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Maida Montoto with her husband Jassim Babu and their children. Image Credit: Supplied

Muscat: Maida Montoto never expected to meet her would-be husband in a crowded train from Ernakulam to Calicut. But meet she did, and few months down the lane, they were married.

It was 2015, and Maida had taken a gap year after finishing her post-graduation in philosophy at the Argentina National University in Buenos Aires, to visit India with her friend. While touring the northern belt of India, her friend fell sick and had to return home immediately. Maida, who didn’t want to terminate her much-looked-forward-to journey abruptly, Googled to find safe places to travel in India and arrived in the southern state of Kerala. The rest, as they say, is history.

Making things even more remarkable was the fact that Maida started off a lot of first things in her life at the height of the pandemic. Deciding to finally make a move to Oman for good, with an infant, and starting an online organic business that required her to make handmade products were just two of them.

“I would certainly remember the year 2019 and 2020 for COVID-19. But it has also given me good moments to remember in my life. My husband’s family lost a very young, close family member, as well as an aged but healthy aunt. These shatter your mind, but then it also showed us to be more careful with things that we take for granted.”

Kerala loves Maradona and Messi

“The first thing I noticed when I boarded the train in Ernakulam to reach Mangalore, was the interest of people in Kerala in football and Argentine players Maradona and Messi. It was in early 2015, and the 2014 World Cup had been staged the previous year.

"The final match between Germany and Argentina was fresh in the memories of everyone, at least the passengers I travelled with that day. I am a big football fan too, and though I didn’t understand what they were talking about, I could make out the names Maradona and Messi. It was Jassim Babu, who would later be my husband, who explained to me what was being said. The train journey was very interesting for more reasons than one!”

Further surprises awaited Maida when she found that Maradona had more fans and fans club in Northern Kerala than in her home country. She also was pleasantly surprised when Jassim Babu asked her hand in marriage. They had a nikah in Oman, where Jassim’s elder sister was then a resident, at the end of 2015. Everything happened quickly and Maida, who now runs an online organic beauty products shop in Muscat, called Verde and Green, adapted seamlessly into the Jassim household.

Today Maida has two kids, a three-year-old boy and a six-month-old girl. Adapting to a new country, new culture, new life, newer roles of being a wife and mother to young kids, and running an online store, might seem daunting even if one had able assistants. But Maida manages all of these roles and credits her caring husband who works with a reputed hotel chain in Oman and also her mother-in-law who ensures family members get their Malabar delicacies on time to relish.

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Maida runs an online organic business. Image Credit: Supplied

Seamless blending of Argentina and Malabar

“Most of my time is spent in my small workshop that I have set up in the unused first floor store area, where I mix and make my organic soap, shampoo bars and other such items that I sell. The aroma of my mother-in-law’s cooking is what always brings me down. I love the Malabar mutton biryani and fresh banana chips that she makes at home. We have no communication barrier, although I don’t know Malayalam and she doesn’t speak English or Spanish.”