She is from Germany and went completely blind by the age of 12. In the beginning, she was terrified of the darkness that engulfed her. But slowly, she learnt to embrace it, to let it teach her things that a sighted person could never learn. That’s how she decided to go to Tibet to start a school for blind children and that’s where she met the love of her life. She met him, along with some others, at the inn where she stayed. At a restaurant where they went, he ordered a traditional soup and spent the rest of the evening entertaining everybody with tales of his travels. They made her laugh so hard she cried.
The next time she met him was at a monastery. She had gone there to relax and bask in the serenity of the place. The silence was broken by someone greeting her. She couldn’t recognise the voice. He moved closer to her and started chatting about this and that, nothing in particular. That’s when she realised it was him. He had come there to do volunteer work with the Red Cross. But love was the last thing on her mind then. He was talking too loud, disturbing the soothing chanting of the monks.
“Would you like some Coca-Cola?” he asked, too loud.
“Shhh,” she admonished him. He loudly rummaged in his bag and dug out a can. But then, he couldn’t open it. When he finally did, “it sounded as if all demons were escaping at once”, she writes in her book. The spray hit the ceiling and slowly drizzled down, bathing the holy statues in Coca-Cola.
She went back to Germany to raise funds, and he went back to the Netherlands, and on the eve of her return to Tibet, she was calling everyone to say good-bye. That’s when she remembered him and the promise she had made to him that she would call him when she was ready to return.
“I just wanted to say good-bye and let you know I’m returning to Lhasa next week,” she told him over the phone.
After a pregnant pause, he said: “What do you mean, telling me good-bye? Tomorrow, I’m quitting my job. I’m coming with you.”
I met them in Thiruvananthapuram, where they are staying now. I found them to be fiery and passionate about their cause. Anyone could easily see that they were very much in love with each other. Curious about their relationship, I asked them if they ever fought.
“We fight all the time but it’s always about what’s most important to us,” she told me. “We never fight over trivial things.”
Together, in Tibet, they realised their dream. They built a school for blind children. In Tibet, blind children are shut in dark rooms and left to die because it is believed that there are demons in them or that they are blind because of some sins committed in the past. So, it was no easy task convincing parents to send their children to their school.
One day, after facing a series of problems, they were told that their visas would not be renewed. They were ordered out of the country. They decided to go to Kathmandu to apply for new visas. The road to Kathmandu was blocked in several places. The monsoon had caused many mudslides. Some way farther, they had to climb a steep incline. All of a sudden, she found the ground disappearing beneath her. She knew she was sliding down the void. Within seconds, he and the Nepalese men were hauling her up. She asked him why he had risked his life for her.
“For you,” he said. “Do you think I would have gone through all this for anyone else?”
She asked him if he was taking pity on her and he exploded. There are some people who do this simply because they love you, he told her. And there it was. She had been scared all along that love would ruin their friendship but it was time to stop fighting, she realised. Time to give, accept and share love.
When I met them, she told me a story about how she had always thought he had dark hair because she liked dark hair. In Tibet she had taken some pictures of all of them together and when she went back to Germany, her friends asked her who the guy with the blond hair was. She said she had no clue. When she went back to Tibet, she showed him the picture and asked him who it was. “That’s me,” he said. And that’s when she realised he had blond hair. “I decided to take him anyway,” she told me with a laugh. Sometimes, you can only fall in love with your eyes wide shut.