PART 1 - Boy Meets Girl

Their backgrounds were hugely different. Other than the obvious differences in religious beliefs, Shital (Sheets) was fairly streetwise, brought up and raised in Wembley, whereas Sher was brought up in the remote village of Datchet, near Windsor. His upbringing was fairly sheltered and quite the opposite of Shital’s.

Back in September 1994, Sher & Sheets began their Computer Information Systems & Design degree at Kingston University, little did they know what was to unfold over the next year...

They were complete strangers. Although Sheets was fairly streetwise, she was also a shy and reserved girl with people she didn’t know. Sheets came to Kingston with her best friend from school. Nisha was a confident and bubbly girl who attracted people very easily because of her quick wit and sense of humour. The girls then ended up in a peer group of similar characters.

Sher was also a shy character only sticking to the few people he knew. He came over to Kingston with his college buddy Sanj. Having a sheltered upbringing Sher was the guy who never swore, drank, smoked or had even been to a night club. Other students found this odd, however, he was liked for these qualities.

Sher & Sheets were part of a peer group of well over 100 students. Sher would be with his few quiet friends, while Sheets was in the ‘loud crowd’ One incident comes to their minds soon after they started where Sher first caught sight of Sheets in this very large group.

They were attending a lecture in a large auditorium in The Sopwith Building. There were a few friends making a lot of noise from the row behind Sheets, but to her shock, she was accused by the lecturer of talking and was asked to stand up in front of everyone. Sheets died of embarrassment and it was at this point where Sher was able to put a name to the face. Sher remembers this incident, he thought this loud crowd were just annoying and disruptive and Sheets was one them.

The I.T. Lab where Sher & Shital met for the first time.

Sher's first residence in Room 3E2.

A few days had passed and all students were given their email addresses. They were introduced to Titan which was an email interface back then on the Unix operating system. At the time, email was a new and exciting concept for everyone! They were given a class list, so everyone was busy exploring this new method of communicating and were using it to make friends.

Sheets remembers one day in particular where she was in the I.T lab. She had received a ‘hello’ email from user ‘K948232’. Sher was asking Sheets what school she came from and what she thought of the course. They chatted for about 40 mins before curiosity got the better of Sheets and she left Nisha typing so that she could go and investigate who this guy was. Nisha told Sher that ‘Sheets is coming over to see who you are’ Ten minutes later Sheets spotted Sher in another lab. She could now put a name to his face too. She walked in and said ‘so you are Mr Perwaz?’ and he replied ‘and you must be Miss Patel’. (Looking back that line is so cheesy, they may have watched one too many Bollywood movies..)

Sher & Sheets both had different friend circles - Sheets was always in the canteen with the ‘cooler’ crowd, whilst Sher hung out with the more studious guys in the library or the I.T lab. They would only pass each other in corridors or at lunch, giving a quick ‘Hi’ and ‘save me a seat’ in the next lecture.

Their first photo.

Dinner with Taz.

Over the next few weeks, Sher & Sheets became really close..the best of friends and hung out a lot more. They would spend hours just chatting about life, politics, the universe and just about anything mankind had to offer. Time would go by so fast without them realising. They both recall hours flying past like minutes. Shital never normally felt that comfortable around guys but she felt different with Sher. He wasn't the typical hard guy and had a softer side that appealed to her. She really felt she could talk to him about her life and her upbringing too.

Sher was commuting every day from home with Sanj who was also a homely type. As Sher would always go on and on about Sheets, Sanj always approved of Sheets and said that he thought ‘Sher & Sheets’ would make a great couple, but Sher knowing their different Hindu / Muslim backgrounds knew nothing could come of this.

After being on the accommodation waiting list, Sher finally got his halls of residence at Kingston Bridge House and he was so excited. Living a very sheltered life he was so enthusiastic about moving out and the first person he could tell was Sheets. The week he got his keys he bumped into Sheets outside the library with friends. They had the usual smile but as she walked past Sher called out to her. ‘Hey Sheets!, guess what? I got my place! You have to come and check it out.’ He was super excited. Sheets replied ‘sure I would love to see it’. Sher’s face lit up and he said ‘can you come over today?’. Unfortunately, Sheets had other plans and could not get out of them, so she told him she would come the next day. Sher’s heart sank as he thought she may jump at the chance to come and see his new residence. They had always talked about his sheltered upbringing in their deep discussions and he really wanted to share his excitement with her about his newfound freedom.

The next day Sheets came over to Sher in the canteen and asked him how his new place was and that she would love to come and see it. So they went to Kingston Bridge House that day to check it out. A mutual friend Tahseen (Taz) also got her room that week so Sher, Sheets, Taz, Sanj and Nisha went over to check out the new place.

