Real Life Story
Here’s Why This Indian-German Couple Got Married Thrice
The story of Disha and Constantin is that of childhood love, the good old ways of charming each other’s families, and also getting married in three beautiful ways.
“First love never die,” croons Soko in her eponymous hit song, which has been used in many TV shows about, well, first love. At the age of 12, when Disha Mangsuli first fell in love, it was with Constantin Gehling in the neon-hued district of Shanghai where both their fathers were posted. Mangsuli was from India and Gehling, Germany.
“The love story starts with me,” confessed Mangsuli. “When I first entered the class as a 12-year-old in 2004, he was the first person I saw, laughing and joking with his classmates. My heart started beating really fast and my vision tunnelled a little bit.”
Gehling, on the other hand, was unaware of Mangsuli’s feelings for him. After all, they were only 12, in a foreign country, and it certainly didn’t help that he was insulated in his little boy's bubble. Turns out, everyone in the school soon knew what she felt for him, save Gehling. However, Mangsuli soon realised that she couldn’t just keep those feelings to herself, particularly after a friend told her that he would be leaving school and going back to Germany where his family was originally based.
“This was in 2006, two years after I first fell in love with him,” she said. “The news of him permanently leaving China broke my heart so I frantically wrote a long email to him, confessing all my feelings, including how he’d ignored me once.”
She recalled how, to that long email, Gehling only responded with a single line to the ignoring bit with a simple — sorry for ignoring you. “I was just a 14-year-old kid and I didn’t know any better,” Gehling chipped in, laughing. “Receiving an email like this can be a bolt from the blue for anyone.”
Soon after the email, Gehling moved back to Germany. But now that the ice was broken, never mind the distance, Mangsuli knew that she could flirt with ease. The feelings were confessed, Gehling knew exactly how she felt about him and there was no going back. For the next few years, the conversation was limited to Facebook Messenger. They chatted about anything and everything — the things they dreamt about, the movies that made them feel alive, little nuances about each other’s culture, and more. The conversations went on for years until they finally met again in India. The last time they’d seen each other, they were 14. Now, they were 25.
“I flew down to India to meet her,” said Gehling. “There was complete comfort despite the gap of 11 years and no awkwardness at all. It was as if we’d been meeting each other every day.”
Technically, they were still just best friends. Nothing explicitly romantic was hinted at throughout these years, even though there was a palpable romantic tension between them, the flirty texts that seemed endless and the exchange of sweet songs. Mangsuli, on her part, was clear about what she felt for him and her feelings remained unchanged all these years, too. “On my last day in India, I told her that we should give things a shot,” said Gehling, admitting that it was finally time to underline what they had been feeling for each other for almost a decade now, before it was too late. “There were no big proclamations because we knew there were cultural differences but we wanted to try things. The friendship was our anchor.”
Mangsuli, after having waited over a decade to have her feelings reciprocated, obviously agreed and the duo kicked off a long-distance relationship spanning continents and cultures. When Gehling went back to Germany, Mangsuli moved to Malaysia for work. Over chats, they bonded over “not belonging anywhere at all” because of how often they had to change countries for work or because of their parents moving around. The frequency of the video calls increased, they wanted to get to know each other better though there was a bit of pressure from Mangsuli’s parents for her to get married.
“His parents understood that I couldn’t simply go to my Indian parents and tell them I have a boyfriend,” she said. “Even though it had just been a year of our romantic relationship per se, I told them that there was no pressure from me personally but I can only inform my parents about him in the form of a marriage proposal.”
On Gehling’s part, he was nervous about meeting her parents — not because they could be potentially conservative Indian parents. He already knew they weren’t. “But I was still technically a student and wasn’t settled yet, which became a bit of worry for Disha’s parents,” he said.
When Gehling flew down to India to attend Mangsuli’s brother’s wedding, it was also his first meeting with her parents. He stepped into a full house of her aunts, grandparents, relatives and neighbours. And then came the ice-breaker. “We were sitting in the living room when we suddenly saw a cockroach running around,” he said. “Everyone started jumping onto the furniture but I just picked it up and threw it outside the door with my bare hands. Immediately, all the tension and awkwardness melted away.”
While Gehling didn’t have a job, for Mangsuli’s parents, the idea that their potential son-in-law could fix their pest problem with ease certainly helped his case. Then came the three weddings — the legal wedding in April 2019, an Indian wedding in January 2020 for Mangsuli’s family, and a Catholic one for Gehling’s family in May 2022.
For the longest time, the couple had bonded over the fact that they belonged to no country. Almost every other year, there was a new country they found themselves in, assimilating into a new culture. Even when Mangsuli was in Germany, things were daunting for her — racism and particularly the language barrier that made her feel sidelined in a small German town. It was in those moments that Gehling’s parents would comfort her. In this context, both of them had a strange and complicated relationship with each other’s culture and had to ensure that the same was respected. Just a single ceremony, so to speak, couldn’t possibly do justice to the magnitude of it all.
“We got married legally in April 2019 in Denmark because we found out from a friend that it’s the Las Vegas of Europe for foreigners, as getting married legally in either India or Germany would make the visa processes long drawn,” she said. “It was a beautiful time, we drove down to the beautiful town of Ribe, and finished the legal procedure in 15 minutes. My parents joined via FaceTime.”
The next wedding, the Indian one, was a marriage of two contrasting cultures. Even though the stereotypical assumption of Indian families is that their weddings are loud and all cylinders firing, it was Gehling’s family that was into the whole dance-and-song routine as opposed to Mangsuli’s who was relatively sombre. Yet everyone indulged in each other’s quirks.
“The third and final Catholic wedding in Germany started with a quiet Church ritual followed by endless partying, food and drinks,” said Gehling. “I think we’re the only couple you will ever meet who has been married to each other three times over four years. You see these things in the movies but well, love makes even the wildest dreams come true.”
Source: Arman Khan, VICE.
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