There’s no proven formula for finding one’s soul mate, but most couples in the U.S. traditionally choose their own spouse. In some countries, however, a common practice is for family members to pick a suitor. Arshad and Shazma Matin became a couple using both methods.
There’s probably no story Arshad loves to tell more than how he met Shazma. Born and raised in Bhopal, India, Arshad pursued his graduate degree in computer engineering at the University of Texas in the mid-1980s. Upon graduation, he moved to Oregon, but his parents back in India were searching for a bride. While returning for a visit, they presented him with a list of suitable young women from various cities. What intrigued Arshad most was not who was on the list, but how his family had obtained it.
In her early 20s, Shazma had already lived in several countries. Her father was then the Indian ambassador to Saudi Arabia. Shazma happened to be passing through New Delhi, India, for one night, where she stayed with her aunt. On that very evening, Arshad’s sister had arrived at her aunt’s home to ask for input on suitable girls for Arshad. Shazma had shared some names and thought nothing more of it.
When Arshad wanted to know about the young woman who had supplied the names, he was told Shazma was not his type – she wasn’t interested in marriage at this time. She hoped to use her social work degree to work for Unicef and help the poor.
Arshad’s sister and parents became quite exasperated at the lack of effort he put into pursuing the list. Arshad convinced his father to write to Shazma’s dad, asking for permission to contact Shazma. A reply came that when the ambassador next visited India, he’d set up a time to meet the Matins.
Arshad waited another seven months. He still had never seen a photo of Shazma or spoken one word to her, but something in him wouldn’t let up. Mustering his courage, he wrote to her father and asked his permission to contact his daughter.
Shazma’s dad replied that he and his wife were coming to visit their son studying at Berkley, and if Arshad wanted to make the trip from Oregon to meet them, he could certainly do so.
Arshad drove to California, and spent the next three days with Shazma’s parents. “My first meeting with them was to come to dinner at the consul general of India’s house. Over the next few days, we spent time going for walks and drives. We talked a lot,” says Arshad.
Shazma’s parents concluded he was a fine young man with a proven record of tenacity, and gave him their blessing to contact Shazma. However, they made it clear that unlike some Indian parents, they would not force their daughter to marry anyone. The decision was entirely up to her. “And they warned me she was very independent,” he shares.
Arshad and Shazma began a phone relationship. “The first phone call was like two minutes. She was pretty abrupt. Then the next time I called we spoke for five minutes. Then the next time, 20. We kept building up. One of our phone calls lasted six hours,” Arshad says, explaining this was before the Internet.
Eventually, after several months, Shazma agreed to meet Arshad. He flew to Saudi Arabia, where he saw Shazma for the first time after waiting almost two years to meet her. “I thought she was beautiful,” he says.
Arshad had an eight-day leave of absence from work, so he had to move fast. The couple was chaperoned at all times. Bringing a ring with him, he had no idea if he would propose. Towards the end of his stay, he asked Shazma to marry him while in a Pizza Hut, and three months later, they married.
“I saw the respect my father had for Arshad,” says Shazma. “I had been so committed to my work with Unicef, and it was a difficult decision for me to move back to the U.S. with Arshad. But I also saw how close he was to his family, how good he was to his mother, and the values he had.”
With 18 years of marriage now under their belt and three daughters, the Matins never tire of the story of how Arshad followed his gut and used the list his sister had compiled to find his soul mate – Even if he added a slight twist of modern dating to traditional matchmaking.