When the Indian government awarded scholarships to two African mediapersons, one from Ghana and the other from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), to study developmental journalism at the Indian Institute of Mass Communications (IIMC), little did it know that it was about to play cupid to them.
The duo did not only end up with the qualification that brought them to India but also fell in love and are now happily married and living in Ghana.
Solange Kalunga Ipanga and Gabriel Eddem Ahiabor arrived in Delhi in August 2011.
"I did not plan to fall in love when I left the DRC where I worked as a journalist with (state broadcaster) Radio Television National du Congo," Ipanga said.
She said she had heard various instances where international students doing similar courses in India fell in love but the relationships ended when it was time to go home.
"I was 28 years old and single. I did not want to get into anything like that; so it was set in my mind that I was in India only to study and return home."
However, things turned out differently.
Ahiabor, who was then 31 and worked with the state newspaper Daily Graphic in Ghana, said: "I was single and had no clue that I would meet a woman who would make me fall in love. However, Solange who became my studymate, caught my attention and we fell in love."
"When I was employed by the Daily Graphic, they initially put me in the grade of a photographer even though I had a degree that should have made me a reporter," said Ahiabor. He said that he knew that Ipanga was a reporter and so he had to tell her about his grade as a photographer.
"I remember him saying that to me, but I fell in love with Gabriel and with not the job he did," she said.
Ipanga got to know more about Ahiabor from Divine Agbakpe, who was the Defence Attache at the Ghana High Commission at that time, and his relative. "After we met Uncle Divine, I became convinced that he did not have a wife back home and so I went into the relationship fully."
After the meeting with Ahiabor's relative, the two started thinking of taking their relationship further and planned a future together.
Before Ipanga left India at the end of the course for her home country, she applied for a Ghanaian visa. "I spent only a month there and then decided to join Gabriel."
However, her culture does not allow her to just leave her parents and get married. "I had to plan everything well; so I told my parents that I was going to Ghana on assignment," Ipanga said.
Their story could have been different because days before her departure, Ipanga got to know about a misunderstanding between Ahiabor's bosses over his travel to India.
The Human Resource Department thought the editorial heads who chose him had not consulted them and so decided to suspend him from work on his return.
"So, for a month, I was unemployed and I passed the message to Solange," Ahiabor said.
But the news did not deter Ipanga. She bought her own ticket, and withdrew $7,000 from her savings to join Ahiabor in Ghana to start a new life. Fortunately, by the time she arrived in Accra, he was called back to work.
When the time came to inform Ipanga's family, the couple got lucky again. "My relative who had businesses in the DRC was travelling there. So I approached him to go and meet Solange's parents to break the news to them as an elder from my family," Ahiabor said.
"The man did that and paid the necessary bride price that was required on our behalf," he added.
After overcoming all the obstacles, the couple got married in March 2012 in Ahiabor's home-town of Anloga in Ghana. "We signed our marriage papers in a court room," Ipanga said, adding: "Now I am waiting for a white wedding in a church."
"This marriage is made in heaven and we are contributing to the uniting of the African continent. But our story happened with the assistance of the Indian government," she added.
The couple now has two children, a boy aged four and a girl aged two.
Interestingly, Ipanga is now employed in Ghana as a customer service officer with an Indian firm.
# Francis Kokutse can be contacted at email@example.com