The Uni crew (BID 94)

Kingston University 1995

Here are some of their dear friends in his photo mentioned in the posts.

There is Sheets with Nisha at the front, Taz in the white shirt at the back, Aj in the checked shirt on the left and Immy is also there popping up behind Nisha. Ammara is on the far left.

Sher seems to be moonwalking for some reason on the right..

Over the next few weeks, the pair started spending more time together as there was now another place to hang out. Room 3E2 to be exact. It was a totally innocent friendship but a deep one. The pair would sometimes after working together, eating, watching some TV and chatting not realise the time and Sheets would be leaving late into the night. There were no mobiles in those days so the pair would be excited to see each other again at university the next day.

The rest of their friends' circle could see something more in the relationship, well before they both had noticed and they would often be teased. Once the teasing began Sher & Sheets started to feel very awkward around friends and so started to talk less and less and started to become distant. The more they wanted to keep the friendship that they had created, the more their friends would talk and so they both eventually went back to the occasional smile and hello in passing...

Their very first selfie with a disposable Kodak - 1995

Part 2 - Life is not all sugar coated candy

4 weeks had passed over the Xmas holidays and it was exam time. Sher & Sheets saw each other after what seemed like a decade. Sher had grown a beard which Sheets didn’t like at all, so after the last exam she offered to drive him back to 3E2 where he could remove it. After that the pair sat and talked again and caught up as they hadn’t seen each other for a while. It was clear that they had really missed each other.

Sher would always sit at the head of his bed and Sheets had an easy chair at the end of the bed with her feet tucked under the duvet. They would always sit and talk like this. After an hour or two of catching up there was a strange silence in the air. There were obviously other things that needed to be discussed, but both were feeling very hesitant. Sher had an art pad on his bed that he would sketch in. Sheets wrote on the art pad ‘what are we going to do about children in a mixed marriage?’ To Sher’s astonishment and feeling very shy he drew his knees up to hide his face and wrote back on the pad ‘I’m not sure ...’ For the next 4 hours the pair discussed their potential future together on this art pad, as they found it easier to convey how they felt and decided that they both had developed mutual feelings for each other. They kept the pad and called it their 40 point plan to show their children one day.

They Were official

Here is a photo a taken a few days after Sher & Sheets had decided that they wanted to be together for the rest of their lives.

Sheets loved Ribena.

The Canteen.

Being young 19 year olds, in their naivety and lack of life experience, they pursued their relationship without thinking about the obstacles that lay ahead of them. As uni years went by the couple had built a strong foundation to their relationship. During this time Sher told his family who at first didn’t approve out of concern for the young couple not being able to cope with cultural and religious differences and they believed it was sure to fail. It had gotten so heated at home for Sher that he was faced with choosing between Sheets and his family.

He stood defiant to his family and chose her and had to leave home for a short period during the second year at university. Sher remembers facing his father on something so big and how terrifying an ordeal it was. Sheets had had a very strict religious upbringing and telling her parents was going to be a real challenge. All that said the pair left these discussions until the end of university. The approach was ‘let’s cross that bridge when we come to it’.

During the 3rd year of university in 1997, unfortunately, Sher lost his dad Mushtaq to cancer. This was a very tough time for him but Sheets was there to provide him with a lot of support. Sharing experiences like this together made them even stronger as a couple. Sher’s Dad had come round to the idea and Sher was happily in mid discussions with him when he passed so it was really difficult from the relationship perspective that the one person they did have on their side is now not there any more.

Sher & Sheets finally graduated in the summer of 1998. Luckily they were both accepted on the ICL graduate scheme (tech giant back in the day now called Fujitsu) and they started their first jobs together in October that year. Life was good, they were still able to see each other at work and they also met some other graduates who are still very good friends with them to this day.

As time was getting on, the million-dollar question was when was Sheets was going to tell her parents. The anxiety was building up day by day and the thought of it was making her feel sick. The couple whole-heartedly believed that they would be together - they just could not fathom the ‘How?’.

Sher’s mum wanted to see Sheets so he arranged a meeting. His mum explained to the pair that they could not continue living like this and needed to take some action. She offered to speak to her parents but Sheets insisted that she would prefer to speak to them herself.

Sheets was not very vocal at home, and the thought of having to break this news to her parents was very frightening and upsetting for her. She loved her parents and didn’t want to cause them any pain, but at the same time, she knew that she was not going to be able to spend the rest of her life without Sher or marry elsewhere. Looking back Sheets feels that this is one of life’s most difficult predicaments one can be faced with, having to choose between 2 people that you love, also knowing that you are inevitably going to cause heartache to one of them. It’s simply the worst feeling in the world.

Sher was so helpless at this time. The situation was out of his control and there was nothing he could do but support Sheets in any way he could. In the end, Sheets decided it was easier for her to write a letter to her dad telling him everything.

