New Year’s Eve, Buenos Aires
“¡Feliz Año Nuevo! de tu pais,” (Happy New Year from your country) I wished Lyna.
“Where are you?” she asked.
“You must go to my home in Alumine in Patagonia. My parents would love to host you.”
I had met Lyna only twice back in New Hampshire and here she was asking me to go to her home. After experiencing South American hospitality for five months, I wasn’t entirely surprised.
I added her hometown to my itinerary.
It took me two buses, six hitched rides and 48 hours to reach her hometown from Buenos Aires.
7th January 2016 – Alumine, Argentina
Her father, the sheriff of the town, greeted me with a stern handshake. Lyna had warned me about her father’s old school nature. But, her mother’s lovely smile overshadowed everything. Her siblings were also excited to have me over.
Over an elaborate lunch, I told them about my South American journey. The humble beginning in Ecuador, the enigma of Amazon, the otherworldly wildlife of Galapagos, the raw emotion of Rio De Janeiro, rented car misadventures of Chapada Diamantina, bribing Interpol officers to enter Bolivia, Salar de Uyuni, camping on the beach in Uruguay and the journey to their home.
Now, his father wore the same smile that her mother greeted me with and poured some more wine in my glass. Between the two of us, we had almost finished the Mendoza red.
His brother murmured, “Lyna wants you to check your WhatsApp. She said it’s urgent.”
I went into the room to check my WhatsApp. She had sent, “What are you up to? Have you gone crazy?”
I didn’t quite understand so I replied back, “What do you mean?”
She then sent me a screenshot of her chat with her mother. Her mother had written, “We love Varun. We approve of him. We are fine with you two getting married whenever you guys are ready.”
I couldn’t believe my eyes. Maybe it was the wine. No, it wasn’t. It was some kind of confusion. Her parents thought Lyna had sent me on some sort of approval trip. I asked Lyna to clear the confusion with her parents.
She said she did tell her mother that she already has a boyfriend in New Hampshire. But, her mother replied that you are not happy with your present boyfriend so why not Varun. Both of us were baffled.
Despite clarifying, they treated me as their to-be son-in-law. I asked his father for some beer and he brought a beer of each kind from the convenience store. I mentioned that I am thinking of travelling through Patagonia on a motorcycle. He took me to a local motorcycle seller.
I went for a walk in the town with her brother. He introduced me to everyone as ‘boyfriend of Lyna’. The whole town started treating me as Lyna’s fiance. A cafe owner called me in for some cafe con leche, a family invited me for a rare Mendoza wine, a deli guy offered sandwiches and everyone in the town greeted me with a wide smile.
For five days, I was the fiance of the town sheriff’s daughter.