Ingimar proposed to me on a cold winters night, the eve of Christmas Eve, back in Edinburgh. We had been out at the theatre and were going for drinks at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel with my Mum and her partner. The Waldorf Astoria is where he and his friends were staying that fateful night that we met. He was on a lads football trip and I was on a Hen Night, both celebrating at the Ghillie Dhu, just across the road from their Hotel.
A few years, a number of flights, Facetimes and a relocations later we were heading for a glass of Christmas bubbly when Ingimar suggested we take a quick walk over to the Ghillie Dhu for old times sake. I said ok, but only if we were quick as Mum was waiting. Walking over, it was fun to reminisce about that night, meeting this strange bearded man from Iceland and wondering what life was like in such a country. We went in the back door and walked through the bar to head upstairs to the main hall, where we first met. Unfortunately it was too early and the hall wasn't open yet. Not wanting to keep Mum waiting I said "let's go", and started to walk downstairs and out the front door. Knowing Ingimar wasn't behind me, I moaned "hurry up, what are you doing?" only to turn around and find him knelt down, on one knee, holding a small red box. I immediately shut up.
I can't quite recall what he said but I knew what was happening and, just for a moment, I was speechless. He asked me to marry him and I managed to blurt out an "of course". We hugged and kissed, and cried a little.
A very public spot, which thankfully was very quiet that night. We managed to have a few moments to ourselves before I remembered my Mum!! We walked over to a very nervously-excited Mother-in-Law to-be and shared the news. I called my brother and sister, and staying very close by, my sister came to join us with her boyfriend. So that was us, all dressed in silly Christmas jumpers, surrounded by family, we toasted our engagement and started to dream of the big day.
Happily engaged, we now wear matching Icelandic rings. It's an Icelandic tradition for you to both wear rings and so once you're married, the ring becomes your wedding band. I like that Icelandic men wear a ring to show they're engaged but I wanted a little of both cultures - and like many girls, I didn't want to miss out on my diamond so we got creative and agreed that my Wedding ring would be a diamond ring and the Icelandic ring would be my engagement ring.
Last November I found myself back in India, where a big chapter of my life happened. India means a lot to me; my parents happily holidayed there, I escaped a recession only to end up climbing the academic ladder there, I made some awesome friends and memories there, learnt to ride a scooter, travelled a lot, attended more Indian weddings than western, fell in love Bollywood movies and well, all things bling. But the career part was a huge chapter of change for me and Mother India nurtured, guided and gave me the confidence to really push myself.
Between 2009 and 2012, I lived in Bangalore but India took a grip of my (as she does) and I managed to travel back and forth to Delhi and Mumbai with the British Council from 2012 to 2016 when I moved to Iceland (I know, quite the change). In the time I lived in India I had many visitors, one of which was my sister who came for a month and volunteered with two NGO projects. We managed to do some travelling too and flew up north to Rajasthan. This is where I feel in love with Udaipur, boasting some of the most impressive architectural details (especially windows) you've ever seen. It's a long story with many adventures but this story is about last Novembers Diwali.
Diwali is the festival of light. A beautiful, if a little OTT at times, festival of candles and fireworks. Having celebrated many Diwali festivals whilst living in India, I was keen to escape the noise and head for somewhere a little quieter. Remembering the calming lakes and beautiful palaces of Udaipur, I booked my flight and flew north the next day. Arriving into the city at night, I was met with all the chaos of an Indian festival. Fireworks, flashes of colour and loud bangs. There was to be no escape.
I checked into a budget hostel and headed to my dorm. I always find when you are travelling alone, it's a good idea to book a hostel as you have more chance of meeting fellow travellers here and so company. The party was up on the roof and the Bollywood dancing had commenced. I got chatting to two English backpackers and we started exchanging stories. After a few hours, I headed off to bed. The next morning I went for a wander through the back streets, and not knowing anyone, it was a little odd when I heard my name being called from the doorway of a local jewellery shop. I looked back and saw the couple from the previous night. Now, experienced in Indian shops and the sometime dodgy deals tourists get involved in, I had always stayed clear of them so I hesitantly approach. The couple were sitting in the shop, sipping on a cold beer and chatting about motor bikes. No one was shopping, no one was bartering, no jewels were even out on show so I joined them for a refreshing beer. A beer down, I jokingly pointed out that no one had bartered over anything yet and so I wanted to see his biggest diamond. We had a look and I asked the price. They didn't think anything of it, why would they, afterall we were just a couple of hostellers enjoying a beer with them. I agreed to join them in a bike ride to a local lake and we headed off.
For those alarmed at this random decision, I will try to reassure you that I knew what I was doing, but honestly how can I do that?! Firstly, I trust my gut in situations like this, a skill that comes in very handy when travelling alone. Heading off on the back of a motorbike, with two other travellers I had only just met, driven by someone I didn't know, to a random secluded lake - I get you, but all was fine. Actually it was a great day and we had a good laugh at my Hindi, freckles and other foreign funniness.
After the day trip, they dropped us back in the city and we walked to our hostel (as I thought it best they not know exactly where we were staying). I messaged Ingimar to tell him of my day and mentioned the diamond. A little surprised at my adventures, he then asked about the diamond and it quickly got serious. He was sat in Iceland googling information on the 3Cs (cut, colour, clarity) whilst I sat on my top bunk in India messaging the jewellery shop owner to subtly start up a conversation about the rock. After a while I had developed a plan to meet up with the jeweller at his shop, I had explained my budget and that I had to still get the stone set into a ring from the money I had so I could avoid the bartering and make it a more pleasant experience. We agreed to meet.
Back at the shop, I met with the jeweller and his brother, they had brought food which is very typical of Indian hospitality. Neither of us wanted to rush this and so we chatted a little more. I looked at the diamond, sent a picture to Ingimar (along with a picture of his business card and a link to his Facebook page as some kind of reassurance of who I was with). After an hour or so, a beer and some delicious curry, I had met the brother, mother, sister, uncle, friends...and I had bought the diamond. No bartering, no nonsense. I trusted my gut and it felt good.
For the next two nights I slept with the diamond in my bag, under my pillow, on the top bunk of a budget hostel. Hilarious.
I flew back with the diamond safely tucked into a zipped compartment of my purse, handbag glued to me. I took the stone to a local North Berwick jewellery designer, Patricia Dudgeon. Relief as she confirmed the cut, clarity and carat. I wanted the ring to be unique, it had a good start already so I wanted to design something simple that would really show off the rock. Pats work is stunning and she made the process so easy. Ingimar and I visited her shop together and I explained what I was looking for. After a few sketches we agreed on a design and she modelled it in CAD. I was so excited to see and wear it. A few days later she called me to try it on and I loved it, it was exactly what I wanted; simple and elegant but really showed off the rock. It sits so well on my finger, right after the Icelandic rugged engagement ring. I wear it with pride, love and loads of happy memories.