This is that same letter that Shital sent to her Dad back in 1998.

Sheets on a daily basis travelled to work with their mutual work friend Jigna (Jigs). This one morning in particular (it was possibly towards the end of the year now, she cannot remember exactly) her hands trembling, she left the letter for her dad on the dresser table, Jigs was waiting outside and then they left as normal for work. As expected Sheets felt sick to the pit of her stomach and she couldn’t hold back the tears as the morning went on at work. This was probably one of the bravest moments of Sheets life ... and probably one of the hardest challenges she’s ever had to face.

Her thoughts were on continuous replay, how was she going to get through this day? What was she going to go home to? How would her dad react?

It was mid-morning at work and Sheets could no longer bear the pressure so Jigs took her back home. Sheets vividly remembers being so scared on that journey home to face her parents and how they were going to react.

She reached home and her Dad opened the door...

Part 3 -Time To Leave

Shital’s Dad smiled and casually said ‘what are you doing home so early?’ Shital was startled at his response to seeing her after leaving the letter and stumbled to reply ‘I err was... not feeling very well, so Jigna brought me home. She was totally taken aback. ‘You better come in then instead of standing out there’ her Dad said. Shital walked in very nervously to the house. Her Dad smiled and said I’ve read your letter, we will discuss it later’. Shital walked through the hallway where she saw her mum also surprised to ask the same question, ‘what are you doing home at this time?’ ‘I felt unwell so came home’ Shital replied. At that point it was obvious to Shital that her dad had not yet told her mum, although she still felt very scared and anxious, she also felt somewhat relieved that only her dad knew.

Still feeling very uneasy Shital went upstairs to her room. 20 minutes had passed and her dad then entered. He spoke very calmly with a low tone ‘this is just not something that can happen, it’s not possible’ he said. ‘You have to forget everything, we will find you a nice boy from our community’. Shital remained silent, although there was so much to say no words were coming out and she felt paralysed. She was in shock and utter disbelief of how this situation was unfolding. She had plucked up so much courage to take this step, but for her, her dad’s reaction was a huge anti-climax and she almost felt like she was back at square one.

Almost a year had passed, Shital tended to work late, she’d get home and it was pretty much dinner and then bed. Overtime Shital became more and more quiet at home, and although her and her dad tried to carry on as normal, there was an underlying tension that loomed. Her dad had brushed the whole situation under the carpet, and was quite happy to try and forget about it all. Annoyingly for Shital, she just didn’t have the strength and confidence to raise the issue again and so continued along day-to-day praying for a miracle.

Practically every Friday after work finished Sher would sit with Shital and ask her ‘are you going to try and speak to dad again this weekend?’. He was obviously getting pressure from his mum at home. ‘I’ll try’ she said, secretly knowing that she had no intention to, as she was just too afraid to deal with the situation. This was a weekly occurrence and Shital almost began to dread the Friday conversation with Sher, as she felt she was being dishonest with him and just couldn’t admit to him that she wasn’t strong enough to have these conversations with her dad. Also as time went on, her dad believed that everything was OK and that Shital has forgotten about the whole situation.

July - 2000 on a work trip from Fujitsu.

In September 2000, Shital flew to India to spend 2 weeks with family. She needed a break from all the stress. At the same time Sher went to Pakistan to attend a family wedding. Because they could not see each other during this period, Sher remembers telling Shital ‘I’ll be so happy knowing you are just over the border!’

Sher returned back earlier than Shital and with Jigna to support him decided to call Shital’s dad and to speak to him. He spent an hour or so psyching himself up to make this call. Jigna was telling him it will be ok and if you want to marry Shital you just have to make this call to get the ball rolling’. He anxiously dialed with sweaty palms. Shital’s Dad answered ‘hello?’, ‘hello Mr. Patel ... my name is Sher’. Shital’s Dad went into a cold silence as he realised this was the boy his daughter had been talking about. Sher vividly remembers his father in law saying to him “I am sure your mum can find a nice girl from your community, but you cant marry my daughter it just wont work. Looking back Sher remembers the conversation being very calm and Shital’s Dad being frank and open.

Sher replied ‘I would like to ask to marry your daughter, she is a true testament to the upbringing you have given her. She is everything I want in a life partner and she understands me like nobody else and I understand her, please I am begging you to let us get married’. ‘No’ this is not happening and I cannot allow it’ replied Shital’s Dad. ‘I can come and see you’ replied Sher. ‘No!’ you are not to come here or call me again and you are not to see my daughter ever again’. With his raised voice he put the phone down and Sher was left hanging.

Soon after Shital returned home, her dad realised that this situation was not going to get any better so he decided he could no longer bare the burden of keeping this secret to himself and shared the news with his wife. When Shital’s mum came to know, as you can very well imagine there were lots of tears between them. Shital's mum made Shital promise that she would forget everything that has happened and not do anything she would regret and embarrass them infant of the wider community.

