Love marriage

Tanishka and Kiran Bharwani met when they were 15 and, after a love story that involved a lot of wooing and rejection, married at 24. They live in Dubai and have two children, Jhanvi, 20 and Ayush, 14.

Tanishka

On the first day of college in Mumbai, I got in really late to class and took the last seat available, right next to the boy who would be my future husband. I immediately took a dislike to him. He started staring at me for some weird reason. Much after we started dating, he told me he had decided at that minute he’d either marry me or no one else. This was despite him not knowing a thing about me, not even my name. For him it was love at first sight.

Over the next few months, my hatred for Kiran kept growing. He would sing songs when I passed. He would make every attempt to cross paths with me. I made it a point to disregard him completely, and I’d speak to a common friend we had while pointedly ignoring him. I didn’t speak to him for almost three years.

And one day he stopped giving me all the attention. The staring stopped, the songs stopped, the attempts to talk to me stopped. That’s when I realised I liked him. I wanted the attention; I had been enjoying it without knowing it.

'He’s done some crazy things to woo me – written my name on a grain of rice, kept a strand of my hair. Today he doesn’t do half of that,’ reveals Tanishka. ‘I think now I love him more than he loves me.’
Antonin Kelian Kallouche

Our love story started in a tech-free environment; I call it a toxic-free one. We would meet for a while in college, and then not keep in touch all day, unlike lovers today who seem to be in touch every waking moment. He once went to Indonesia and we were out of touch for a month. His parents knew about us, my parents had no clue. When I finally told my parents I wanted to marry him, my dad took me to dinner and said he had full faith in my choices. Kiran had visited home often as a friend, and my mum said she had thought early on there was instant chemistry between us.

Our love grew with us. He’s done some crazy things to woo me — written my name on a grain of rice, kept a strand of my hair. Today he doesn’t do half of that. I think now I love him more than he loves me.

We came together when we had nothing, so I knew we could make a life of it. He didn’t have a job. I had to have faith and patience and trust that he’d be able to make it, and I did. After all, there’s no point marrying an established man if he doesn’t have good values.

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We moved from Mumbai 14 years ago to Dubai, and our lovely journey has continued here. I feel complete when Kiran is next to me. I wanted to believe in love at first sight, like he did. But I think the journey we went on was a better way of doing it.

I tell my daughter today, you can plan and make lists of the kind of person you want to marry, but if your heart skips a beat when you meet someone, you know there’s something there.

Over the years, we’ve had more of downs than ups, including a miscarriage of Jhanvi’s twin. We are still struggling with a lot of things, but we have each other. I have pure unconditional love, and I’m so very rich for it.

If I have one regret, it’s that we married too early. I would have dated a little more so we would have been more settled when we wed. Life would have been different. I don’t know why we married that early actually. Even so, I’m quite proud of our journey.

I think a very strong backing from our parents was a huge reason why our marriage was successful.

I knew from the very start an arranged marriage wasn’t for me. I’m a woman who doesn’t believe in getting validation from someone, for a man to decide if I was capable enough to be his wife is not for me. My mum’s marriage of meeting and sitting and serving tea and posing — not for me. I don’t believe you can know someone in one or two meetings if you want to spend your life with someone. By the time I got married, I knew every face of Kiran. I could sense what he was going to say before he did, I knew him that well. When you’re 15 you don’t tend to hide anything, whatever we were we were. I used to hate so many things about him and still do, but we don’t want to change for each other, we accepted each other as we are.

It made life easier to have broken the ice when we were dating. Being best friends helped. Love is what love does, not what love shows.

His job as a chartered accountant takes him away for an indefinite period, and I don’t know when I’ll get to see him. But love does not mean holding each other’s hand all the time. We’re turning this period into an opportunity and I’m doing things I haven’t ventured into before.

The feeling I had when I was with him was one of security. In the initial years of our marriage I thought it wouldn’t work. We had a child so early. But the puzzle fell into place. Today we agree to disagree — just because we are married we don’t have to have the same opinion. That’s how we tackle arguments from turning into full-blown fights.

The lessons I’ve learnt are, go with your heart, think a little with your mind — no matter what, it will fall into place. If you’re with the right man, every situation becomes right.

We’ve enjoyed every phase and we know nothing lasts forever. If I had to go through all this again, I would. We’re waiting for our kids to settle soon and start our love story again.

Kiran

The minute I saw Tanishka, I knew she was the one for me, no one else. It was a very impulsive decision, but it is one of the best decisions I’ve taken in my life. No one interested me after seeing her. I had to pursue her for a long time, and I did some really crazy things. But it was all good, and it’s still good.

I joke with my family and friends today that I was taken before I could even enter the dating scene. But I think it’s always better to make your own choice as then you can’t blame anybody for failure of your marriage, or give anyone credit for its success. You have to try your best to make wonderful memories, and if it doesn’t work it’s your fault. I’d always recommend exercising your own free will, and going with your gut.

'I might have done a lot to woo Tanishka, but she’s done a lot for me too since,' says Kiran
Antonin Kelian Kallouche

I might have done a lot to woo Tanishka, but she’s done a lot for me too since. I am a Sindhi and she is a Saraswat Brahmin. Both of us are culturally different in terms of food, language, mannerisms, etc. But immediately after marriage, Tanishka made it a point to learn the Sindhi way — food, language, the works.

We have quite a few stories to tell to our kids. Our daughter is now at that age when we were in love, and we tell her that if she likes somebody, she should go with the flow and see how it goes. In an arranged marriage, a person only puts out the best side of themselves in the little time you see them, so there’s not much opportunity to understand each other.

