Love Talk!

South Asian Couples from Pakistan and India get candid with Jasjit Khan

(A Kavita Media Presentation. Please email comments here.)

Love is in the air with Valentine’s Day this month, and Jasjit Khan decided to have a heart to heart with some loving hearts!

Durshi and Mussarat are from Karachi, Pakistan and now live in Atlanta.

Durshi is a retired gynecologist and ever since her retirement has been writing short stories and poetry. Mussarat retired as a Chief Financial officer and Director at Caltex. His current passion is gardening. One look at their beautiful garden tells it all. He has a green thumb and an eye for aesthetics. Both enjoy being surrounded by beautiful things. On top of all that, they are great hosts too.

So what did they think of Valentines day? Both said, “We don’t think too much of it as for us every day is Valentines Day. Even when together in the same house, we exchange messages over the internet and yes, we do send each other cards on Valentines as almost a habit”.

Maybe because of his love of roses, Mussarat makes sure that he brings a bunch for Durshi early in that morning on Valentine’s Day. At times, they go out with friends for dinner.

Durshi went on to tell me that they once arranged for a fun Valentines Day party at their house. All the ladies had to wear red dresses and the men were to have a touch of red around their persons; maybe a necktie or handkerchief. Unbeknownst to their wives, the men had to each bring a gift and at some point during the evening, they had to get down on their knees and present the gift to their respective wives…while reciting a love poem or just plain express their love in simple words. And all that the wives had to do of course was to be gracious and say” thank you”.

Hanif and Yasmeen are from Lahore and have been living in Michigan since the seventies. Hanif has a Doctorate in Sociology and Yasmeen is a housewife. Both share love for music and poetry. Hanif himself is a good singer.

Hanif and Yasmeen

I spoke with Hanif first; his first thought was “Basically perspective is reality”. He does not believe in Valentine’s Day. He feels it’s an artificial way of celebrating ones love for the beloved. One is obligating oneself to go out and buy a card, or flowers to convey one’s love. Love, in his opinion, should not be and cannot be bound by timely events. One should be able to convey one’s love by getting her flowers, or dropping her line in the mail, any time of the day or any day of the year, or even everyday!

I asked his wife whether he practiced what he preached and….here’s what she had to say,” Gone are the days when he’d write a letter or send flowers. I don’t even remember when the last time such an event occurred was”. She went on further to say, “These men will never change. They want you to understand everything without them making even a gesture. On the other hand, they like their women to be expressive. I want him to know, I am still waiting for the day when he will start sending me flowers or a card promising his undying love”. With these words she laughed her hearty laugh, and changed the topic.

Ramona comes from Karachi, Pakistan and Azfar is from Bihar India. He is a businessman and she is the best helping hand he’s got. Both of them are caring people and quite involved with their family.

Ramona and Afzar

I spoke with Ramona (know as Munni by her close friends and family. I think I will call her that) She spoke for both of them. When I asked her about Valentines Day, she said, “It’s a great way to express one’s love”. They both felt it was a day when couples have an opportunity to make suitable gestures depicting love for the loved ones. Flowers and gifts are exchanged and they love going out together for dinner on that particular day. They don’t like it when they see little children from even the Elementary school acting as adults and celebrating the day with gusto. She said, “They should not be encouraged to do so. They are way too young to understand what love like this really means. Further, when they don’t get cards or gifts from persons that they fancy, they get very upset. Its unnecessary pressure”. She felt it should be discouraged at school level. She also feels that on this day the onus should be on the husbands to pamper their wives as all year round it’s the wives who pamper them by taking care of all their needs.

She told me that they normally spend this day by being together the whole day. They go out for lunch and dinner and, for just this one day, leave the kids at home with a baby sitter. She takes pride in the fact that her husband loves roses and finds an excuse on this day to shower her with them. To a point where she says “I get upset with him for spending so much money. But he laughs and ignores my anger as he knows well how much I really love having him give me flowers”. But then its not really just on this day, they both make it a point to go out for dinner or a movie once a month. That is the secret of their happiness together. They do things for each other.