As the days passed, Shital’s parents could feel their daughter’s pain but they too were helpless and there was no way in which they could agree. The family was part of a larger community and that generation in particular cared a lot about what others would say and think. Going back 20 years from now, there were only a few cases of mixed marriages (unlike today), so the shock of it all was far greater.

As time dragged on Sher’s mum got fed up of waiting and gave him a final ultimatum whether Shital was the girl that he wanted to marry. In Nov 1999, his mum began wedding preparations whilst in the Patel household, the bride to be was still uncertain of how she was going to be there on the day. Shital was so sure and believed with 100% faith that Sher and herself were going to be together, she just didn’t know how! Looking back it was the law of attraction at work.

It was 2 weeks away from Xmas. Everything at Fujitsu was slowing down and Shital was getting more and more anxious. She confided a lot in her brother in law - Shital didn’t involve her sister as she knew that she too would be angry and upset at the thought of hurting their parents and Shital felt it was unfair to put her in that position. Her brother-in-law always advised her that if she wanted to be with Sher then it was best she let it all out in the open and get on with her life.

It was Friday 22nd December 2000, a miserable dark and wet day. Most in the office were able to finish early as people were preparing to leave for the Christmas break, a time of happiness and excitement. Today was the day Shital was finally going to pluck up the courage and tell her parents. Her brother in law picked Shital up from work that day around 3pm and they headed home. They talked in the car and he advised her again that if this was what she wanted, she had to pluck up the courage and get on with it. The 40 minute journey seemed to drag for what seemed like hours, Shital couldn’t believe what was happening, she was deep in thought and the whole situation felt like she was blindly entering a territory where she had no idea where the path in front of her would lead her to. They reached home just after 4pm, the sun had almost set.

Shital opened the door and said a quick hello to her parents, not even being able to look them directly in the eyes. After all the earlier momentum she had built up, upon seeing their faces, she instantly felt weak and ran upstairs to her room, her brother in law followed. For the next 15 minutes he continued to talk to her. Shital just couldn’t bare the thought of seeing her poor parents faces when she broke the news to them that she was leaving to get married. Their faces kept flashing in front of her eyes, she was completely torn. She felt sick to the pit of her stomach with fear and partly ashamed. ‘Why don’t you just go? I’ll tell them for you if you can’t do it’ her brother in law replied.

There was a mixture of emotions but at that very moment there was no time to digest the emotion, she had to make a decision fast as there was no turning back now. She also knew if she didn’t take this opportunity that was being presented to her, it would never happen. ‘OK, just tell them, tell them I’m really sorry’. Her parents were in the lounge. With tears flowing down her cheeks, Shital grabbed her coat and ran out of the house.

It was cold and dark. As Shital walked along the main road, the rain was blowing into her face alongside her tears. Other than Jigna, Shital had only confided in her two best school friends - Irfana & Palvi. Irfana was on standby that day to pick her up. Shital frantically tried to call but Irfana who wasn’t answering her phone as she was driving. Shital continued to walk in the dark not knowing exactly where she was going. She saw visions of her brother in law breaking the news to her parents, feeling distort but at the same time feeling a very small sense of relief that she was finally over the biggest hurdle.

However, looking back at that day she felt like her actions were very cowardly as she was not able to confront her Mum and Dad head on, but on the flip side she was incredibly brave for leaving. To this very day Shital still doesn’t know what happened after she left.

Irfana whizzed past Shital, as it was dark and raining. Finally she spotted Shital and pulled up by the kerb. Shital got in to the car and called Sher, ‘I did it, I have left home’.

Part 4 - Getting MArried

Sher’s older brother was quite old fashioned and suggested that he pick Shital up from where her and Irfana had parked and bring her home. Sher reluctantly agreed. Shital said her goodbyes to Irfana for the interim and then got into the car. This was the beginning of a new chapter in her life. There was no looking back.

The plan was for Shital to stay with Sher’s brother and his family for the week leading up to the wedding. Sher went over to his brother’s house as soon as they got back. He was so relieved to see Shital but could detect some fear when she spoke. It was concerning for him and his family that she had left the way she had, but there was little choice.

That evening, Shital’s mobile rang ... it was her aunty calling. She couldn’t possibly take the call, partly as she was too scared about hearing how distraught her parents must have been and also in case she was talked out of the whole situation. She made the decision to switch off her phone until Sher and herself were married. Sher`s mum was concerned and even offered to call Shital`s parents, but she knew that nothing would convince them and was best just to leave it.

