Tuesday, April 22, 2014

A different kind of love story

Zakir and I met in medical school, a little over twenty five years ago. He was a bit of a loner, and I had a small circle of friends, quite shy, although you would never think it today. We never really spent much time interacting with each other for the first four years; although at times we would find ways to joke with and tease each other. In fact, 'friendly' insults were a bit of a sport for us.

Our final year of medical school is divided into three month blocks. One of those blocks is for electives. Most students choose to spend their electives in a different location from our medical school; some out of the country, and others in a different city in Pakistan. I chose to split my time between two hospitals, one in Lahore, and the other in Islamabad. Zakir spent his three months in Islamabad, the city where he grew up. But our time in Islamabad did not overlap. By the time he came back to Karachi to finish off the rest of the school year, I had already left for my electives. So we didn't see each other, or even talk for the better part of six months. That's when I realized that I sort of missed having him around. It was as subtle as that, and I'm sure it was something similar for him too. So when we were back in Karachi we started talking more. Started spending more time together. Started seeking each others' company. And one evening, which sitting in the hospital cafeteria, he (very awkwardly) asked me to marry him. A few days later, I said 'yes'. It was really only after that, that we started to take the time to get to know each other more. We learned that we have common goals and aspirations. Both wanted to move to the United States for further education. Both wanted to have kids. And even though our families originate from different parts of the Indian Subcontinent, we realized that there were a lot of common family values. And we both enjoyed each others' company, of course. That was the start of our love story. No 'love at first sight', but a relationship that grew on commonality. And we continued to nurture it.

We got married on April 22, 1994; about six months after we graduated from Medical School. Love grew, as it should, in a relationship. We lived with my in-laws for about one year, they are a wonderful family, and I loved the time I spent there. We moved to the United States a little over one year later. During our residency application process, Zakir and I were having a hard time finding programs in the same city, him in Internal Medicine, and me in Pediatrics, where we both would have a good chance of being accepted. And I couldn't imagine living apart, even for one year. So I opted out and Zakir found a position in the residency program of his choice. That was the perfect time to start a family. Just a couple of months before our second wedding anniversary, Safa was born. Almost three years after that we had Hamza. And then it was my turn to resume my training, while Zakir found a job. This brought us to the Birmingham area, where we have lived ever since.

Since our marriage, we have lived at eight different addresses, seven of those in the United States. Our current zip code has stuck with us; we have lived here for almost eleven years. Our third child Bilal was born here. We have started a medical practice together. We recently built and moved into a gorgeous new home. We have a great circle of friends. Our times as a couple have been interesting, to say the least. Not all smooth sailing, I admit, as it is with many (or most) couples. But we love each other passionately now, and we continue to learn more about each other every day. And that makes for a wonderful marriage.

Today we celebrate our twentieth wedding anniversary. We are so blessed to have reached this milestone. Still together, and stronger than ever.


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