Building a life together
“My grandmother was a pillar of strength; while she did not have the capacity to fight my parents, she gave me a lot of love and affection.”
With Sanjay in Dubai and Alisha in New Delhi, staying in touch was a challenge and the couple was miserable at being kept apart. “International calls were very expensive in those days and Sanjay had just started working. We would schedule a phone call every week for just three minutes – six, if we were feeling rich. We’d write each other every day; I probably have over a thousand letters that we exchanged during that time.”
When Sanjay’s parents saw how intent their son was on marrying Alisha, they gave their blessing even though they felt it was too soon, as Sanjay was just 20.
“My father threatened to annul the marriage because Sanjay was underage, so we waited. On the day Sanjay turned 21, I called my parents and told them I was getting married in a week and if they wished, they could attend. At first, my mother said they were busy, but they made it to Mumbai for the wedding,” says Alisha.
It was an intimate temple wedding, attended by Sanjay’s entire family and friends, Alisha’s cousins and friends from Mumbai, and her parents.
On that day, the years of tension between Alisha and her parents somehow melted away – they had a change of heart and said they were ready to accept their daughter back into the fold.
“They are still my parents and I love and care for them. While I consider their behaviour atrocious, I now realise it was a blessing in disguise. What they put me through strengthened me tremendously.”
The newly-weds returned to Dubai after the wedding, staying at Sanjay’s parents’ home, which they had to themselves, as the rest of the family was still in Mumbai. “Those two weeks were a beautiful time that I often refer to as my honeymoon,” jokes Alisha. During their first year of marriage, Sanjay quit his job and the couple started their garments business. They worked around the clock, routinely toiling from 9am to 3am the next morning.
“I remember the night of our first wedding anniversary,” says Alisha. “We got up from our table, cut a cake, exchanged a quick kiss and went back to work till nine the next morning.
“We worked really hard in the early years but honestly, I can’t say it was difficult. We were both young and full of energy. I have never regretted my decision to stand by Sanjay.”
Alisha’s parents continued to make every effort at reconciliation. “I think their initial acceptance was because they had no choice – I was already married. It was only a few months later that they realised their mistake in judging Sanjay’s character and were ashamed of how they had behaved towards his family. They apologised to us and our relationship gradually improved, though the wounds were still quite raw then.”
Alisha’s mother called her every day and invited them over for dinner at least twice a week. While Alisha was receptive, Sanjay had his reservations.
“He was always civil towards them, if a bit cold at times, as he found it hard to let go of the past. My mother-in-law always encouraged me to respect my parents and insisted that Sanjay accompany me when I visited them. It took some time, but Sanjay eventually forgave my parents. I think what helped was when they invited my in-laws for lunch and apologised profusely to them. We both really appreciated that.”
Today, the tough times are well behind them. “I can happily say that my parents have the utmost respect for Sanjay, and my relationship with them has only grown stronger.”
Given what the couple has been through, they often remind their children that a person’s worth lies in what he is, not in what he has. “We’ve also realised that sometimes adversity cannot be avoided. It’s how you react to the situation that matters; if you don’t let it break you, it will leave you stronger.”