Mariam teaches at a Montessori school and Waqas Khwaja is the Chair of the English department at Agnes Scott College in Atlanta. Waqas is an established author and a published poet. They both enjoy music. Waqas is an ardent collector of good music from all over the world, especially from the Indian sub Continent. He’s got Oldies sung by Kanandevi, Sehgal, Sachin Dev Burman, Hemant, Rafi, Lata and many more. He also has ancient compositions of Ibn-e-Arabi from Moorish Spain. In short, his collection is the envy of a regular music store. She is the daughter of the Maestro Khwaja Khurshid Anwar who incidentally, is also his paternal uncle. They both belong to Lahore in Pakistan.

Mariam and Waqas

Mariam feels that Valentine’s Day is a good occasion to express one’s love for the beloved and that exchanging gifts and flowers is a good rite. This is one of the days when Waqas brings her flowers and gets her a gift. She likes the sentiments behind this day. What she doesn’t like is when the school kids are encouraged to celebrate this day by giving flowers, cards or sometimes gifts to their special friends. She feels it inappropriate for children to express romantic love for each other. Its ok, she thinks, if they are encouraged to emphasize their love for their parents, siblings, friends or their teachers. “It is nice to spend this day with your spouse” She said, “Go out, have dinner. This is a day when the man needs to pamper his lady love by getting flowers, gifts etc... “. 

When I spoke with Waqas, he laughed and pushed the whole issue aside,” Valentines Day? I don’t even know what it is”, he said. There was no Valentines Day in Pakistan when he was growing up. “It is a very American thing”. He laughed some more and said, “In our country (Pakistan) romance will go away from the streets if they started to celebrate this particular holiday. What will happen to the street Romeos? Our culture thrives on them. That’ll be a sad day when they are given just this one day to express their love”. He might have ended his conversation with some more laughter at this point. That’d be Waqas Khwaja for you with his world renowned tongue in cheek humor. But he went on, a wee bit more seriously (no doubt fearing persecution from his wife if he did indeed stop then),”yes, we do celebrate this day. She is the one who starts the day by handing me a card, thereby; putting the fear of God in my heart. I now get frantic looking for an excuse to get away so I could get one for her. Some times I get on the net and order some thing nice for her, and most of the times get it ordered for “overnight delivery”, or even at times just have two hours to purchase it and have it all packed and ready to give it to her. I manage but only sometimes…other times I am late by a couple of hours or maybe a couple of days. In the following weeks the quality of my meals and the starch on my shirt is directly proportionate to the length of the delay caused by my tardiness”. Kudos to him ladies and gentlemen! He maybe late at times but hey, he delivers in the end, and I am sure that that pleases Mariam as much as it please him in the end.

Liaqat Memon is a business man dabbling in gas stations and real estate. * Shahneela helps him at work .They are from Karachi, Pakistan and have been in Atlanta now for a long time.

Liaqat and Shahneela

Shahneela spoke for both of them. She said” We always go out for dinner with our family as he hates the idea of leaving the kids behind. But lately, as the kids are growing older, they make us go out on our own to celebrate the occasion”. She covered for her man by saying,” that he is a very simple man with very few needs. I buy most his things for him such as his clothing which he wears as he’s too involved with his work. He mostly forgets to buy gifts for me”. She also added,” It is a day set aside for love and it reminds you to express your gratitude and love for your loved one. I’d like it if he remembered but I am quite comfortable in the knowledge that he loves me anyhow.

Nash (Nasheed) is an entrepreneur, an International Trader and Rosy Rehman is one of the best Hairdressers in Atlanta. If you want to look Hip, go to her. A very warm couple who love the good life. She has the looks and he his wit. They are both from Karachi Pakistan and they now live in Atlanta.

