Dubai: Marriages, they say, are pre-ordained. And sometimes it could take up to 39 match attempts.
As Dubai-based Anis Sajan, vice-chairman of the well-known Danube Group, marked his 25th wedding anniversary with his wife Rubina at their Emirates Hills villa yesterday (May 16), the ceremony was as grand as it could possibly get amid COVID-19 restrictions. But that is besides the point.
“I feel so blessed to have journeyed 25 years together with my wife,” says the 49-year-old businessman in an exclusive interview with Gulf News, the first part of which was published yesterday.
Rubina echoes his words, but not without adding: “I was the 39th girl that he saw and the marriage took place within six days.”
Cornered into making a confession, a sheepish Anis admits that is the truth.
The throwback is candid, the revelations unabashed.
Like the rest of his life, Anis’ love story too could be straight out of a Bollywood flick. It begins with a heartbreak in Dubai. A time when the foot-loose-and-fancy-free Anis was making the most of his bachelor days at a shared accommodation at Deira.
“I can never forget those glorious times. We were 12-14 of us sharing the flat. I am still in touch with many of them like Ilyaz Kazi, Nissar Naik and Musaffar Khan,” he says.
A devastated ‘Devdas’
Unprepared to cook or clean the house, Anis’ contribution to the daily tasks was to lay the princely table – a generous spread of old newspaper sheets on the ground – from which the boisterous group would dig into the day’s meals over a din of banter. Anis, considered the most dashing among his peers, was the live wire of the room. He also owned a car – a Station Wagon – which the roommates would fill up in turns and paint the town red.
And so it was on one such outing – to a Dandiya Raas (an Indian folk dance event) at Al Aweer Grounds – that Anis bumped into a girl - Match No.1 - with whom he believed he was madly in love. But the relationship got nowhere as the girl’s father, a fellow trader in Deira, told him to keep off.
Anis knew what it was to be rejected as a salesman, but not as a suitor. "It completely broke my heart, I was devastated and felt like Devdas (the spurned protagonist of the epic Bolllywood romantic film by the same name).”
As he spent the next few days and weeks sulking, big brother and Danube Group chairman Rizwan Sajan was watching over him as always. “He was concerned and convinced me that I should get married. Like all traditional Indian families, he informed our relatives back home that I was ready to take the plunge. The next thing I knew, I was on a plane to my hometown with my brother and his wife to find the girl of my life.”
Operation bride hunt
Word about the Dubai-based eligible bachelor spread so quickly in the family circles that a series of proposals were lined up for Anis.
The proposals came from different quarters, the girls from different backgrounds. We could hardly refuse our well-meaning relatives and friends. So every day, we would set out and end up meeting not one, but many prospects. Believe it not, I was referred to 37 girls and I met them all over a period of six days.
“We could hardly refuse our well-meaning relatives and friends. So every day, we would set out and end up meeting not one, but many prospects. Believe it not, I was referred to 37 girls and I met them all over a period of six days. The proposals came from different quarters, the girls from different backgrounds. I remember one of them asking me about night clubs in Dubai. I had never heard of them, let alone been to one. Needless to say, she rejected me. Somehow, none of the other proposals too clicked as I could not make up my mind.”
Finally, a common contact took the Sajan brothers to Rubina’s parents’ house. She was Match No.39 and the bride hunt ended with her.
Anis says what struck him the most about Rubina was her calm demeanour and her values about being a homemaker. “She was everything I was looking for – and more.”
Insisting till date that she was as floored by him as he was by her during their first meeting, Anis says the wedding was fixed for six days later.
Father of the bride
Rubina recalls how it took much convincing by her father for her to see Anis. “I was just 22 and not quite in the marriageable frame of mind. But for my father’s sake, I agreed to be around when the Sajan family was invited to our home. The first meeting was casual and I must admit I found both Anis and his elder brother very nice. Anis and I were allowed to speak to each other by ourselves as well. He had a volley of questions but I patiently answered them all. The next day, another meeting was arranged at a common contact’s house and we got engaged there and then,” she recounts.
Part 1 of Anis Sajan's untold journey
With the wedding taking place in a hurry, many of the traditional ceremonies were either skipped or cut short, says Anis, but adds, “I made sure they were covered now, albeit 25 years later and with just close family.”
Having gone through the motions of an “arranged marriage”, a traditional practice where parents and families initiate and largely decide on matrimonial matches, Anis says he has no regrets. Ask him if he expects his two sons – Azhar, 23 and Sahil, 20 – to follow suit, and he quips: “Times have changed. Call it what you want – arranged marriage or love marriage – I would respect their choice either way. I can tell you one thing though – my arranged marriage became a love marriage. So it’s how you want to see it.”
Asked if there is anything that he would like Rubina to change for him, he says: “In my 25 years of marriage, I have understood that if you love someone, love them unconditionally. You have to accept the person as he or she is. Asking the person to change does not amount to love, it’s like a deal.”
While the two boys shy away from sharing their views on the subject of an arranged marriage, it is clear that the lines of communication between them and their parents are open. Not just that, the bonding that the foursome share is deep.
In my 25 years of marriage, I have understood that if you love someone, love them unconditionally. You have to accept the person as he or she is. Asking the person to change does not amount to love, it’s like a deal.
“I give full credit to my wife for this. She has ensured that our two sons are as close as I am with my brother. They have a special relationship, and Inshallah, it will continue to be that way,” says Anis.
Now as sons of the Danube family, how do the boys feel? “Danube is a big name and it makes us proud. But we are like anyone else. Our parents have taught us the importance of being humble, respectful, kind and caring,” says Azhar.
Adds Sahil, “I play it cool. I am a normal kid my age. And Anis Sajan is just dad to me.”
The family man
Anis says he is very much a family man. “At the end of the day, all I want is to come home to my wife and children. I spend as much of time with them as possible.”
His hectic work schedules and passion for cricket does take up a lot of his time, but the family is understanding.
“My wife has been extremely supportive and stood by me through thick and thin. I must confess I was a bit chauvinistic in my younger days, but not any more. For any marriage to work, both partners must have a ‘we’, rather than a ‘me’ focus. This applies to every little aspect of daily life. I am glad Rubina thinks the same way as I do which has helped our marriage blossom with two smart boys who are now matured men.”
As the 25 years with his wife roll on, Anis hopes he will continue to count his blessings.