Jab They Met: A Valentine’s Day Ode to Our Parents’ Love Stories

In the era of swiping left and right on dating apps, there are a few stories that make us sigh and wish they were our own — especially on Valentine’s Day. More often than not, these are stories of how our grandparents, parents, aunts, and uncles met.

Cue: Violins at the top of the mountains in Switzerland.

But in all seriousness,  it seems as if, at that time, long-lasting love could be found more easily and couples clicked so feasibly. This Valentine’s Day, get your tissues ready as we share a few jab they met stories of the parents (and grandparents) of some of our brown girls!

[Read More: Love and 8 Ways to Celebrate This Valentine’s Day (and Every Day!)]

Creator and founder of Aam Creative, Afshan Nasseri, shares cultural bits on her social media handle that teleport us to the alleys of Lucknow, Karachi, and beyond. Her grandparents’ story reminds us of the kind of love portrayed in the shayari, or poetry, of Gulzar and Mirza Ghalib.

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“My grandparents, Gulam Alauddin Haider and Nayyar Iqbal met in Lucknow in the ’50s. My grandmother was a friend of my grandfather’s beloved sister. His friend told him that there was a beautiful woman he [had seen] with his sister and that my grandfather needed to see her, and they arranged it. Since my grandfather was Sunni and my grandmother was Shia, they ended up eloping with their friends as witnesses and were secretly married for five-plus years until they both finally convinced their fathers and were celebrated publicly. They lived together in Lucknow, Indore, and Raipur and then finally moved to Canada in 1969.”

Shezda Afrin, a med school student and writer, has her mom share her teenage love story that would make you trust your gut instinct more often:

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“It was the mid-90s in NYC. As cliché as it sounds, it was ‘love at first sight,’ during a dawat at my house. He was one of the guests. Fun fact: I had yet to get ready for the party and was still in my PJs. We looked at each other for about five minutes straight and then kept gazing. He was different than the rest. I don’t know how else to explain it. It was a gut feeling. I always imagined myself as a one-man woman. When I knew it was right, it was right, regardless of what my circumstances were. While I had other aspirations, all took a mini hiatus when I met him. We started talking, mainly over the phone, and quickly found out that we had a lot of similar interests. One [was] that we were both Bollywood fanatics. Perhaps the main reason why we clicked instantly was that we were quite ‘old-fashioned’ at heart…started talking about a family right from the start. When he felt like it was the right time, which was merely a couple of months [later], he put me on a phone call with his Abba, who was in Dhaka. That call lasted three hours and I felt like I was his daughter…I felt like family. It was harder to convince my side of the family as we were both very, very young and I had my whole life ahead of me. Just three months after that phone call, we secretly had our Nikkah among friends. He had to move back home, so we got married before he left. Without thinking twice, I took a leap of faith and went to Bangladesh right behind him. Sometime later, when I was expecting, we decided it was time to return to the States. Living here, I had his support to finish my education and raise our only daughter. Fast forward to the present day, he’s the chef in our house and I am the sous chef.”

It’s ultimately about compatibility, regardless of how two individuals meet. In South Asia, arranged marriages are still a cultural norm. Many factors, such as sharing similar backgrounds, result in such marriages being very successful. Even in situations where the parents come with the prospect over a cuppa chai, love at first sight does occur.

Lawyer and Author of the “Freelance Mindset,” Joy Batra shares her mother’s recollection of when she first met her father as part of the sweetest arranged setting:

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“It was October of 1973 in Delhi. I had just turned 21 and my parents wanted to arrange my marriage. They introduced me to their friends’ son. This family lived next door to my parents in Pakistan before partition. They had daughters who my sisters and I played with, but we had never met their oldest son, Vijay. Vijay came to our house with his sisters, his best friend, and his best friend’s wife. He was wearing a navy blue safari suit, which I had only seen in the movies. He was so handsome and so confident. I had never met anyone like him! And when he folded his hands and said namaste, his voice was like music. I just wanted to keep listening. He was the only person I was introduced to, and I knew immediately he was the one. Two weeks later, we were married. Both of us always said it was love at first sight.” – Rita, married for 35 years until Vijay died in 2009.