Nash and Rosy Rehman with family

I spoke with Nash first and asked him his feelings concerning Valentines Day. He said” It is a good day for celebrating your love and bonding with your wife, your girl friend or any one else whom you are close to in your life. It is a day set aside from your mundane life, to remind you of your love for your loved ones. It is a day to look forward to. I am all for it”. Rosy also likes the idea of Valentines Day. She said,” I like this day. It makes me feel special. I like my husband to make me feel important; get me flowers, take me out, do all the things that make me feel special and loved. It is a day when one can express one’s love for one’s beloved”. And “Nash does make me feel very important”, she says. She narrates,” Once he had gone to California and he sent me flowers for Valentines Day from all that way, telling me he loved me and missed being there with me on that beautiful day. When later I saw the bill, I got very upset with him. I admonished him for spending such a lot of money. (We all want our man to do this sort of a thing but then they have to do it our way…what do we want…eat our cake and keep it too?) Alas from that day on he has stopped sending me flowers. I wish I had not said that. Now whenever I ask him to get flowers for me he comes up with the same line over and over again,” why do I have to give a Rose to Rose?” or that “You are a permanent rose in my life” “. I know!

Mona is one of the best known realtors in our community and Ifti (Iftekhar) Sheik is a mortgage broker. He is a neat dresser and they both make for an excellent couple…very pleasant to be with and always helpful towards anyone in the community.

Mona and Ifti

I was not able to talk with Ifti but spoke with Mona for a very short while. She said,” Absolutely great. It’s a day worth celebrating and expressing your feelings to your loved one”. She said.” It is Valentines Day for us everyday”. She, however, felt that it is up to a man to pamper his wife. She Said,” I do it for him everyday…this pampering stuff…He can certainly do it for this day. I want him to treat me gently and make me feel good on Valentine’s Day”. She said,” Ifti always gets me roses or tulips or buys me Jewelry and then takes me out for dinner and I love it”.

We wish all you folks, this togetherness to last for all the long and happy years to come.

After some really interesting Valentine’s Day reactions from our Pakistani friends…here are reflections of their Indian counterparts on the same subject. It’s interesting to see how people feel/think. One can learn a few tricks from them….I sure have!

Anil Khatod is from Jaipur, and wife Shubra is from Lucknow , they both live in Atlanta now. The couple is very down to earth, soft spoken but candid.

Anil is a venture capitalist and Shubra is a housewife, taking care of the needs of her husband and two sons. She keeps a lovely house. They both love music and love to socialize. He is the bread earner of the family and she is the one who handles the bread very wisely. I was not able to talk with Anil, but Shubra gave us a good feel as to how both celebrated Valentine’s Day.

Anil and Shubhra Khatod

In her own words, “I feel it is a good day to express one’s love for one’s partner. But we both are not very serious about it. We celebrate it if Anil is in town, or if this day falls on a weekend. If it falls on a weekday then we wait for the weekend to come and we do go out”. I egged her on and she, with her soft demeanor, continued, “We do exchange cards and go out for dinner to our favorite restaurant. We don’t make a big fuss over it as for us, every day is a day when we can and do express our love and gratitude for each other”. She added, “Anil is a very good letter writer and he keeps writing to me when ever he is away and that makes me feel good and loved. We enjoy being together the year round and do not seek one particular day to indulge”. Profound words indeed!

I thanked her for her thoughts and wished them both the best of times throughout their lives together!!

Poornima and Prithipal S. Dara. They too celebrated their Wedding anniversary this month. They are from Bangalore and now live in Atlanta. He has a Masters degree in Electrical and Telecommunication. And is the President of P2 Patent Prosecution and a licensed patent agent for the US government for the last 6 years. Poornima got her Bachelor’s degree from Bangalore in Political Science and Economics. Her Hobbies are Tennis, Music, Movies and Traveling. She has been designated the CSO of the Corporation that runs her household…that is the “Chief Spending Officer”. She is a full time Mom and loves raising her two beautiful daughters. I was not able to talk with Prithipal.