Both Tanishka and I weren’t thinking or planning, we just went ahead. Sometimes you have to go with the flow — plans and structure can only work so much. All my decisions after that might’ve been horrible, but now she’s there to watch my back. There must be enough openness between a couple that those things you’d share only with your best friends, you’d be comfortable to say to them, and we have that.

Just like Tanishka, in retrospect I too sometimes think that we shouldn’t have got married a little later. We had nothing to fall back on in terms of finances. That was the kind of risk we took, just out of education and entering the real world. It’s all water under the bridge now, of course.

Those bells do ring; they show it in movies and it happens in real life — you just have to listen hard.

Arranged marriage

Arti and Vivek Singhal had an arranged marriage when she was 21 and he 27, and she describes it as a roller coaster of emotions. Today they live in Abu Dhabi and have a 16-year-old daughter, Ananya.

Arti

Growing up, I was a tomboy who was completely against marriage. I was — and am — a staunch feminist, and I hated everything that women were forced to do. But I come from a conservative family in a small town in Uttar Pradesh in India, so I couldn’t exert my opinion fully then. Which is how I saw myself sitting one day meeting Vivek in an arranged marriage situation. I remember tearing up his profile the previous day when my dad had asked me to look through it.

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Our grandmothers were friends. I hoped Vivek would reject me.

As we chatted, he asked me what I thought about all this. And without thinking about any repercussions, I told him I hated every bit of it. And he said, ‘I love women who can exert their opinion so fiercely.’

Something struck me about him then, so while I didn’t agree to marry him, I also didn’t say no. I decided I’d give him a chance. My family spent a long time convincing me he was a great guy.

I lived in a joint family, so when Vivek used to call me — he used to work in another state then — about 20 of my relatives used to sit around me telling me what to say. My mother would tell me every day to ask him what he ate. Today, there isn’t a question Vivek detests more than that one.

Arti confesses she only truly fell in love with Vivek after close to two years of marriage, when she was pregnant. 'That was probably when I started accepting that maybe this marriage wasn’t just a passing fancy, maybe this would work out.'
Antonin Kelian Kallouche

After three months I told my family I want to start speaking to him alone. A sort of attachment started then. He came to visit me twice, and both times my entire family used to follow our car in their cars. Whichever restaurant we went to, we’d be met by aunts and uncles — my relatives owned most of the restaurants in our town. It’s a small place, and it was almost impossible to spend some time alone. We finally had to go to a temple so we could talk in peace.

We were getting married on February 20, but he still came all the way to see me on Valentine’s Day, because he wanted to tell our kids we spent one V-day together before marriage!

We got married and fell into a routine life. We got to know each other more during our honeymoon. That’s when I first thought he was a nice man. Life went by in the mundane then. Everything changed for me moving from a small town to a city, and it was a beautiful learning experience. The independence, managing your own house, your own set of friends. I didn’t know cooking or any household chores, but Vivek helped me. It was pretty entertaining for him to see I didn’t know how to do a thing.

I first fell in love with him after close to two years of marriage, when I was pregnant. He was so supportive. I had a difficult pregnancy, couldn’t eat a thing and lost a lot of weight. When I was travelling to my home to be with my parents, he drove four hours on a bike to see me on the train. My aunt and uncle started crying, they were more touched than me about how caring he was. They joked to each other that hopefully I’d have some emotions when my baby was born.

That was probably when I started accepting that maybe this marriage wasn’t just a passing fancy, maybe this would work out.

It was hard for me to accept that I was married. It took me a while to realise I’m a mum, but Vivek was a dad from Day 1.

It has been a tremendous roller coaster, and we’ve had our share of huge fights and family problems but we have matured with time. The bitter moments used to take the beauty away from our journey, but we have understood petty things spoil lives and we must cherish each moment. We also have a responsibility towards our daughter to turn out a happy-go-lucky woman, so fighting in front of her is never a good option.

Or maybe Vivek just realised you can’t win an argument with your wife! The last five years have been beautiful.

If I regret anything, it’s that my education suffered because I got married immediately after graduation, and no one asked me if I wanted to study further. And when you don’t finish something you keep thinking about it, as I have over the past decades. I now work as a teacher, while Vivek is a senior financial analyst. I think a girl should be mature enough before she makes such a decision. I was way too young. I had a good experience because luckily I ended up with a good man. That might not be the case a lot.

I think young men and women should be given the chance to finish things important to them before marriage, like basic travelling or education.

Vivek says their arranged marriage was a great process of discovery. 'We might not have been completely in love when we married, but once we started living together we found we were a great match.' As for daughter Ananya, Arti says marriage is not on the couple's priority list for her. 'It should completely be her decision.'
Antonin Kelian Kallouche

Of course, you can’t foresee the future even with a love marriage. I feel the risk is the same. It’s still the same responsibilities at the end of the day. I believe in trying until the end for a relationship. Patience helps. Whenever there’s a confrontation now, one of us stays silent, or leaves the room for a while. An argument only escalates when both parties yell.

I never ask a person why they aren’t married. The pressure isn’t fair. It’s an individual choice; let them be. For instance, we want our daughter to be financially and emotionally independent before anything else. We never think of marriage for her. It shouldn’t be in the list, instead, it should completely be her decision.

Women, be strong headed. Speak your mind. Men, let go of things, there’s no perfect wife, and no one can change wholly, just like you can’t.

Vivek

It’s been a wonderful story. While love marriage might be the norm now, in our times arranged marriages were commonplace. And it worked out well for us. We might not have been completely in love when we married, but once we started living together we found we were a great match. It was a great process of discovery. Yes, there was the fear of whether it would work out, but our families knew each other so we knew the basic values matched.