Sher’s mum had booked the village hall in Datchet that week, she had planned to call a few members of the family and some of the couples close friends. The next few days Sher & Shital were caught up with the last-minute arrangements for the wedding, there was no time for her to dwell on the past day`s events. She was also distracted by all the attention from her new family,

On the 29th December 2000, Sher & Shital finally became husband and wife. The couple wore items given by Sher’s mum that she had kept aside for his wedding. Without any fuss or wishes of how their wedding day should be, the couple just wanted to be together and didn’t really pay much attention to the details or how everything was arranged. Shital had her 3 best friends with her on the day (Jigna, Irfana & Palvi) as well as an uncle and aunty (who were Patel’s and from the same community as Shital) who were friends of the couple from their time at Kingston University. They had offered to be stand-in parents for Shital. The whole event was so surreal. Throughout the event Sher and Shital had the biggest smiles, as they just couldn`t believe that they had finally done it.

29th December 2000

Although the couple were ecstatic, there was a slight niggling feeling of sorrow they felt as her family were not there to participate. The fact was that this dream had now become reality, the couple still remembers the next day being able to go to Tesco together to buy a few items and how proud they felt walking around arm in arm not having to worry about a family member spotting them, or them being seen in public. Those days were now behind them.

That same day Shital had to call her parents to let them know she was married. She sat for almost an hour with the phone in her hands trying to pluck up the courage to make the call. She finally called ‘Hi dad, it’s me ... I’m married now’ her voice trembled with fear, ‘don’t worry just come home you will need some of your things’ her dad replied. The call was fairly quick, Shital was surprised with the outcome and that her parents were OK to see her after what had happened.

Over the next few months, life began to normalise for the couple. Shital would visit her family once every few weeks. There was still a slight tension in the air, but the past events were not really discussed. Shital’s parents showed no interest in meeting Sher, neither did Shital enforce it. She was just happy that her parents wanted to see her and decided it was best to leave it to them until they were ready. Shital’s sister called her and Sher round for dinner and they all happily reignited relations and kept regular contact.

The time came naturally for the pair to flee the nest, they set up their own home and bought their very first property together in neighboring Slough. It was a 2 bedroom apartment and it was perfect! They were so excited to be getting their own place, it would be just like university where they could sit and have their chats and hang out just like the Kingston days in 3E2. Most couples after getting married like to go out to different restaurants and travel to various places, have weekend breaks. Not these two. Their idea of a weekend break was to stay in their pyjamas the whole weekend, watching movies, listening to music and eating. They just loved each other’s company so they never felt the need to go anywhere. Soon after they had settled in and got a small bonus from work the pair decided to go on honeymoon although this was nearly 2 years after getting married. They travelled to Malaysia and it was like an dream. Travelling and being together with nobody else, they ventured to the tropical island of Langkawi and spent 2 weeks away from home.

In October 2002 Shital discovered she was expecting their first child. It was the most amazing news albeit a bit of a shock. A mixture of excitement and anxiety overcame them. Shital was not able to be free in her excitement as at the back of her mind she was still worried about her parents and what they would think. Sometimes she felt that her parents had hoped that the marriage may not last and that she would come back home. Breaking the news of her pregnancy was still a challenge. Her parents were equally shocked, especially as they still hadn’t met Sher. All these thoughts really stressed Shital out. Months had gone by and it was only 2 weeks before the baby was due that Shital’s parents finally decided it was time to meet Sher and see where their daughter was living.

The in-laws came around one sunny Saturday afternoon and it was one of the most awkward meetings you could imagine. Sher & Shital double-checking their home, with every single thing looking even more perfect than normal. Shital was worried what her parents would think of their little home.

The couples first home in the top left of the photo is where their flat was situated.

The door knocker banged twice, with big gulps and a quick glance in the mirror to make sure they were presentable although they had done that 10 times already that morning, Shital opened the front door to the flat. Her parents had finally come to meet the man who had married their daughter. Her Dad was very traditional and of a generation that believed in very smart attire. A dark blue blazer with a light blue shirt and maroon tie.Her mum was wearing a beautiful mint colour sari with a cream cardigan.

They looked very smart Sher remembers upon seeing them for the first time. Come in come in! Shital exclaimed feeling very proud of her home. They stepped in and removed their shoes. Hello Sher! her father said in an upbeat loud but firm tone. Hello Uncle, hello Aunty Sher replied nervously with a smile, how are you both? he asked. Please come in. They walked into the lounge peering around at where their daughter was living and they sat down.

The general conversation revolved around the weather, cricket, politics and Indian mangoes. The wedding was never mentioned, although Sher was desperate to clear the air he just knew it was not the time or place and Shital had warned him not to bring it up unless they did. She felt like bridges were being built the fact that her parents were willing to come to her home so mentioning the marriage may have disrupted the progress that had been made.