Poornima and Prithipal

When I asked Poornima what were her thoughts concerning Valentines Day, she said, “We had not heard of Valentine’s Day back in India but ever since we have come here and got introduced to the idea, we have liked the sentiments that lie behind this day…the romantic thought that sets one’s mood for love. That is not to say that we don’t see the crass commercialism behind some of the activities of this day…we do but hey “for each his own”. We love and cherish the month of February anyway since that’s the month in which we got married. We welcome the occasion every year and celebrate it with a lot of verve. We believe in the old adage; “When in Rome do as the Romans do”. Over the years, marking the day, I have been given a vast array of gifts such as a cuddly Baby Bear, a big Papa Bear and Bears of every size and shape in between. To a point that I had to tell my husband to give the Bear family a break. I normally cook his favorite meal for lunch on that day…you girls better remember; we may have reached the 21st century “but the way to a man’s heart still passes through his digestive system”. 

Renuka and Ashish Thakur are first generation Indians born and raised in the USA. His parents come from Jaipur and Gurgaon and hers from Gujrat and Rajasthan.

When I asked them about the Day, her reaction was, “Its great fun☺. Holidays are always exciting”. Renuka took up the cudgel for them both, “First I will tell you about us…how we met and all. We have been married for four years this last December. We have both lived in Atlanta for ten years though with our respective families. We were both born in the USA and grew up as teens in Augusta, GA. We went to the same Hindu temple, same Desi parties and functions and had lots of common friends. However, through all that, we never somehow interacted much as kids.

Ashish and Renuka

After leaving Augusta, Ashish traveled a bit and ended up in Atlanta going to Oglethorpe University.  Meanwhile, I came straight to Atlanta and joined Ga. Tech. As fate would have it, we ended up running into each other at a wedding in November 01’ in Augusta. We sat at the same table (since they place all single Indians at the same table in case they find their significant others!) and during the course of the conversation found out that we lived in the same apartment complex in Atlanta.  We were neighbors for over 6 months and had just realized it.  Ashish didn’t remember my name, but he did remember my face. After the wedding, we ended up dating and the rest is history (or fate!)”. You bet!

After talking about how they met, Renuka went on to tell me about their thoughts on Valentine’s Day. She said, “As for Valentines day, I used to think it was such a big deal when I was a little girl.  I am a romantic at heart and never had a boyfriend so it seemed like such a "romantic" day.   Now, being with Ashish (who also happens to be my childhood crush!), I feel like everyday is a celebration of love.  I think everyone’s perception of romance is their own.  I feel we romance each other everyday in our own ways.  As far as the more "traditional" romance goes, he actually likes to bring me flowers out of the blue when I don’t expect it and its more of a surprise and a more joyous happening (too many people expect it on valentines day)! It’s important to feel and give love everyday, not just on February 14th each year☺”.  I wish both the newly weds long years of married bliss and May they both enjoy celebration of Love each day of their lives. 

Sandra and Jimmy Ghai are both entrepreneurs. He’s from Amritsar and she from Guyana. She got her degree in Mechanical Engineering from Toronto, and he, his engineering degree from Delhi. They both met in Toronto, got married and moved to Atlanta in 1975 in the true pioneering spirit of us Indian., She owns a Remax brokerage and he a couple of liquor stores. Anyone who wants to sell or buy any property, go to her. She will do a fantabulous job for you! They are a very warm couple. They share their love of music and good movies and are great hosts. They are the guiding lights at “Mehfil” –a group of fun loving Indians and Pakistanis.

