Her Story: A Woman from India II

If you have a story and never tell it, does it mean that story doesn’t matter? Does it mean that you do not matter?

I wonder what happens to you if you never reveal it to other people or to yourself. How do you feel deep inside, and what makes you smile?

I don’t know her whole story. (The other day, I told you part of what I saw as a particular Indian man sat at our table in German class.) Now I share what else I know…

indian expat in germany

She sits across from me at the table and never looks up. This woman is about 40 years old. We do not make eye contact, and because I’m American (which basically means I smile constantly and flash really straight white teeth), I realize I’ve never seen her smile.

She wears two gold bands with simple round gems on her fingers. Only one of her fingernails is painted. It’s a deep, rusty red that feels warm in our old school building.

Her eyes are gentle, and she’s very quiet. Something tells me that she’s amazing. I like her already.

We get a 15 minute break to stretch and get our minds off the new grammar that is swallowing us whole. She whispers in Hindi with the woman from Afghanistan. Sometimes I join their conversation. Not in Hindi (obviously). They switch to our awkward form of German, wrinkled foreheads, and hand gestures just to include me.

They don’t have to do that. And yet they always do.

I ask them about their kids. I ask them about their lives back at home. And these stories? They’re powerful stuff. They make our lives in America seem so simple and so safe.

To the Indian woman, being in Germany is a huge blessing. I gently urge her, nodding as she begins to tell me her story…

She only arrived in July; meanwhile, her husband has been here 12 years. They got married in 2000, and in 2001, he was gone. He was trying to give them a better life. Think about that. She’s been raising their 12-year-old daughter without him.

“For the first time,” she told me, “I’m in Germany. My husband and daughter are in Germany, and we get to be a family. We get to be together!”

She smiled at this image in her head.

“Didn’t you ever get to see your husband all those years?” I asked in German.

“Yes,” she told me. He was able to come back to India from some time in March and stay until early April. That was it.

What type of work could make all these sacrifices so worth it, I wondered. I mean, how many of us struggle when our husbands must leave for only a few days of work?

And so I asked. “What does your husband do?”

She was so proud as she answered me:

“He’s a shoe salesman.”