We talk to Portland power couple Nita and Mahendra Shah about married life, kids and retirement plans.
Executive director, Micro Enterprise Services of Oregon (MESO); born: Amreli, India
Director, treasury, PacifiCorp; born: Mumbai, India
WHERE WE MET
At a restaurant in Mumbai, December 1977
N.S.: “Our marriage was arranged. I still remember the restaurant — my family is on one side of the table and his family is on the other side. We ate something, and then they said, ‘You two can go take a walk.’ We walked around the restaurant for a couple of blocks. We came back and that was it. They did all the background checks. I didn’t know anything about him, honestly. I thought he had beautiful hands — you don’t even look fully in their faces when it is an arranged marriage.”
M.S.: “She came with a refreshing and enthusiastic demeanor. I remember she was wearing Western dress. I was delighted to meet her.”
In an arranged marriage, it is custom for parents to consult the prospective couple’s horoscopes, created at birth, to check they are a good match.
Mumbai, January 28, 1978
M.S.: “It was a traditional wedding. It went on from morning to evening in a big, two-story wedding hall. The women’s party was on one floor and the men’s party was on the other floor. By the time the wedding was over, I was exhausted.”
Honeymoon in Mahabaleshwar, India
Nita moves to Houston six months after wedding to join Mahendra, who is finishing a Ph.D. in finance at the University of Houston.
N.S.: “The adjustment period for the first two years was extremely tough. I had never touched any sort of work at home. I didn’t have a concept of money. He was making $500 a month. After $350 went to rent, there was hardly anything left. Once I went to the store and wanted Oreo cookies. He said, ‘We can’t buy them.’ I started crying — nobody had ever said no to me for food, that we can’t afford it. From that day, he has never said no to me.”
Meghavi, 38; Anay, 34; twins Mira and Shweta, 30
N.S.: “We have very different interests. Travel is one common thing. And watching movies. I like to cook, he likes to eat.”
Mahendra is a board member of Kalakendra, a Portland nonprofit that introduces and promotes performing arts of the Indian subcontinent.
Recent trip: Rishikesh, India
M.S.: “Recently, we went to North India. We hadn’t been there for a long time. I was able to go in the vicinity of Rishikesh near the origins of the Ganges River. The last time I was there was probably more than 50 years ago.”
N.S.: “I went to the Beatles ashram. It is beautiful there. It is shut down, but you see why they loved it so much. It is on the banks of the river. I saw the little cave-like huts they lived in. Their artwork is still there.”
WHAT I’M READING
N.S.:Goat Days by Benyamin. “It is a heartbreaking account of what refugees go through when they go to another land not knowing the language and getting taken advantage of.”
M.S.:Identity by Francis Fukuyama. “It gives a good understanding of the psychology behind how individuals make associations and the political overtones of that.”
N.S.: “We are very connected with the Indian community. Many women of my generation don’t take much interest in money and savings. Then, when their husbands are not there anymore, they are lost. We have often talked about that — how we can help them be secure financially.”
M.S.: “I will probably work another year or two, then retire. I want to stay active. I might do some part-time consulting along the lines of what nonprofits like MESO do. My focus is on retirement planning and providing assistance to people on how they can map their path to retiring with dignity.”