Sandra and Jimmy

Spoke with Sandra as Jimmy was not available. She was her vivacious, bubbly self and when I put the question of the day before her, I could see the expression on her face soften up and become dreamier. She was probably reminiscing about the days past when she was swept off her feet by the handsome Surd. Her response was strong and full of conviction. She said,” You don’t only love your spouse or your loved ones just on this day. You love them everyday of your life. It is good that people have specified one day in a year to express a bit more of their love to each other…by giving each other flowers…cards and gifts. It is a day to leave your everyday, mundane life behind and make time to express your love for the other…not just husband for his wife but also for the wife for her husband. It is also a day to reflect on your past, how much you have done for each other, emotionally, lovingly. To let him/her know how much you have loved them during the time spent together and to resolve to continue to do so through the coming years. Love is not limited to just your spouse…you have your family, parents, kids etc…If it’s a day about love, why not show it to everyone you love? Why shy away from it? Express it. It will do you no harm but will bring the best in you and your beloved or even other family members. It is better to love than not and have no one to shower it upon. Indeed it is divine gift and one should be grateful to God for this blessing. In a way it resembles the Thanks Giving Day. Through expression of one’s love, one is also expressing gratitude. It is good for your mind and soul”.

She went on, “One is cockier in one’s youth. It was the same with us. I expected Jimmy to shower me with love by buying me gifts, flowers and taking me out for dinner. I wanted to feel important and be spoilt rotten by his doing things for me this one day. Not realizing that I really shouldn’t want to feel important just for this one day but for all the days in his life! But I realize that now as we both have mellowed down over the years with age. We just like to be together, comfortable in each other’s company or watch a movie at home. That for us is the biggest high in love. The older you are, the wiser you get. You comprehend things better. It is a reflection of all the caring and loving in our past that has made our love stronger for each other. We actually need to be grateful to God for keeping us together, in good health and reasonable financial comfort. He has gotten us this far…I am sure He will see us through many more long years. Sometimes the thought depresses me that –given the average length of a human life- we have so little time together. It should have been many life times”! She laughed, “We can’t be angry with each other for long. When ever we argue, one of us starts to sing that oldie number “You’ll never find a love like mine” and it breaks the tension between us and we invariably start to laugh. It’s funnier when it’s Jimmy who is the one singing. He cannot carry a note”.

I would like to wish both of them all the happiness and May God Bless them with many life times worth of togetherness during this life time!!!

Dan Ranchandani is a businessman and has spent most of his life in the States. Vicky is the beautiful girl who got married young and came to the States to give Danny a wonderful home and four beautiful kids. She helps Danny in the business too. They both love to socialize and are among the best hosts that I have been blessed to enjoy the hospitality of. At the same time they are very private people. They both share their love of music and movies.

Vicky and Dan

Having married young and being very much in love with her husband, Vicky has positive thoughts about this day. “Every day is a Valentine’s Day for us. Love is not restricted to one day, it is there all the time and we share it whenever we can convey our feelings to each other. We don’t have to do anything. Our body language, our gestures tell it all. . Otherwise it’s not a bad day. It is for people to make sure that they express their love for each other if they aren’t lucky enough to be able to do it everyday. It being dedicated to love, people have an excuse to be together and shower each other with love. We usually go out for dinner on this day”.

Chandan Seernani is from Bombay and Komal from Agra. He has a background in IT/Communication and is an entrepreneur today and she owns a beauty saloon called Sovi. If you want to look pretty and drop dead gorgeous on Valentine’s Day, go to Komal. This here is the story of the beauty and the brains. They both are a very caring and loving couple, always there to help, when ever they can.

