If you’ve bumped into a wholesome couple, smiling and giggling their way through the streets of Juhu Scheme, you can be sure that you’ve witnessed the endearing romance between Shannel and Pratham. The chirpy, petite Shannel and the extroverted, always-welcoming Pratham, refer to themselves as having the “not your typical Sima Taparia story.” With both having studied in Jamnabai, attending college in the US and living less than 300 metres from one another, their “stars were (only) aligned” when they met earlier this year. While the rest of us were busy learning how to accurately froth our Dalgona’s, these two were occupied learning everything there was to know about one another. While the rest of us grumbled about going grocery shopping, these two would willingly grab the opportunity as an excuse to see each other (this explains how they are so updated with the latest prices of gobi and lauki). While the rest of us came out of the lockdown with unmanicured fingers and ruffled beards, these two came out of it finding their life partner. While the rest of us were locked down, these two were locked in.
Could you share the initial stages of your relationship? How did y’all meet and what were your first impressions/thoughts?
P: Our grandparents, now synonymous with “not-your-traditional wingmen”, have been friends for over 40 years now, and a fleeting thought occurred to them as they donned their cupid wings - why not try to set these up and see how it goes?
Even though we’re sometimes labeled as the result of arranged marriage, it was anything but that - we had our contacts exchanged and the rest was left to us. Our texting began erratically, (don’t know/hope it didn’t have anything to do with me misspelling her name) and started out with being more platonic than either of us expected. However, I’m nothing short of grateful for this period which went on to lay out the foundation of a budding friendship, soon before turning into courtship.
S: I don’t recollect what I wore to my first date, but I do remember wearing a wicked smile on my way back home. It was overly evident that we enjoyed each other’s company but, we didn’t let any of it translate into expectations, primarily owing to the fact that I was returning to New York. My following semester in New York - meant to last until May - bought us time to fan the initial sparks and gave way to the maturing of what we had freshly sowed together.
We understand that your relationship started in different timezones and flourished during the lockdown. How did you work towards nurturing this relationship despite such circumstances?
P: Initially, we jointly tackled the relentless time zones by inhabiting spots on each other’s “recents” call log. As the time since our last meeting increased, so did the length and frequency of our phone calls.
S: Our phone calls and Facetime dates were the sole reason we were able to diminish, if not defeat, our time differences. Our hour long conversations felt like nothing more than a series of short quick minutes filled with blushes and giggles. Ofcourse, the giggles only lasted until I was slammed with a $500 phone bill. Yes, my dad was not pleased. Yes, I now use Whatsapp call. Yes, I promise.
P: I guess the universe surrendered to my wishes because she was back in February on account of the lockdown (prolly the only time I recollect being grateful for it), making it the second time we met in two months.
S: My initial plans for Mumbai spanned two weeks, but just like the case for most others, these were soon shattered by the lockdown rules (I guess the government and fate had done us some favors). With time, the already negligible distance between our houses became a hop-skip-jump away as we saw so much more of each other on our “romantic excursions” to Nature’s Basket and Noble Chemist. Frequent drives, dinners and road trips (to the grocery store, ofcourse) most definitely steered our relationship and rapidly drove the process of going from friends to fiances.
P: As I’m sure was the case for a lot of others, the lockdown helped me consider my future in perspective - primarily the focus on our maturing relationship in the light of a pandemic.
S: While I did little to conceal my disappointment of nurturing a relationship during the pandemic, looking back I can swear I wouldn’t change a thing. We not only came out of this lockdown with an unconventional story for future dinner parties, but also got a peek into each other’s domestic and home-selves.
P: We've come to appreciate the way we got a chance to sow the seeds of our amour doing things most couples do years into their relationship. Our growth and understanding as a couple came effortlessly with hours of painting, cooking and driving together.
In what ways are you most alike and most different?
S: We find ourselves intersecting on numerous wavelengths, most striking being the significance of family bonding in our lives, which I strongly believe comes from being only children. During our leisure time, you'll find us relishing chai with our grandparents or gossiping for hours with our (and each others') parents! Not only did our families play a huge part in our individual lives but they also took up key roles in tying the ends of our #AShannelforPG rom-com plot!
