Khierya Behroozian and Seyed Abdullah Kameli: Bankers

Khierya Behroozian and Seyed Abdullah Kameli clearly “bank” on each other’s love and support. Over the last 30 years they have grown their careers alongside each other against the backdrop of the meteoric rise of Dubai, cultivating mutual friends, basking in the warmth of their families and above all else sharing in the upbringing of their only son, now 30.

While Khierya is a UAE national, Abdullah, originally Iranian, is a Canadian national. The couple have worked in most major banks in the UAE – although never together – amassing a lifetime of banking experience between them – he 41, now retired, she 29 and counting. She holds the distinction of being the first UAE national lady bank branch manager, and he has crowned himself the “dinosaur of banking”.

The couple met as teenagers in Dubai. “She was my sister’s best friend,” says Abdullah. “But then she went off to the US to study, and I to the UK. Years later when we met up again in Dubai, it was love at first sight for me.”

Being in the same profession has never been a cause for ego clashes for them. “Not at all,” says Abdullah. “We never felt that one of us is better than the other etc. Such things never came up between us. I am always there to support her if she needs anything. All our decisions are mutual.”

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Abdullah started his banking career from scratch at 19, working in almost all areas before moving up the ladder. For Khierya banking was meant to be only a temporary pit stop until she could find a job in what she had trained for – sports medicine. “But in those days, there really weren’t many jobs in the field for women. It was mostly men,” she says.   

Of the two, Abdullah is more easy-going and laidback while Khierya is very goal-oriented and highly disciplined. “I always have a goal, no matter what, and I have to go after it, nothing can stop me,” Khierya says, prompting her husband to declare: “She is very organised and plans everything in life, which is what I love about her. I might resist initially, but in the end, I don’t fuss about things. I am very easy-going.” Khierya feels life in Dubai was far simpler in those early days of their career and marriage when both were working and looking after their son. “Banking hours were shorter, so we would both finish at around 5 and go home together, take our son for his activity or classes, take him to my parents’ home. Traffic was less, so it was easier getting from one place to another,” says Khierya. “We had several common friends, who would drop in at our home. We were also younger and had more energy.”

Today Khierya continues to work in a multinational bank, while Abdullah has moved on to pursue other business interests. Among the projects they poured their energies into is their villa in Al Mizhar. “I was keen on having a home with an open plan, and not the traditional kind with room upon room,” says Khierya. 

Abdullah admits that while his wife has many hobbies such as baking, biking and gym classes, he gets waylaid every time he begins any form of exercise routine. “I seem to get sick, every time I start exercising,” he says. The couple often holiday together, with Khierya once again in charge of all the planning. And Abdullah goes along, knowing that like always, he is in great hands.

Dr Rajendra Joshi and Dr Nayna Joshi: Medical professionals

The matrimonial ad that Rajendra Joshi’s family put into a national Indian newspaper 30 years ago in Mumbai, India, was very specific. They were seeking a doctor bride for their doctor son. The ad brought Nayna into Rajendra’s life.

In that initial meeting, the couple discovered that they had studied in the same pre-medical college but had never seen each other. Rajendra, a fan of Indian actress Dimple Kapadia and her glorious hair, was floored by Nayna and the way she had done hers up. He didn’t have to think twice to say yes to the wedding.

Besides medicine, Rajendra and Nayna also share hobbies, including going on adventures in different countries

Nayna was impressed by Rajendra’s record as topper all through school and medical college, and the fact that he already had an established practice as a paediatrician in Mumbai. “I was very keen on settling in Mumbai,” Nayna, an anaesthesiologist, says. “And I liked his smile.” 

Not very often do couples who have endured 30 years of companionship exude the steady affection and love that Rajendra and Nayna share. It’s not so much in the telling as in the way Rajendra gently teases Nayna, or the way she relates an impressive detail about him, which in his voice would have been a boast. It’s in the ways they quietly listen to each other, without a need to contradict or correct or dominate a conversation.

It’s apparent that the couple have a great life together, sharing the stresses common to their profession – more so earlier in their marriage when both were working and had their young daughter to care for. Immediately after their wedding, the couple moved to Australia where Rajendra was offered a fellowship in paediatric genetics and Nayna a fellowship in paediatric anaesthesiology.

Two years later they were back in Mumbai, but almost immediately received an offer to join Sultan Qaboos University in Muscat, Oman. And four years later, when they had once again decided to settle back in Mumbai, Nayna received an offer to join a hospital that was just opening in Dubai. “During the interview, they asked me what my husband was doing, and when I told them, they offered him a position immediately,” says Nayna. 

The couple agree on the fact that Nayna’s work has always been the more stressful. “Not everyone understands the risks of anaesthesia,” she says. “This is because there are so many things – the patient’s health conditions, the medicines he might be on, allergies, genetic disorders etc. – that interact with the anaesthesia.” 

Thankfully the work pressure that Nayna faced was never compounded by pressure from the home front. “Rajendra has always been very responsible, whether it’s his work, or in his personal life. He would never force his decisions on me, telling me what I should do. Rather he would support me. That’s why I didn’t find it difficult to manage, even though I used to do night shifts and would have to stay in the hospital for prolonged hours.”

