chilly, you don't enjoy it so much,” she says. “The activities are limited. When you go out for walks, you have to layer yourself with several clothes. In Ontario , Canada, where we now stay, the temperatures can be as low as minus 20 or 40 degrees [Centigrade]. When you look out of the window, it is always dark and gloomy. Your mood becomes like that. So, during winters, I prefer to go to sunny destinations. That is the time when I miss India the most.”

But Shalu would not miss a Malayali husband at all. Because Michael -- an associate professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Waterloo -- is always helping her in the kitchen, be it by washing dishes or peeling vegetables.

“He sets aside time for me and our three-year-old son,” says the now-pregnant Shalu. Asked whether she is scared because of Europe 's soaring divorce rates, Shalu says, “Michael has accepted me as I am. And he sincerely loves me. Things have worked out very well between us.”

And things are changing in Europe, too. “The big difference is that they are having more children,” says Shalu. “Earlier, there would be one or two, but now couples are opting for more. The mind-set has changed. Initially, they were obsessed with the careers, but now they value the importance of children and families.”

(The New Indian Express, Kochi)

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