P: Shans forgot to mention that both of us also fall under the same category of being social and talkative (pls contact friends and family for confirmation). She integrated into my assortment of friends and family in ways I'd never even imagined. This was something I had internally always hoped for, and I couldn’t be more grateful for the way it has effortlessly manifested.
S: I guess one notable difference, and I promise it’s a bigger problem than it seems, is our unalike taste buds. While he savors cakes and pampers his sweet tooth, I gorge on burning peppers and “teekha pani puri” at the overcrowded sixth road sev puri stall. His parents are in a constant dilemma while setting the dinner menu.
P: Excuse me, what dilemma? My parents always only make what she wants!
What is one thing that you love and appreciate about the other?
S: Before meeting him, I didn’t realize how much I desired and appreciated these qualities in my life partner - sheer warmth and sensitivity. Pratham not only reflects geniality off his loved ones, but anyone in his presence would be unable to overlook his infectious energy and affability.
P: Along the same vein, one of the countless things I appreciate about her is her kindness and empathy towards people. To me, this explains how she was and continues to blend into my existing world. I have come to (hesitantly) admit that she has now attained the spot of being my mother's “favorite child”. But again, as much as I wrestle her on this, I wouldn’t have it any other way. There are very few who earn their on-page happily ever afters, and I can’t deny that I’m one of them.
(Cue for the “awwwwwws”)
What are some special and memorable moments you shared during your courtship period?
P: I don’t know if this passes as a “fun, cute memorable moment” but it definitely makes for an embarrassing and hilarious dinner party story. So, it was the strictest period of lockdown and our car was parked outside her building. Post our long drive, we were sitting and chatting because we found that we weren’t ready to leave each other’s company just yet. Suddenly, we hear a sharp knock on the window and we are just about to brush it off as being just another watchman, when we see a heavily moustached man donned in a cop uniform. Next thing we know - unsurprisingly but much to our horror - he starts threatening to take us for a trip down to the police station. It’s important to remember 1) We hadn't had "the conversation" and hadn't labeled our relationship as anything but courtship so far. 2) this was the same time in lockdown when the Juhu police were ruthlessly embarrassing people by sending their pictures all over Whatsapp, to humiliate them for violating the lockdown. The one thought stuck on replay in my mind was - “a Juhu police Whatsapp forward cannot be our couple reveal story to our friends and family!”
The cop wasted little time before profusely interrogating me about the likes of our relationship and, with a lot of shock and little delay, I blurted “she’s my fiancé”. Just when I thought this couldn’t get any more mortifying, Shannel had called her father as a cry for help. You must understand I had never met her parents before this incident. To my sheer luck (but mostly fright), her father said that I was his to-be-son-in-law and our story checked out. We dealt with the cop successfully, but it took me hours (if not days) to deal with my embarrassment. Quite a creative way to meet your father-in-law for the first time, don’t you think? We jest at the incident now but I can confirm that a part of me died that day.
Shannel, how do you feel about being the first one to be engaged in your social group? How did you work towards dealing with your feelings?
S: I’ll admit that it took some time to come to terms with the fact that I’m authoring a different chapter of my life than the rest of my peers. Fortunately or unfortunately, being the first one in my social circle gave me the liberty to exercise my expectations and decisions without being influenced by someone else’s experience. Lucky for me, Pratham’s friends and cousins have done way more than lent their shoulders to help me ease into this process which has proven to be overwhelming on more occasions than one.
Just like most things in life, our relationship started out being raw but we have been, and continue to, grow, develop and nurture it through experiences together - one of the fringe benefits of our atypical set up. Having been an insider to this process now, I often remark how much of an emotional roller coaster and mindset shift comes with the ring on my finger. I recollect the veritable parade of feelings that came over me the moment I realized that there is, and will always be another half to me.
P: Each day is a surprise as we stumble over situations, most different from the last, and continue to learn to face them together. Paradoxically, our relationship also feels so familiar and homey as we are intertwined in the best possible way. As with these new encounters, we continue learning about each other and eliminating the unknown.
