Christine Mascarenhas and Ajay Keer
Back in 1983, Christine Mascarenhas, then 13, and Ajay Keer 15, at the time, would often bump into each other at various Mumbai’s sports fields including the grounds near Bombay Scottish School in Mahim; both were proficient athletes. While Christina studied at Canassova Convent school, Ajay was at St. Michaels.
But it was hardly love at first sight for either of them. Ajay was convinced the lanky girl ‘had a funny look’ once even mistaking her bouncy hair for a wig. Christine felt the boy ‘looked malnourished’ and needed to be fed. ‘Little did I know that some day the one feeding him would be me,’ she says, with a laugh.
School over, both would get busy on the field – Christine trained for the 100m sprint while Ajay for 400m. They went on to win interschool competitions and state-level meets.
Over the training sessions and while hanging out with friends, their relationship gradually grew into a fond respect for each other. Christine distinctly remembers the day she was drawn to him: ‘We were playing table tennis and Ajay beat me hollow in the match. Ironically, through the smashes he delivered, I could see his gentle side. I felt I just wanted to be with him every day; a feeling I hold on to this day.’
Soon they began dating. In the winter of 1983, November 20 to be precise, Ajay asked Christine to be his girlfriend. He requested her to think about it and take her time in replying. ‘Before he could even finish his well-rehearsed speech, I jumped up and said yes,’ remembers Christine.
They met almost every day near the sports ground as ‘that was the only location far enough from prying family and close enough to walk to’. Since mobile phones were not available at the time, friends and siblings helped the couple exchance messages and letters.
They grew so close that there was no formal proposal needed to define their relationship. The entire neighbourhood, the school and the college knew that the two were dating. ‘In fact, in our early 20s, the neighbourhood grocer would often ask us why we weren’t married yet. He said that in case our families disagreed on the relationship, he would be happy to personally come and speak to them. ‘I have seen you together since you were little and it would make me very happy to see you both married to each other’ he once said,’ says Christine.
Although they belong to different religious backgrounds – Christine is a Christian and Ajay a Hindu – their parents were broadminded enough to accept their relationship. ‘My dad did have apprehensions because we come from different religious backgrounds but when he met Ajay he was happy to see a boy who made his daughter smile,’ says Christine.
After a courtship of 12 years the couple tied the knot in Mumbai in December, 1995. They had two ceremonies; one according to Hindu customs and the other the Catholic way, a week apart.
‘For the Hindu wedding, since I had worn a sari only once before, Ajay held my hand throughout to prevent me from tripping. Guests thought that Ajay was just being very sweet.
‘The Catholic wedding reception was a novel experience for some of my in-laws and they had great fun dancing,’ recalls Christine.
Today, Christine works as a regional brand manager while Ajay is a professional photographer.
A few years before marriage, Ajay put forth the idea of not having children and Christine agreed immediately. ‘We don’t really know the ‘why’ of it. But we do know that we didn’t shy away from having children because of the responsibility attached to raising them or to pursue a career. I guess it could be because we were together for so long before marriage, we felt complete and truly loved. Just as there are couples who know they want to have kids, we are the ones who are clear we don’t,’ explains Christina.
In the first five years of their marriage, they regularly evaluated their decision, checking if either of them had a change of heart. ‘Every year we were like high-fiving each other for tagging in a good call. Life is good when you are in sync with your partner about your choices,’ says Ajay.
As they have literally grown up together; they share the same likes when it comes to food, sitcoms and sports channels. Lovers of nature, Christine loves to travel and is constantly planning getaways. As a natural percussionist, Ajay has learnt the Tabla and is now learning to play the drums.
Like most couples, they do have their fair share of fights and arguments. But both believe the time right after the fight is crucial and take turns at making up. ‘I more than him, but surely there’s going to be an argument on that too,’ says Christine, jocularly. ‘There is no ego attached. Although we have not spoken about this, but I think it would be safe to say that we are constantly working on ourselves to make the relationship a continuously improving one.
‘Of course, there are days when we want to throw stuff at each other (barring the Batman figurine which we both love). But after the warfare, we make up pretty quickly because we know we are in this relationship for the long haul and also because weekends are coming and we have to catch that new movie together.’
As a couple they have changed a lot since their acne-ridden teenage days with maturity setting into all facets of life. What hasn’t changed is their tradition of regular date nights.
