Valentine's special: New age couples defy odds to recreate true love
Be it caring for an ailing partner, or never loving another - here's how millenial couples are putting the magic back in love
'Had we broken up, we wouldn't have reversed it'
Prerita and Trishant Sidhwani
Together since 2008
As teenagers, Prerita Puri and Trishant Sidhwani, lived five minutes away from each other in Khar. But it was only in New York that they met for the first time. Both had enrolled at the same business school, and were only too happy to see a desi face in their midst.
"Indians tend to attract Indians at universities abroad, so we had developed a clique of 15 people who always hung out together. Prerita and I attended a few parties, and one evening, I asked her out on a date," says Trishant, co-founder of Dreamkraftz, a wedding planning firm. "Who knew that this would last forever," laughs Prerita, who was 17 at the time. Young and independent, both were open to the idea of "exploring" options if need be. Except, it never came to that.
Back in Mumbai after their month-long honeymoon, the couple says not much has changed except that they now live together. The giddiness of love that they first felt 10 years ago has transformed into a warm, lasting comfort. "It was never love at first sight. Nothing about him particularly caught my attention. He was just another guy," she says. But conversations can be catalysts. It was during their walks from the dorm to the classroom that Cupid struck.
Considering both were students living far away from home, they soon became each other's support system. Sidhwani's culinary skills only helped the two bond over home-cooked food. While he belongs to a joint family, where dinner table conversations were mostly about scaling up the family-owned business, Puri says she was raised in a nuclear family where she could discuss life, universe and everything in between. "We were soon to realise that we are very different by nature and extremely opinionated, which of course led to heated arguments. But it's our debates that have helped us come close, because it helped us understand each other's world view," she says. Arguments are usually resolved only when one of them gives up. "Most of the time, I'm the one to get frustrated and say sorry," jokes Sidhwani. Unlike the Kampanis, they have never had a break. "We knew that if we broke up, we wouldn't be reversing it," she says.
Although the couple works together, they seek enough alone time to balance it out. "It takes hard work to sustain a relationship. First you need to ask yourself, is it worth it? For us, it was an emphatic yes. Although, I don't like everything about her, and vice versa, we have reached middle ground, and that's the secret," he adds.
Gopi and Amit in hospital during chemotherapy. Pic/Imapactguru
'Cancer worked as elixir for our marriage'
Gopi and Amit Shenoy
Love in the time of blood cancer
When Gopi and Amit Shenoy took their wedding vows, little did they know that their love for each other would be tested by the five words they had uttered to each other - "in sickness and in health". Just two-and-a-half years into their marriage, 34-year-old Amit was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia - a type of blood cancer, and life was never the same. As Gopi, an advertising professional, says, "It brought us even closer and made our bond unbreakable."
Gopi and Amit first met at an exhibition in NCPA, and before they knew, it was love at first sight. Six exciting months later, the two tied the knot. In August, 2018, Amit, who works as a project manager at an NGO, was detected with the condition. Thirty-three-year-old Gopi shares, "All kinds of thoughts were running through my mind while the doctor was talking to us - Why him? Why do we have to suffer at such a young age? What wrong have we done in our lives? But, we had just two days to absorb this information before he got admitted to hospital."
Gopi says the couple had two clear choices: to give up or remain undefeated. She adds, "We both had to inform our bosses and they offered tremendous support. A positive attitude helped us. I could see a drastic difference in Amit's condition. He was in a happy space although we were in an isolation room where no one was allowed. We watched movies together and had a good time while he was given his first dose of chemotherapy." Gopi had to take a sabbatical but her focus remained Amit. "I had decided that I'd do whatever it took to get him healthy."
However, after the first procedure and a bone marrow test, the couple learned that chemotherapy had not worked. "We were informed that Amit would be given a higher dose during a second round of chemotherapy. Finally, a test revealed that his marrow was completely clean of the disease. This was music to our ears," Gopi adds.
After a tiring 1.5 months, the hospital allowed the couple to go home. This time, Amit's insurance covered a large sum of the bill. "The doctor advised us to go home for a week and return for a third round of chemotherapy. He also suggested allogeneic stem cell transplant, which would help diminish chances of reoccurrence and increase his survival rate by 65 per cent. But the treatment was to cost us R40 lakh along with post transplant care expenses. We were worried about how we would manage the funds. So, we approached a crowdfunding platform, ImpactGuru, and raised the entire amount."