S: Not that this takes away from the emotions and fear of the unknown, but Pratham familiarity from seeing his peers and cousins go through this process, definitely set him up better for what is to come.
P: Despite being alongside friends and cousins as they explore new grounds, the journey feels entirely foreign when you’re making your own itinerary! Even though I was more mentally prepared, owing to my age and friends, my mind was constantly inhabited by thoughts before coming to my decision - Do I need more perspective? Am I too young for this? Before things were set in stone, I had delved deep and deconstructed every aspect of how my decision would pan out. My initial thoughts thankfully proved overblown and looking back, I feel stronger, prouder and more content with my decision than ever before. I mean just look at her! Who wouldn’t? (S blushing like mad)
P: We both have been glad, and cognizant, about adopting the “play it by the ear” attitude. When we initially started out, we let things flow as they would have otherwise, especially considering that we both were each other’s firsts!
What is the most exciting and overwhelming part of this process? Also, what stage of the courtship do you find yourself in?
S: Aaaaaah I’d be lying if I said I knew what I was feeling- it’s impossible to place a finger on it! I keep rotating between excitement, fright and contentment. It’s hard to put into words what you experience when you not only weave another person into your life, but also reflect off each other’s energies and established dynamics. It seems to become realer by the day as we are getting absorbed right into each other’s social circles, soon to become our combined circles!
P: Definitely! We’re getting so much closer to each other’s friends and family by each passing day. But, I’m sure I speak for both of us when I say that there were definitely moments where we found ourselves sandwiched between nervousness and uncertainty of how the other would fit into our existing moulds.
S: It was challenging to keep in mind that this was entirely different from the regular boyfriend-girlfriend relationship. We had entered unknown waters where all we had was our judgment acting as buoys. Currently, we are over a year in the making and maturing of our “couple personality” which officially came together on 3rd January, at our engagement!
How has your relationship evolved in the last 6 months? When we first interviewed you, you said you were learning about each other and your couples personality. How would you describe your dynamic now?
P: During the lockdown, we had time to weave in the threads of our relationship but since the past 6 months, we’ve had time to knit the particular intricacies together. A year ago, we didn’t think it was even possible to learn so much about one another in such a short period of time. I know I’m setting myself up for a quick wrestle back home, but she’s totally the naughtier one and I’m the funnier one (even though she thinks otherwise). When I popped the question, it was about Shannel and I, but today, it’s beyond us. Back then, we were a couple but now we are family. Today, it’s about our parents, family and other loved ones that we surround ourselves with. Now with everyone around us, our family portrait feels a lot more complete and wholesome.
S: Even though it seems like a short amount of time, these 6 months have altered the course of my entire life, for the best! Our families have been instrumental in bringing us closer and the six of us have now developed a bond like no other.
What do you love the most about each other and what is one pet peeve you have for one another?
S: Being an only child, I’ve always felt secure and comforted in the embrace of my parents and grandparents. Pratham now selflessly shares this responsibility in his capacity and never fails to make me feel safe in his presence, or in some cases, even absence. One of the numerous reasons I found myself being smitten by him was the fact that I can count on him for anything. He is always there. And this warmth is not only around me, but anyone he surrounds himself with. He loves to give to people, show up for people, and make sure he is there for people. And I simply love him for that.
P: Among many other qualities that made her a no-brainer for my choice as a life partner, I’d say her innocence, virtuousness and purity was what tripped my head over heels.
Now for some risky confessions - if you ever need someone to urgently bail you out of jail, you can rely on anyone but Shannel. I feel like I've prolly used my Nintendo DS from 2006 more than she uses her phone!
S: Excuse meeeee how do you think I keep myself entertained when you take decades to get ready? Pratham doesn’t understand the purpose of a watch so my hack is to tell him our dinner reservation is for 8pm when it’s nine. I might soon find myself distributing reward money for someone who can solve the puzzle of what his two-hour long shower entails!
What is the cutest/nicest thing y'all have said to each other? (No pg-13 answers allowed)
P: Never has the word “yes” made me as happy as it did when she said it!
But a close contestant has to be “please pass the meetha chutney naaa”
Check out more about these cuties at #ashannelforpg!