The duo mostly head to the beach like Kite beach or La Mer. Their favourite emirate? Fujairah. At home they enjoy setting up a barbecue in the backyard and chilling out.
Both of them agree that the biggest USP of marrying your childhood friend is that there are a lot of memories to cherish with lots of ‘do you remember?’ moments.
‘We get nostalgic thinking about the teenage years. The length of a relationship does not always define quality. But when you have both, you feel truly blessed and every day is Valentine’s Day,’ says Ajay.
For their 25th anniversary they are planning to sail away on a cruise to either the Caribbean or Norway. ‘That argument still continues,’ says Christine.
Indrajith Marath and Dr Pankajam Indrajith
Ask Dubai-based dermatologist Dr Pankajam Indrajith about her first meeting with her husband Indrajith Marath and she can recall every detail vividly.
In 1985, 15-year-old Pinky (as she is fondly called) had just moved to Dubai from India. ‘Our school had separate shifts for boys and girls; the seat I occupied in the morning was taken by a boy in the afternoon. Once I left a note in the desk to find out who the boy who takes my seat in the afternoon is, and the next day, I found a reply,’ recalls Pankajam. Tickled pink, the teenager replied with a friendly note and that snowballed into a daily ritual of passing small, chat notes to each other, mainly about the long boring classes, never ending assignments and other school issues. ‘A few weeks after, we decided to meet at the bus stop,’ she says.
Though both of them did not have any romantic inclinations initially, by 10th grade, they found themselves spending more time together at the bus stop, special classes and school functions.
It was Indrajith who first voiced his feelings to her. ‘It was nothing dramatic or cinematic. There were no violins playing in the background or light breeze blowing,’ he says nonchalantly. ‘I knew that she was special and one day while we were in the school corridor I told her that. I didn’t worry about being rejected because by then we knew very well what the other was feeling.’
This kind of unconditional trust in each other is what has kept their relationship strong and secure. Ever since their courtship years, Pinky says that Jith, as he is fondly called, was always the calm and complacent one providing practical solutions to all their problems. Jith is quick to point out that she is the perfect foil by being lively, spontaneous and optimistic to a fault.
In 1989, Jith who was interested in aviation, joined Dnata. Having chosen medicine as a career, Pinky went on to a Medical College in Davengere, India. Since romance wasn’t so easy in the pre-internet era, they kept their relationship strong with phone calls and letters. ‘We decided on a time when he could call me at my hostel. He even sent me pocket money to make international calls to him once in a while,’ laughs Pinky.
‘She was my pillar of strength – my father passed away and I would pour out all my troubles to her over our phone calls. She made everything seem easy with her cheerful counselling,’ adds Jith.
Once, when he felt he had to see her, Jith told his mother that he was flying to France with a friend but dashed off to India landing up before Pinky’s hostel. ‘But my sister guessed something fishy, checked my passport and saw the Indian immigration stamp. I was quizzed for hours by mom and sis. But I think by then my mom had realised the depth of the relationship,’ he says.
During her second year of medical college, the couple decided it was time to go formal and informed their parents. ‘The families were okay with it; they had kind of figured out that we would end up together,’ says Pinky.
On September 11, 1995, they tied the knot in Kannur, in Kerala, India.
Jith now heads a group of companies in Dubai. Their elder son Shrevan is the founder of a start-up company in the UK and daughter Amrita is gearing up for her A level board exam. Jith’s mother also lives with them in Dubai.
Twenty-five years down the road, the couple find themselves in a very happy and content phase of life. Having shared the tumultuous few years between adolescence and adulthood with each other, they have no secrets to hide and no pretenses to be held up. With one small wince of a muscle or flicker of an eyelid, they know what the other is thinking and even complete each other’s sentences.
Jith serves as the president of their school alumni group where Pinky is the treasurer. ‘We have to give something back to the school for uniting us,’ they say almost in unison.
Every weekend they like to catch a movie, drive or just hang out with friends. Once a month they like to hit the disco. Since we have a lot of common friends from school, we have a total blast while hanging out. It is not like either of us will feel left out with the other’s friends,’ says Pinky.
Having had their fair share of fights and squabbles, Jith believes one partner has to be calm when the other is angry, ‘even if he/she is in the right. This has made us work around our troubles quickly,’ he says.