In the heart of the town of Kuldhara in Rajasthan’s Thar desert lives an 82-year-old gatekeeper. Believed to be haunted, this abandoned town is his home, where he met his first love.
Opening up about his touching story, the gatekeeper of Rajasthan’s Kuldhara told Humans Of Bombay: “I was in my 30s when I first met Marina – she had come to Jaisalmer all the way from Australia.” This was in the 1970s, back when he was not yet the gatekeeper.
He met Marina in Jaisalmer and taught her how to ride a camel during her five-day trip.
“For both of us, it was love at first sight. Throughout the trip, we couldn’t take our eyes off each other,” the gatekeeper said.
“And before leaving for Australia, Marina said the three magical words to me, ‘I love you;’ I went red! Nobody had said those words to me before. I can never forget that day–I was feeling so shy that I couldn’t utter a word in response to her confession!” he called. “But she understood and we stayed in touch–after Marina flew back, she’d write to me every week. And a few weeks later, she invited me to Australia–I was over the moon!”
When Marina later invited him to Australia, the overwhelmed man took a loan of ₹ 30,000 and flew to Melbourne without informing his family. He stayed there for three months.
“Those 3 months were magical–she taught me English, I taught her to do the ghoomar. But then she said, ‘Let’s get married and settle in Australia!’–things got complicated.
I wasn’t ready to leave my motherland and she wasn’t willing to move to India. I told her–‘This can’t work long term,’ and we decided to part ways. It wasn’t easy–she cried a lot the day I left, but I had to let her go,” the gatekeeper said.
“Then, life moved on. A few years later, owing to family pressure, I had to get married. After, I took up a job as the gatekeeper of Kuldhara, the abandoned ghost town near my village to fend for my family. But quite often, I’d find myself thinking about Marina–‘Would she have gotten married?’, ‘Will I ever see her again?’ but I never had the courage to write to her,” he added.
The gatekeeper’s memories, however, faded with time. Two years ago, his wife passed away. All his sons were married and had moved out, and the 82-year-old man was left alone in the village.
“And just when I thought that life couldn’t surprise me anymore, it did! A month ago, out of nowhere, Marina wrote to me. She asked, ‘How are you my friend?’; I had goosebumps. After 50 years, she found me! Since then, she’s been calling me everyday; we have so much to catch up on!” the gatekeeper said.
He concluded by saying: “She told me that she’d never gotten married and that she’s coming to India soon. Ramji ki kasam, I feel like I’m 21 again! I don’t know what the future holds, but knowing that my first love is back in my life and talks to me everyday is a feeling I can’t explain.”