An hour later they decided it was time to go. Once they left the couple sighed a massive relief that all had gone well that day and Shital was feeling much better about everything. They could now put all their focus into welcoming the new arrival.

2 weeks later the sweetest little angel arrived into their lives. He was named Amaan (Shital chose a name that would be suitable across both religions). The couple felt his name was most appropriate as it had a few meanings which resonated with them: Peace, Saftey & Protection. Today, he is commonly known by the family as ‘Maani’ ...

Part 5 - Becoming a family

The couples lives gradually began to settle. Sher and Shital were the typical doting parents and they spent a lot of their time enjoying being ‘Mum & ‘Dad’ with Maani at home. Both sets of grandparents were pretty uninvolved when it came to providing help with Maani. Sher’s mum was still grieving the death of his father and wasn’t really the type of grandmother who felt comfortable offering help looking after a young grandchild. She had become very nervous around young children moving into her older years.

Shital’s relationship with her parents was still on the mend, however, she had a long way to go. They were happy for her to come home with the baby, although they were pretty hands-off, especially Shital’s mum. She was a very religious woman, and she felt that this situation conflicted with her own religious beliefs. She had made it very clear from the beginning that she was happy for Shital and Amaan to come and visit them in Wembley and play with him from a distance but other than that she would not be able to offer any help when it came to Amaan. Many a time, Shital would drive home in tears with Maani in the back, looking at his innocent face in the rearview mirror. In the end, she would console herself during the journey (that at least her parents were still happy to see her) and by the time she reached home to Sher she would have got back to jolly self. It took them a long time but in the end, both Sher and Shital convinced themselves that what mattered was their little family unit and when they closed the front door they felt free and at peace from any prejudice from their differences of culture and religious backgrounds. Both of their sisters were always there for them and helped wherever possible.

During 2004 Sher & Shital continued to work at Fujitsu. Shital had switched to part-time and the couple managed to find a good work-life balance with Maani.

Being new parents, their interest in photography took on a whole new level. Growing up, Sher had always been the one in his family who took photos. He would use his sister’s camera. She always had a good film camera and valued family photos. He learnt the importance of having family photos from her. Shital on the other hand never had a camera in her household growing up. She hardly has any photos of her own childhood.

With their newfound freedom of owning a home, Sher felt that he and Shital had earned the right to buy their own digital camera (a Casio Exilim) for taking photos of Amaan. They also splashed out on a video camera as well.

They would snap away as parents do with their first child taking photos and videos. With a big background in art, Sher developed a style of taking photos that were a bit quirky and fun. Shital liked displaying and framing the photos so she would always have ideas about how those photos should be printed, arranged and displayed in their home.

Our first family selfie with the little Casio!

On one occasion they booked out a shoot at Venture studios and had a great time with the photographer, as it was something very different. They loved the moments captured between the three of them and the photo they ended up choosing was a moment rather than a portrait, so their love of moments came very early on before their photography career.

With the prints being so expensive, they could not afford a wall piece so settled for 10” x 8” print that is framed and still in their lounge today (Isha is very jealous of it).

In 2005 the little family were ready to move to their new house. They were so excited for Amaan as they never had a garden at the flat and they knew he would be able to run around with them in the open space.

This photo frame sits in their lounge today.

Sher was now desperate to buy a DSLR camera as he was feeling restricted with the compact Casio. Being in the new house meant they had space and walls to fill. Shital was not in agreement with him spending over £400 on a camera when they still had new house costs to deal with and she was also expecting for the second time. It was 2007 and Shital’s first cousin was getting married in Canada and she was going to attend on behalf of the family.

Sher thought this was his chance while she was away to get his hands on the dream camera. He had been eyeing up the Canon EOS 40D for a while and whacked in on the credit card. He always wanted “blur” (bokeh) in his photos as he felt it was more artistic and this camera was going to deliver. It came within a week of ordering and off he went shooting his heart out and fiddling about with the new controls and studying the new gadget. Cute little Amaan was the perfect subject. He was an angel and happy to pose for many photos at a young age (he still is).

Sher's first DSLR

Shital returned from Canada and was furious with Sher for spending so much money, however, once he showed her the photos of Amaan as any mother would, her heart melted and the camera discussions ended. In January 2008 they were blessed with another angel. They named her Isha, again it was a name that suited both cultures in respect to Shital’s parents and Sher’s family.

Her name means the ruling goddess and also is the name of the night prayer said before bed (They weren’t wrong with the name, she likes to take charge and she hates going to bed). Sher & Shital felt so complete and their dream had come true. Here they were living their lives in their own home with the most blessed children. They were truly grateful for all they had and were genuinely excited about the life ahead.

Sher was finally getting his blurred effect and becoming more artistic with photos of the children. He started a small blog with his photos for fun. This was shared with the few family members and friends who were interested in photography but it was just a hobby.

