A secret of success of Alashqars’ marriage is that ‘there are no secrets’ Image Credit: Supplied

Hussain and Elizabeth Alashqar

Love beyond boundaries

When Jordanian expat Hussain Alashqar, who works in a real-estate company in the UAE, was given the resume of a Filipina who was looking for a job, he did not anticipate meeting his life partner, Elizabeth. He agreed to speak to a friend and check if there was an opening for her. And there was. Hussain offered to pick her up from her accommodation and drive her to her first job interview. “For me, it was love at that first meeting,” explains Hussain, snuggling up close to his wife.

Elizabeth admits she was hesitant to take up his offer initially, but she did. “He was very smart and handsome and had agreed to help me; but I was not as eager and chatty as he was,” she says.

After four years, they decided to take the leap and solemnise their marriage.

Were there a lot of cultural differences to contend with? “I could not speak Arabic and was not familiar with his food or culture,” says Elizabeth, “but during the time that I stayed with my dear mother-in-law, who passed away recently, and sisters-in-law in Jordan, where I delivered my first son, I learnt to cook Arabic dishes and even picked up the Arabic language,” she says.

Now, after almost two decades, the couple and their two sons – Ismail and Ibrahim, are living the best of both cultures. They love Filipino and Arabic food; and the family looks forward to fasting during Ramadan.

Challenge, for this family, came not in the form of cultural differences but as an unexpected diagnosis. Elizabeth noticed that her first born had trouble reading and understanding stories. Suspecting it to be dyslexia, she decided to closely observe him. A series of tests later, he was found to have mild learning disabilities.

“The biggest challenge is to be a witness to your child’s struggles,’’ explains Elizabeth as Hussain agrees. “Liz thought it best to quit her job and homeschool him,” he explains. This meant that she had to spend most of her time with him, assisting him to cope with his learning alongside researching ways to ease his learning, with little or no help.

That was a few years ago, today Ismail is a confident child and attends regular school that caters to the IB curriculum and has been accepted into four leading universities with scholarship in the US to pursue his education in International Business.

“This would not have been possible without my family’s support,” explains Elizabeth, “Hussain has been very supportive and understands that my day will be spent mostly with my children and that all the chores at home only come second. My second born is his brother’s biggest cheer leader.”

Hussain adds in, “When we understood what our son needed, we did not give up, the three of us decided to stand with him. We changed our way of life for him and all we wished was to see a confident boy who could face the world,” he explains, “and Liz made it all happen. Ibrahim and I just stood with her.

‘‘Today, we are proud of Ismail and his accomplishments, we don’t remember the challenges we faced.”

Assured that challenges can also 
cement relationships, I ask them what 
their one secret of their togetherness is. “That there are no secrets,” laughs Hussain whose wife compliments him for his sense of humour. “For me, it’s tolerance,” says Elizabeth thoughtfully, “Hussain has been very tolerant and that is what made it all work.”

Dr. Karthik and Dr. Sindhu

Work and soulmates

When Sindhu Venugopal met Karthik Jayakumar in 1994, they were all of 18 and fresh out of school. A UAE resident, Sindhu had flown the nest to pursue a degree in dentistry and Karthik wished to follow in his father’s footsteps and pursue a career in dentistry as well.

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Dr Karthik, Dr Sindhu and their children Anannya and Shresht; and their pets Zorro and Ninja. Photo Anas Thacharpadikkal/Gulf News

“We were classmates. He was this boy, thin, six feet and just out of 12th grade and I was a fresher, away from home, in a new place. We practically grew up together,” quips the prosthodontic doctor blushing as she recounts their first meeting.

“It was friendship at first sight for us,” continues Karthik, an orthodontist, as he explains that they never intended to be together, but after years of spending mostly all their college days in each other’s company and even studying together, their friendship steadily blossomed into love.

Dr. Karthik
The couple soon after their wedding

Today, Dr. Sindhu and Dr. Karthik, who hail from the South-Indian states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu respectively, not only share a home, two children and pets, they even share the same workspace at Dr. Sirajuddin Medical Center in Karama.

Are there any challenges in sharing the same work area? I ask.

Dr. Sindhu explains thoughtfully, “Our friendship stemmed from the comfort we felt in each other’s company from our college days. When we got an opportunity to work in a clinic in Sharjah, our first job in the UAE, we took it up without much thought. When Karthik moved to a clinic in Dubai and I was looking for a job after my maternity break, we once again ended up in the same workplace. It wasn’t planned, it just happened.”