That day on, the couple was determined that they will do everything in their power to help other patients in need. Amit says, "The doctor confirmed that I was in total remission. I realised it was our positive attitude and blessings of some people that we had come through. But a bigger battle was yet to be fought. We went to Pune for a stem cell transplant and the multiple rounds to the ICU and nightmares finally ended after 41 days." Amit, who is now recovering, believes the experience has been a blessing in disguise. "It worked as a elixir for our marriage and relationship."
'Life is about acceptance'
Meghna and Atul Loke
Love in the time of auto-immune disorder
It was only two months into their marriage that Meghna Loke started experiencing bouts of pain. During these times she could neither talk and barely breathe. Eighteen years later, the only difference is that she now knows it's because she suffers from an auto-immune disorder. "The thing about my husband is that he accepts situations, and doesn't question them," Meghna says of her primary caregiver, Atul, a freelance photographer. Atul says, "But that's life. You can't be defeated. You have to accept and move on."
The two, who started sharing their journey on Instagram a few years ago, with their handle @lovesprinklers, say that for a long time they shied away from talking about their pain. But sharing their life made them realise they weren't alone. "It gave us our voice back. The pictures and text are like art, where you can express yourself, and not feel victimised," says Meghna, to which Atul adds, "I was already taking photos, and we were going through so much, so we decided why not be story tellers." Ten years ago, they brought home a golden labrador, who they named Coco, and life became sunny again. "We had become numb, you know, but Coco has shouldered our pain. He is my son. When Atul isn't here, he takes care of me. He has been though my blackouts as well." Atul, has previously said no to plum projects and stayed at home to look after Meghna, but thanks to Coco, he is right now on a solo biking trip across South India.
Meghna says that there was a time she decided to end her life, because the pain was unbearable. She stopped taking her medicine. In protest, Atul stopped taking his diabetes pills. "I realised that I was putting Coco and Atul on the line, and I pulled myself back from that dark place."
In the end, it's Atul who sums up their relationship. "We are friends first, not husband and wife. That's why we have been able to do this, without resenting each other. We will always remain friends."
Aastha Atray Banan
Anushi and Hardik Kampani at their Marine Drive residence. Pic/Bipin Kokate
'Life did not allow us to drift apart'
Anushi and Hardik Kampani
Together since 2005
This April, Anushi and Hardik Kampani will complete 13 years of togetherness. It's a different matter that the couple is only 27 years old, which means they started dating at the age of 14, when both were bumbling school kids.
"It's funny when we learn of uncles and aunties celebrating 20 years of being together, because I'm like, 'hey, we'll get there very soon'," laughs Anushi, a digital marketer. The two met through a common friend at a jam night at The JB Petit High School for Girls, where Anushi was studying at the time. Her first impression of him was that of somebody "cute, gentle and calm", quite in contrast to her own self: hyper and impatient. Yet, they connected and decided to "date" the same night they met. "Of course, dating back then meant chatting on MSN messenger, and going for walks," says Hardik, a GD Somani alumnus and investment banker. While the walks continue, the chats have moved offline to their home on Marine Drive. The couple tied the knot on December 24, 2016, after dating for a decade.
The Kampanis found love at 14, and were able to hold on it. At a time when modern love is turning to be a fragmented and fleeting reality, millennial couples like Anushi and Hardik, stand out for sticking it out. Both admit it's all about wanting to make it work, which involves working on themselves first.
"We started out as best friends and later segued into love. And, what has worked for us is that we are on the same page when it comes to big decisions, and learnt to adapt to each other's way of thinking," says Anushi. Over the course of their relationship, they have broken up several times only to crawl back into each other's arms. And, of course, there have been love's litmus tests. "When we started out, I used to be overweight and later lost 30 kg, which is when I started getting a lot of attention from boys. But nothing distracted me, because Hardik was with me through the toughest of times. Nobody could have taken his place," she says.
If they love with passion, they fight with as much fervour. But no arguments are ever taken to bed. It's resolved in person, never over text. It's a rule that Hardik has put in place. "Being the impatient one, she hates it when I say, 'let's talk in out in person'. But it almost always works." Anushi says she takes recourse in the Buddhist chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo to calm her down during the downs in the relationship. Dating for this long has also given them enough time to discover all those things that may turn out to be deal breakers later. "He snores like a locomotive, but will never ever admit it," she laughs.
Now when they look back, both concur that it has been a dizzying, roller coaster ride. "Life did not allow us to drift apart," Hardik tells us, referring to the time they "seriously" decided to call it quits because he wanted to pursue an undergrad course in Singapore. "He may not know this, but I secretly prayed that he doesn't get through the university," laughs Anushi.
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