Princess Isha

In Jan 2009 a close friend of the couple Imran was marrying his sweetheart Shabana in a very intimate setting.

Sher was naturally invited as a friend but Imran also offered him the chance to get some experience shooting a wedding, as he had not done that before. Sher really felt uneasy about it being the only person covering the wedding, however, there was an official photographer there and it gave Sher the chance to spread his wings a little and capture some great moments.

He really enjoyed observing people and watching the interactions between everyone. The family and the couple loved the photos.

Imran & Shabana

The Secret

Soon after Sher & Shital were introduced to watch the video version of the book “The Secret’ by a friend. From then on the couple were switched on to setting goals and were searching for new opportunities.

In March 2009 Shital was picking Isha up from nursery and she heard an advert on the radio about a local wedding exhibition in Slough. Excitedly she raced home to discuss it with Sher ‘well what do you think?’ she asked. ‘Well..?.’

Sher replied ‘I’m really not sure’. Shital exclaimed ‘the opportunity has presented itself so let's try?’ Sher agreed and they booked a last-minute stand for £250.

What started it all...

At this point they didn’t know what to call themselves and then decided on the reason for getting into photography was because of Maani and Isha.

After lots of scribbling and paper crunching, they came up with imaani. Shital, however, was unsure of this as she felt people may not pronounce it the way it should be heard and so she hyphenated it to separate both children’s names - Isha & Maani.

From that moment i-maani photography was born and they took part in their very first exhibition.

Their First Wedding Exhibition

Jigna (as you may remember from Part 2) was always very supportive from day one of knowing Sher & Shital and she was happy to invest in their business. At the time the couple had other financial commitments towards the children’s education so she helped them to buy their initial kit. She was always there for them and they reciprocated. They always refer to her as their sister.

Things were picking up after the exhibition and Sher was being booked to cover weddings, which he was managing well alongside work. As weddings became more frequent, Sher was finding it difficult to manage on shoots. Shital would come out and help Sher with general assistance. One particular reception comes to mind where Sher was prepping for the bride and grooms entrance and a last-minute decision was made by the couple to walk in from separate doors.

Sher began to panic, ‘how am I going to capture this? He told Shital, she looked confused. He told her ‘you are going to have to capture the groom!’. Shital was gobsmacked ‘I can’t capture the groom, what if I mess it up and everyone will be looking at me? ‘Look, nobody cares about you.... just put it in ‘auto’ and shoot!!!'

The music was pumping, ‘everybody put your hands together for our lovely bride and groom’, the doors opened ... Shital’s heart was racing, she could feel an immense level of heat rising up to her head goes!

Part 6 -

Shital’s moment of fame at the Reception lasted for just over a minute. She didn’t do too badly as most of the images she took were in focus and were used in the album! As time went on Shital started shooting the odd moment here and there using her creative flair. Sher realised that it was very difficult to teach someone to have a good creative eye for taking photos, and seeing Shital had an eye for this, he was surely onto a winner if he taught her the technical side of how to operate the camera in manual mode. Sher spent a few months with Shital training her to shoot. And the more they both went out on shoots, the more they developed their own style of working together.

On one occasion Shital captured a fantastic moment of the grandparents watching their granddaughter walk down the aisle. Sher knew he had an opportunity here and so developed what they are known for today which is their ‘action-reaction' approach to wedding storytelling.

As Sher used to photograph action shots on his own, the added benefit of having Shital at his side meant she could capture reactions. Between them, they developed their own roles allowing them to not miss any moments. With both of them being quite personable they would always engage well with the families. This became invaluable, as they started to warm to family members, they then reciprocated. This enabled the pair to capture raw emotion from within the inner circle of the families thus telling the couples stories.

Sher & Shital had been fortunate to learn from a few of the established photographers in the industry very early on in their career. They were guided and advised when needed.

In 2009 Shital left her job at Fujitsu to manage the admin side of the business while Sher was still working full time as well as shooting at weekends. They were meeting couples for consultations in the evening and editing into the night and then back out to work the next morning. Weekends were occupied with weddings. In 2011 Sher resigned from I.T altogether and joined Shital full time in the business.

Their fun times at Kingston seemed to be a distant memory. They had their own business and it was growing, but how were they going to juggle the home, work, and life balance? The couple found themselves facing a new challenge and this one was a real test of will power and devotion to make this new business a success. There were many wedding photographers in the industry and people often underestimated how difficult it was ordinarily, but doing this with a young family and where both parents were away from the children was a completely different ballgame.