Dr. Karthik adds, “In fact it worked in our favour. Sharing workspace means when we both get some free time we can catch up on our discussions about children or the weekend plans, as after going home to two school-going children, two dogs and four birds vying for our attention, discussions can be difficult.”

Any unspoken rules that they adhere to about their work?

“We rarely discuss work at home, we don’t see the need to,” he says.

Says Sindhu: ‘Over the years of getting to know each other and being in the same profession, we respect each other for who we are and what we do. We deem it important to give one another the space to be ourselves.” says Dr. Sindhu who goes by her maiden name.

And how do they manage disagreements? “Having been with each other for so long, we understand each other a little too well. Just one look and I know what’s coming,” she says with a smile.

What was that one quality they saw in each other that attracted them most?

Dr. Karthik is the first to answer. “For me it was very comforting to have a friend who is a good listener and who always has my back.’’

“I loved Karthik for what he was, a fun-loving and jovial friend who was also very practical and hardworking,” says Dr Sindhu.

Is there something the couple, who have over the years learnt to speak the other’s mother tongue fluently, would miss had they not been working together?

“I would miss the easy accessibility to him,” she laughs, “I just need to walk across the corridor if there is anything I wish to convey.”

When I look at Dr. Karthik for his response, he quips, “I will miss having a friend at work.”

Dr. Prashant Nasa and Dr. Ruchi Nasa Chopra

Distance makes the heart grow fonder

Cupid’s arrow can strike anywhere, anytime if the two people have a good chemistry. Or as in this case, share a love for Biology. Ruchi Chopra first met Prashant Nasa while in medical school over the dissection table. Ruchi hails from Himachal Pradesh and Prashant from India’s bustling capital, Delhi. But both nursed a common dream of acquiring a medical degree. After six years of courtship and realizing their dream, the doctors – Dr. Ruchi, a Histopathologist and Dr. Prashant, an Intensivist at NMC Dubai – got married in the presence of both their families. They moved to the UAE in 2014 with their son.

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Image Credit: Supplied

While Prashant took up working as an Intensivist in a hospital in Dubai, Ruchi realised that even with her experience working as a Histopathologist back in India, her degree was not recognised in the UAE.

She would have to acquire a degree in the same from the UK or US. Until then, she had to satisfy herself doing restricted work like taking care of the day-to-day lab tests.

“I tried to make peace with the same,’’ she explains, “but the itch to pursue a career in the stream of my choice always kept tugging at my heart. So, I decided to take the UK Royal College examination. At that time, it was all about pushing hard to prove to myself that I could do it. I had never anticipated moving to the UK,” she recollects.

She explains that the Royal College exams are given in parts. She attempted Part 1 of the examination in 2019. She had prepped to complete it in the early 2021, but Covid played spoilsport. Not one to give up, she used up the extra time to prepare herself better. She completed Part 2 during the spring of 2022.

Once the results came, offers kept pouring in from the UK. “UK has a well-placed cancer pathway and a dire shortage of histopathologists.

‘This was my dream job, but suddenly I was confused. Prashant would continue in the UAE, while I moved to the UK,’’ reminisces Ruchi over a Zoom call.

Prashant chips in, “I think I was the happiest person when Ruchi cleared her exams. I could not stop sharing it with everyone. It was a proud moment for us.”

Ruchi smiles. “Prashant became my biggest support. He pushed me to go ahead and follow my passion.”

Clearly their choice was a difficult one. So how has life been since she moved to the UK in October of 2022?

Ruchi explains, “Living apart in a marriage is difficult, it is a test of our relationship. You make your plans alone and there is no one to check on you. Weekdays are busy but weekends drag on too slowly.

She admits that technology has made the world smaller. ‘‘We talk to each other twice every day, yet nothing can replace a warm hug at the end of a long day,’’ she says, adding that the memories of the lovely days they spent together in the UAE often keeps her going.

Prashant agrees. “There is no glory in staying away. It is hard to come to an empty home. The thought that she is doing what she loves keeps me going. We plan when we will see each other next and look forward to those times,” he says.

“We spent the New Year together and had the most relaxed break. Over the last few months, I have learnt more about us than all the years combined,” laughs Ruchi as Prashant looks up at his wife fondly.

Absence indeed makes the heart grow fonder!