You know what they say, some arranged marriages can turn out to be even better stories to be shared years later. Dr. Asha Rao describes her parents’ not-so-typical arranged marriage tale:

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“My parents have been married for 35 years, and if you ask them: My mom never said yes and my dad knew that she was the one. In October 1988, my dad came to India after having been in the States for undergraduate and graduate studies. My mom had spent the last few months of 1988 saving up for her masters program by creating art and selling it or winning singing competitions. On October 11th, 1988, my dad had stepped out of the house to get a cup of coffee when his sister-in-law, who sold the coffee, told him about a nearby family trying to get their daughter married. After being brought home to the girl’s family, my dad was met with a firm ‘no thanks.’ The second time my dad tried to meet my mom, he was convinced he would be hit with the broom she was using to sweep because when she turned around, she was holding it like a baseball bat. My mom finally agreed to go out with my dad for lunch, which turned into a walk then a movie, and then a confirmed engagement and marriage. My parents met on a Tuesday and got married on that Friday, October 14th, 1988.”

Not all love stories are budding with romance, some are sewn with threads of care and utmost respect. To Badhiya Nighat’s (founder of AKS Skin) grandmother, having a considerate and respectful life partner was paramount:

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“My grandparents met through my grandma‘s brother, who was my grandpa‘s best friend, and they were both in the Air Force. My grandma‘s brother really loved my grandpa as a friend and over time he saw his impeccable character and personality. He said I am going to get you married to my sister, but at the time my grandma had a lot of other proposals so her family was not taking this proposal very seriously. It took a long time for my grandma to finally meet my grandfather in person. You see, my grandmother and her siblings didn’t have parents, because both of their parents had passed by then, so their older siblings were the ones making this decision for them. When my grandmother met him, she absolutely loved his personality and agreed to get married to him without the outright consent of the rest of her family members, especially her older sister’s husband, who was a father figure for her. They used to write letters to each other after they met, and when I asked her if they were romantic, she said, ‘I don’t know if they were romantic, but your grandfather was the most loving and caring husband that I could’ve ever asked for. He respected me, and more than that, he respected my family members, and he loved my brothers like his own, and he never shouted at me or raised his voice.’ She said that he was the most perfect companion a woman could ask for. My grandfather passed away four years ago, but my grandma says that she still feels his presence around her and she can’t wait to see him again.”

That last line…goosebumps!

“We fall in love by chance. But, we stay in love by choice.” This quote is a depiction of how long-lasting love is cultivated. And, that is exactly how such bonds — be they arranged or formed through love — go through moments of happiness, sadness, countless ups and downs, yet still become stronger by the minute.

Kanika Monga, a rheumatologist and a media personality, is a Bollywood aficionado who, like many of us, defines love like a scene from a Yash Chopra film. You know that kind of love: a whole lot of romance with a splash of drama. Her parents’ narrative of how they met showcases just that…the kind that transgresses all social boundaries:

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A chance meeting of courtesy forever changed the lives of Rajan and Shalini. My mom’s masi proudly mentioned her neighbor’s well-educated and handsome son, though my nanu pointed out they were not Brahmins and definitely not from Jammu. Ignoring these remarks, my mom’s masi emphasized the boy’s impressive credentials as an IIT graduate with a bright future. During a tea gathering, the Delhi boy, unfamiliar with Jammu and my nani’s hospitality, couldn’t take his eyes off my mom. Similarly, my mom, upon seeing my dad for the first time, decided he would be her husband one day. Both my parents insisted to their families that they wanted to pursue this unexpected connection.

My nani persuaded my nanu to let their fate be determined by the family panditji. Fortunately for the two lovers, their horoscopes were highly compatible! Upon hearing this, the family consented to proceed with the celebrations. The wedding took place in Jammu, with the reception held at the Taj in Delhi. Shortly after tying the knot, my parents relocated to Saudi Arabia. They lived in Saudi Arabia for 14 years before moving to the USA. Though life hasn’t always been easy, they’ve embraced their fair share of adventures over the last 36 years. They’ve travelled all corners of the world together including Europe and Africa, Transitioning from strangers to confidants was not always easy, but their bond has blossomed alongside them. Nowadays, they delight in spending all their time with their granddaughter, who is the joy of their lives.

Reminiscing how couples from the generations before us fell in love and created a beautiful life together, it is quite clear that love conquers all. It is that gut feeling, the eye-to-eye connection that really mattered, while other factors and considerations came much later. Uninhibited love, respect, and admiration for each other, are undoubtedly highlighted in these stories. Maybe that is key to it all: a little playfulness, understanding, and making a decision based on how we feel about the person standing right in front of us.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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By Shezda Afrin

Shezda Afrin is an aspiring physician from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. At the age of four, it was quite normal of her … Read more ›