Fridays were generally the busiest day in the Perwaz household. Sher would be preparing all of the camera kit in terms of calibration, cleaning formatting cards, charging batteries etc. Shital would be cooking and preparing all the meals for the children. Sher would be running through the itinerary for the weddings that weekend, while Shital was creating her own itinerary for the children, what they needed to eat and when what time they should start activities such as homework, TV time, games time, tidying the house etc. Sher would be checking all contacts for both sides of the family and who was their contact for the day while Shital was checking contacts for the kids, which babysitter or family members (either of their sisters or Sher’s nieces) were booked in or were helping out that weekend. Shital found it extremely difficult not only juggling the work calendar but also arranging the babysitting schedule! Looking back she can’t believe how they actually got through those crazy times, it was sheer madness.

They felt so guilty working so much and being away from home, Shital would always arrange cinema trips, or theatre shows or some sort of outdoor activity that the kids could enjoy while Mum and Dad were at work. It was a very tough time but it was something they knew they had to do for their children especially as they had financial commitments towards their education, as they wanted to give them both a good start in life. At the same time, they did, however, feel very lucky after speaking to friends and family who had regular 9-5 jobs, working overtime and never saw their kids much in the week. Sher & Shital have pretty much been with their children throughout all of their schooling years in terms of being with them in the morning and as soon as they got home from school. Sher & Shital always felt that this business allowed them more time with their children overall.

At most weekends they drove around the country from north to south, shooting from east to west, weekend after weekend. Staying in various hotels, having sleeping breaks in lay-bys, pickups and drop-offs to baby sitters before and after shoots. It was an uphill battle and one that demanded a lot of energy. Their international shoots had taken them on adventures from Rodeo Drive in Los Angeles, right through to the dry and baron Wadi Rum Desert in Jordan. From the beautiful green olive trees in Tuscany to the authentic and historic temples in India. They still remember leaving at 5am for a 2-hour journey that would kick-start their shoot for 7am. Finishing that evening around 11pm, they then had a 2-hour drive to the next hotel for the following days wedding. By the time they checked in to their hotel room, charged kit and backed up all the cards, they would sleep just after 2am and then have to be up again for the next wedding. On reflection, they always say that once the shoot starts it's like a switch that goes ‘ON’ and then its 100% adrenalin rush the whole day.

During their few moments of downtime during events, they would be calling the kids as they would miss them being away from them.

After a typical back-to-back weekend, they remember having to drive to the baby sitters near midnight to collect the children who would be fast asleep. They would carry the kids to the car and then drive home. Shital remembers being completely fatigued, pulling up on the driveway and sitting in the car for 5-10 minutes trying to find any remaining energy that they had, to mentally prepare them for the next step which involved carrying the kids into the house and unloading the kit. Once indoors, they would tuck the kids into their beds and then sit and offload all of the memory cards ensuring all the data was securely backed up. They would occasionally fall asleep on their bed with the laptop while off-loading as they would be so exhausted.

Midweek was also quite busy. Couples would be coming to see Sher & Shital for consultation visits and these became so frequent they converted their downstairs office and dining room into a consultation studio. This was very exciting as they had built a cinema-style room from one side to present and play their stories and the other side of the room was their editing area.

Consultations were always after 20:00. That way Shital could tuck Amaan and Isha into bed before the couple arrived. During the school holidays, the pair would always prepare the children before a consultation. ‘OK, kids our couple are coming at 19:00, try not to make any noise or disturb us unless it is urgent’ or words to that effect. On occasions where they were not shooting and it was a weekend they would tell the kids that they would all watch a movie together and to wait upstairs on their bed. One time Shital remembers they spent so long with their couple during the consultation that when it was over and they went upstairs the kids were fast asleep on the bed having waited all evening. Times like this were very hard to look back on and a huge sense of guilt comes over Sher & Shital when they think of these times. They fought hard to get married and have their own family and felt that instances like this were just not fair on the children, but they consoled themselves by thinking that these were the sacrifices that all working parents took to provide a good future for their children.

The couple took a stance in 2013 and they decided to half the number of weddings they booked to balance their work and family time. They felt that this was a brave yet successful move and have not looked back since. As the children have gotten older life has become much easier, they love their family time with the children and especially during the unfortunate events of lockdown they have spent a lot of time together, remembering the old days and telling the children their own story.

On reflection, Sher and Shital feel completely blessed having such wonderful children. Especially when they were young they were so obedient and well behaved, they never cried if they were disturbed during their sleep, never moaned about who was looking after them, never made their parents feel bad about missed birthdays, and they always respected their Mum & Dad’s unconventional working patterns. Without their support, there is no way that Sher and Shital would have been able to pursue and sustain their passion for photography.

With Amaan applying for University and his provisional driving license and Isha months away from being a teenager, the couple cannot believe how much of an upward battle it’s been. Life is much easier now, but without sharing those experiences together, the four of them wouldn’t be the close-knit family they are today.

We hope this has not bored you too much and kept you entertained during the lockdown.