Chandan and Komal

Sonia Seernani

Before I could talk to Komal or Chandan, I got to speak with Sonia, their daughter, who has just graduated from Emory University. She picked the phone when I called and I seized the opportunity to get her response…a fresh young view. As it turned out she had a much matured way of looking at things. “Valentine’s day to me is a day devoted for lovers. Most people think lovers are those who have an intimate connection or attraction towards an individual. But Valentine’s Day is an allotted time of 24 hours to love anyone anywhere. Those who are single tend to feel left out on this “overrated” day. Those who are in an intimate relationship, tend to follow up with the traditional box of chocolates, champagne, or bouquet of roses for their loved one. Valentine’s Day is a celebration of love and this can be cherished by anyone who is in love with any individual, not necessarily intimately, but rather relationally; a person could be in love with a parent, grandparent, or even themselves. My favorite Valentine scene from a movie is the one from Dil To Pagal Hai wherein Madhuri buys a box of chocolates for herself. People who view Valentine’s Day as a day for those intimately in love with their significant other should probably reevaluate this beautiful day and celebrate it with all the love and joy they have in their heart for anyone they admire”. Go Girl!

Before I could get to Chandan, I spoke with his heart throb, Komal. She was very clear about her convictions, she said “Valentines day, doesn’t mean anything to me,” then egging her on a little bit further, asked her what does love mean to her, she thought for a bit, shed of her strong demeanor, and with the softness in her voice, said” Love has matured as we have matured together; it is respectability, trust, caring for each other. Love is a sentiment which you share with your spouse, on a daily basis, by doing things together and for each other. We are not bound by this day to express our love and gratitude. Why should you only celebrate love on this day, one should learn to celebrate love everyday, through your expressions. Days come and days go, and this is another day that comes and goes every year. That doesn’t mean we stop loving or caring for our spouse, Valentines day carries on every day, and it will till eternity., it is a reflection of your love and togetherness of all these long years that you have spent together, and you thank God for it.”

Komal adds , “We celebrate this day not the way we used to. When we were younger, we would go out for dinners and I would get a gift or flowers, but now that we have aged a bit together, we will go out if Valentines day falls on a weekend, but mostly both of us would like to be at home together, order some food, cuddle up and watch a movie, while he makes the tea for me.”..

Chandan says, “Every dog has its day" goes the old adage. I would not take it that far, but Valentine’s Day is "THE" day for Lovers. I remember our 20th V-Day. We had finished our dinner at the revolving Sundial Restaurant atop the Peachtree Plaza Hotel, in downtown Atlanta. We were seated at the window on this clear day and had completed one revolution around the city. Now it was time for her V-Day surprise. She ordered Chocolate Martini. She slowly sipped on her Martini as she reached towards the end; she saw something shining at the bottom of the glass. At first she didn’t say anything, but as the Martini was nearing completion, at the bottom was a diamond ring. She was very surprised, pulled it out and handed it to me. I got on my knees and said "will you marry me.....again". Hey, this was her opportunity to reconsider. My V-Day surprise was that she said "Yes", once again. 

I would like to dedicate this beautiful couplet from Mirza Galib, for Komal and Chandan.

“Dil _e naadan tujhe huaa hyaa hai,

Aakhir is dard ki Dawaa kyaa hai.”

This article has given me the different perspective of love and I hope all of us will think about the loves in our lives and what they have meant to us over the years. I thank all the lovely people who shared their thoughts for this story and dedicate it to everyone with the hope that all of us find a special kind of love in our lives..

“Doubt the stars are made of fire,

      deny the sun doth move above.

Count the truth to be a liar,

      but never doubt it’s you I love,

      O my love, O bright rising sun,

      outshining the moon so envious!

Swear not by the moon and starlight,

      You are my entire universe.”

WISH ALL OF YOU A VERY HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY.

Jasjit Khan connects two cultures and religions being an Indian Sikh married to a Pakistani Muslim. A former model, interior designer, interpreter, an international buyer and businesswoman, she is widely traveled and brings both brains and beauty to her writing. She will be a regular contributor to Kavitachhibber.com.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in these columns are solely those of the writers and do not necessarily represent those of the editor/publisher.


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By Sanchit Malhotra

Title: Crank That Desi Boy
Artists: Swarlik & Habeeb
Album: Thumbi Infection
Lyrics: Sanchit Malhotra

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