The Californian lifestyle is one that’s romanticized and replicated in fashion, books and films. From the glamour of Hollywood to the serenity of its beaches, the Golden State has always seemed like an incredible place to live.
Yet despite this, Adriana Peral found herself leaving her life in California for something that was seemingly much less desirable: a farm in rural India. Rather than feeling out of place or alienated, though, she fell in love – in more ways than one.
Before her big move, however, Peral had been a typical California girl. The 41-year-old lived in the city of Merced, where she spent her spare time exercising, grabbing drinks with friends and shopping with her 25-year-old daughter, Lucy.
But all of that would change when she met a 25-year-old man named Mukesh Kumar via mutual friends on Facebook. The pair began exchanging messages through the social media site, which caused Kumar’s feelings for Peral to grow rather quickly.
In fact, he told the Daily Mail that he’d fallen for the Californian in less than two weeks. “After chatting for nine days, my eagerness to speak to her grew beyond imagination,” he said. “We exchanged our mobile numbers and I called her on the tenth day and said ‘I love you’ to her.”
Peral admitted that she initially “didn’t know how to react” to Kumar’s declaration of love. “At first, I just laughed it off,” she said. “But after we talked some more, I realized he was serious, and so I said if you win my heart, I will consider marrying you.”
And despite her initial hesitation, Peral found her feelings deepening for the man who lived a world away, too. Just weeks after he said “I love you,” Peral realized that she wanted to leave her home, go to India and give their relationship a real shot.
Of course, Peral’s family ties prevented her from just jetting off to South-East Asia immediately. And her daughter did not react well to the news. “[Lucy] was crying, she was in floods of tears,” Peral recalled. “She was worried something bad would happen to me.”
Lucy warned her mother that India could be unsafe for women. Others close to the 41-year-old worried that “Mukesh was a fake, an online scam, and that he didn’t really exist,” Peral admitted. All she could do was promise them that everything would be okay.
But even Peral herself needed a bit of reassurance once she landed at Indira Gandhi International Airport in Delhi, India. The country that greeted her was so much different than her American home. “When I first stepped off the plane it was complete culture shock,” she said.
And the contrast between cultures became even more stark in the rural village where Kumar lived, far from the bustle of the airport – and even a 30-minute drive from the closest town. Her new neighbors went without many of the basic amenities to which she was accustomed.
“If people back home could see where I am living, they would think I am crazy,” Peral said. “At first, it was a real struggle, but soon you realize you don’t need a fancy toilet or power shower to be happy.”
Instead, Peral used a communal toilet. The couple’s shower wasn’t a shower at all: it was a bucket of water with which they rinsed while standing above a hole in the floor. And at night, the space that they used as a living room during the day became sleeping quarters for their cows.
And the challenges extended far beyond her home. Peral had to work hard to fit into a community that wasn’t used to seeing foreigners. She said, “Wherever I went, a crowd would develop all wanting to catch a glimpse of this outsider.”
Eventually, she got over the attention, especially once the village began to accept her as “one of their own.” The trick to gaining their approval was “dressing like they do and trying to speak some Hindi,” Peral explained. “The locals respond when you try and fit in and live as they live.”
Her immersion into the local customs, including taking care of the couple’s home, had impressed Kumar’s mother, Bimla Devi, too. The 70-year-old said she was happy that her son had met the American woman because “she respects me… A girl from our village would probably not have respected me as much as Adriana does.”
As for Kumar, Peral’s dedication to becoming a traditional Indian housewife proved that their love was true. So, in November of 2013, the pair were married in a lavish ceremony that followed Hindu tradition. What’s more, their unlikely union made national headlines in India.
Life for the newlyweds had returned to normality by the time they spoke to Barcroft TV in January of 2014. And Peral still seemed to be completely content. “I love my life here with Mukesh,” she said. “I wouldn’t exchange it for anything in the world.”
And despite the nearly 20-year age gap between the couple, Peral and Kumar said that they hoped to start a family together. The pair envisioned doing so in India, but the Californian said that a move back to her home country wasn’t out of the question.
”If I could bring the American food and luxuries here, it would be perfect,” Peral said. But the most important thing was the love that brought her – and keeps her – halfway around the world. “The people of India are very loving, and this does feel like a second home now,” she added.