RISHIKESH: YOGA, rafting, meditation and the Ganga brought Oleksandra Okribelashvili to Rishikesh many times all the way from Ukraine. Little did she know that this quiet town will be one day an integral part of her life. It was in one of her many trips when she met Tarun Agarwal, who runs a store in Muni-Ki-Reti area. Both hit it off instantly, and love culminated into marriage.
Oleksandra’s and Tarun’s story is not new. But unlike the earlier trend when it was mostly Indian men who would go abroad for a better future, foreign women are now settling down in Rishikesh, Haridwar and surrounding areas after marriage. Their husbands are yoga teachers, local businessmen and even rafting instructors in some cases.
"Despite being a conservative family, my parents and relatives supported my decision to marry Oleksandra. She still doesn’t understand Hindi, and we converse in English at home. I visited Ukraine once to meet her relatives. She is happy to settle in Rishikesh and so am I,’’ says Tarun. He says earlier many locals married foreigners to settle abroad. ‘But in other cases, including mine, it was love. It is good that more and more foreigners are willing to settle down here.’’
"I have attended more than a dozen weddings in the last couple of years wherein foreign women are more than willing to settle down here instead of returning to their country with their Indian husbands. In a few cases I know of, the husbands tried to persuade their firang wives that they settle abroad but the women refused and instead persuaded them to settle down in Rishikesh,’’ says Ravidas, a local yoga and spiritual teacher.
"Life is easy and hassle-free here. Moreover, they develop instant connect with this place due to its serenity, the holy Ganga, yoga and meditation which they don’t find in their homeland. Either ways, whether it is the earlier trend (of foreign women taking husbands to their countries) or they settling down here, it is ultimately the women who take the decision and the men are simply obeying them,’’ he says.
Another spiritual teacher Devnarayan, who runs a meditation centre, says the main reason for foreign women settling in India is their confidence of a stable marriage. "There have been several instances wherein the men would leave their wives within months of landing abroad and, then, look for better jobs or get into new relationships. The foreigners know too well that in the Indian family system and culture, men do not easily leave them for another woman,’’ he says.
"I know how much Ajay (Rawat) loves me and cares for me, and I respect him for that. Back home in the UK, divorces happen within days or months of marriage. But here, marriages last long and husbands don’t leave their wives as easily as it happens abroad. Moreover, I have fallen in love with India,’’ Amiele says. Her husband organises rafting tours for tourists.
“Rishikesh is special because not only is this place soothing, it also gives me a sense of belonging. I never had this feeling in Korea. For me and my hubby (yoga instructor Piyush), it was only about love and nothing else,’’ says Yi Sung, who married two years ago.Almost all these weddings took place as per local rituals. “I have no problem having a videshi bahu. Moreover, she (Amiele) has learnt to cook a few Indian dishes,’’ Ajay’s father Anup Rawat asserts.