My second marriage proposal in Tajikistan. Actually, it was Afghanistan!
I am cycling along the Panj River while wearing headphones and listening to my favourite music at loud volume. In the background, I hear a shouting sound that doesn’t belong to the song.
I glance at the mountains on the Tajik side to the left but cannot spot anyone. After a few seconds, I hear the same thing again. I look to the right and see a few people sitting across the river in Afghanistan. I immediately pull the brakes and stop. There are only 20-30 metres of the river separating us so we can hear each other.
“Do you have a wife?” a guy in the white dress shouts in Tajik (Dari) language.
“No!” I reply.
“Do you want to marry her?” he points to the girl sitting beside him.
“Yes!” I yell, remembering my recent marriage proposal in Tajikistan. I then wait for her answer.
“I love you!” the girl shouts at me in English. I cannot believe my ears.
“I love you too,” is my loud response.
Now that we both have agreed, the only hurdle between us is the river.
She asks me to come over to the Afghan side. I first take a long look at the river and then her. There is no chance I would be able to cross the river. In helplessness, I ask her to come here to the Tajik side, but she points out to the river and shrugs her shoulders.
Another lady in the green dress arrives at the scene who after washing a tea kettle in the river joins the conversation. Both ladies start clapping and singing a song while I stand alone and watch all this from the other side of the river. “Is it a wedding song? Are they already celebrating?” I think to myself.
After a while, I say goodbye and leave against my will. As I press the first pedal, I hear a loud voice again, “I love you!”
All the way I curse the Panj River. Wonder how many friendships and relationships it has prevented over the years. Near Ishkoshim, the river recedes and hides behind the trees as if it is ashamed of its wrongdoing. A strong tailwind helps me ride 45 kilometres in less than three hours despite the rugged nature of the terrain. The sound of “I love you” continues to echo in my ears for the days to come!