Today Nayna has chosen early retirement, while Rajendra continues his practice at a well-known Dubai hospital with its chain of clinics all over the city. Both were not too keen on their daughter Tejal taking up medicine. “We felt two doctors were enough in the family,” says Rajendra. However, not only did Tejal choose medicine, but she went on to take up surgery, and then a specialisation in cardiac surgery. “I’m sure she is among the few ladies, if not the only one, to take up cardiac surgery,” says Rajendra.

Not very often do couples who have endured 30 years of companionship exude the steady affection and love that Rajendra and Nayna share

Besides medicine, Rajendra and Nayna also share hobbies. Their mornings, even when Nayna is away in India, start with Yoga together. “We are on a Zoom call doing breathing and Surya Namaskar for half-an-hour to 45 minutes,” says Rajendra. 

They are avid travellers. “There are very few countries that we haven’t visited,” Rajendra says. “Possibly China and Japan.” 

They also watch a lot of movies and television shows together. Rajendra and Nayna’s home on Shaikh Zayed Road is predominantly done up in soothing white furniture. Offsetting it is some eye-popping wallpaper, the couple chose together, with its enormous red and blue flowers. It could easily be a metaphor for their marriage, standing for the spirit of fun, adventure and enjoyment that has always been a part of a lifetime of steady togetherness.

Nicola and Robert Kesterton: Teachers

Nicola Hossack was just stepping into her first job as Geography teacher at a school in hometown Kent, England. Robert Kesterton, teacher of History, was on the point of leaving.

“I saw Nicola as she was being shown around the school,” Robert says. “I remember thinking our timing was rather unfortunate.”

In destiny’s scheme of things, that was but a minor detail.

Come this August 14 the couple would have been married 20 years and have three sons Ethan, 18, Lucian, 14, and Cassian, 9. “Except for 4-5 years when we were in separate schools, we’ve been working together for close to 25 years,” says Nicola.

Working together means better understanding, say Robert and Nicola

The last 12 of those as teachers at a well-known secondary school in Dubai, where Robert is also vice-principal.

Robert comes from a family of teachers, beginning with his grandfather, a lecturer at Hong Kong University, his parents and his sister-in-law. “Definitely a bonus when it comes to helping the children with their schoolwork,” Nicola chips in jovially.

The couple have embraced all the pluses of living and working together, taking in their stride life’s stressors, some unique to their profession and others that are part and parcel of any marriage. “It’s quite helpful having a shared understanding of each other’s roles,” says Robert. “We can bounce things off each other. We also share some of the same stresses.”

Nicola adds: “When we lived in the Springs, we had a car journey, and we had a rule that we were allowed to talk about work in the car. But now that we live right around the corner from school, we don’t get that time.”

Teaching might look like a cushy job on the outside with easy hours, plenty of time with the children and lots of holidays. But as Robert puts it: “Every lesson is a performance. If you’re doing 6 periods a day and tutor time, then that’s almost 7 hours of performance, with every lesson backed by an hour of preparation and maybe an hour’s marking.”

The fact that they can let off steam after a day at school is one positive of being in the same profession. Another is threshing out teaching ideas, often with their children providing a student perspective.

The couple often look over each other’s lessons, particularly in the run-up to KHDA inspections. “It’s like having a second pair of eyes,” Robert says.

Yet another plus is having the same holidays, making scheduling vacation time easier, the only cloud possibly being the work they carry into their holidays. This, Nicola points out, would have been “annoying” had the couple been in different professions.

And if you expect that working together means having coffee breaks together, then the Kestertons quickly dismiss the idea. “We haven’t had a break in 12 years,” says Nicola. Both prefer working through break times, bumping into each other in the corridors or in the photocopier room.

For the Kestertons, it was tougher when their boys were younger. “We did actually call on both sets of parents to come over from the UK to help us out,” says Nicola. 

Another tough phase was during the first lockdown when the Covid-19 virus first surfaced.

The couple will celebrate two decades of marriage in August

“We were both teaching, trying to do live lessons,” recalls Nicola. “The two older boys sorted themselves out but the youngest… he needed one of us there the whole time.”

The lockdown did have “a happy side effect” as Robert puts in. “It brought us closer as a family. We had the same break times; so, we could go out into the garden… play badminton together.”

As in every family, one or the other spouse often takes a step back from career ambitions to ensure they can take care of the home front. Nicola had been offered a position on the school leadership team alongside Robert but chose to forgo it. Today she has no regrets. “Certainly, I don’t feel like I’ve missed out,” she says. “My career has gone on a different path. I’m happier being in the classroom. And it has worked well all-round for us. Moreover, I wouldn’t have been able to do all the things I did with the kids.”

Constantly being around young people has its own rewards. “They’re very funny, very interesting in their ideas and enthusiastic,” Nicola says with Robert adding: “It keeps you young.”

Are the Kesterton boys planning on teaching careers?

“The youngest is pretty keen,” says Nicola.

The couple emphasise that teaching may not be financially very rewarding.

“If you want to live in a huge house, drive fast cars and go on amazing holidays, then don’t be a teacher!” says Nicola. “But if you just want to be comfortable in life, doing what you enjoy, then by all means go for it.”

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