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Opposites attract

A passion for the arts coupled with an innate sense of style was what sparked off designer Sucheta Merh's long involvement with fashion. She had her first exhibition ' a thumping success ' while in her first year in college and since then, she has gone from strength to strength. She's also actively involved in reviving crafts like batik and tribal embroidery on sarees and fabrics.

Having started with a humble print and natural dye unit to fashion a range of unusual handcrafted fabrics, which were styled into ensembles, over the past nine years, Sucheta's work has taken her places. At present, her collections are available at stores in Delhi, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Mumbai and New York, besides her own fashion studio, Earthy Myths.

Born in Calcutta and educated at Scindia School, Sucheta's husband, Capt Sandeep Merh, joined the merchant navy at a very young age. After 17 years on the high seas he quit and started his own business, UVM Shipping Services, an agency that represents foreign shipping companies in India and abroad. As managing director of the company, his work still entails quite a bit of travel, something which he still loves.

Sucheta:

Sandeep was this outgoing young Merchant Navy officer, and I, a shy, college-goer, when the two of us were introduced by my friend, singer Alka Yagnik, who was incidentally his cousin. Alka and I were as thick as thieves and I'd go to her place all the time. It was there that I met Sandeep, who was staying with Alka's family, while his ship was docked at the Calcutta port.

Both of us liked each other from the start, and there was always this casual flirting going on, till his family approached mine about us getting married. I belonged to this traditional UP business family and my parents were initially not too comfortable with the idea of my marrying a Gujarati Brahmin, but Sandeep got around them soon enough. Our courtship lasted for about a year-and-a-half, and we had a blast. We'd party a lot, hang around at Trincas till the wee hours of the morning ' and since he was so strapped for time ' actually catch half of two movies during the course of one evening just so he could see both. We were complete opposites ' I was this homebody totally into the creative arts, while Sandeep was very spirited, a good singer, heavily into sports, school cricket captain, and a great diver to boot. But that said, we got along like a house on fire, for we complemented each other to a T.

Funnily enough, I found it a bit difficult to adjust once we got married, for Sandeep's family was really liberated. I had loads of freedom to do whatever I wanted, which was initially a bit disconcerting, as I'd been brought up to believe that I'd get married into a family with loads of restrictions. But I settled down soon enough and Sandeep spoiled me like crazy ' though he had his own temper. If he got angry, hell would break loose, and though he cooled down pretty fast, I'd continue to sulk.

The early days of our marriage were a bit of a roller-coaster ' I'd treat him like a pampered guest whenever he was in town, then there would be other periods when he was away on ship and we wouldn't see each other for three months. And there were also the times when I'd sail with him ' then I'd be the one indulged all the way.

Marriage in the true sense, started for us, when he left the ship, for that was the period of true adjustment. We were seeing each other in normal settings and there were times when we disagreed quite a bit ' and over the silliest things. While he throws out every little thing, including some important documents, when he's on one of his organising sprees ' which is every other day ' I was not so good with the whole punctuality bit, which is what we had most of our arguments about. About our children too, he's the one they run to when they want to get spoilt, I'm the one who always has to lay down the law.

That said, Sandeep has been a great husband ' very caring, supportive about my career and someone who's brought a whole lot of fun into my life. When we got married, everyone kept on saying that he was a very nice person ' but there was always this add-on ' 'he's a bit of a wild guy at heart'. But post marriage, I've found Sandeep to be a very family-oriented person, with absolutely no pretences about him. The best part about being married to him is that we've always trusted each other implicitly ' no questions asked. We could be busy doing our own things but we both know that in spirit we're always together.

Sandeep:

When I met Sucheta for the very first time, she was just getting ready to fill up her form for the IAS exams. Later she gave up on the idea once we decided to get married, but right from that time, Sucheta struck me as a very intelligent and deep-thinking person. That was what attracted me to her initially, and since all the elders in my family were very fond of her as well, things just took off from there.

We just celebrated our 25th anniversary last year and it's an impression about Sucheta that continues to endure. She has been my friend, philosopher and guide in the true sense of the term, and I take her advice very seriously, be it on personal or professional issues. It's not like we don't have our share of arguments ' that can't be helped given that we are very different persons indeed ' but somehow despite having completely different interests, we're as close as can be.

Sucheta, for instance, dislikes travelling, while given my choice of career, it's a given that I love it. She's absent-minded about things, while I'm a stickler for perfection ' I'm very casual and carefree about my clothes, and of course, being a designer, she's the exact opposite. I love animals, as for Sucheta, she's so petrified of them, that whenever she's going somewhere, she calls up to find out whether they have a dog at home. And of course, there's the whole punctuality issue ' if I commit to something, I want to be there absolutely on time, while you can count on her to be late. But in our own way, we've managed to work around these things. When she gets too caught up with something, and forgets about others, I make sure that they're done, while she, on her part, takes care of my wardrobe, and ensures I look my best.

In fact, these little differences are what make life even more enjoyable, and Sucheta is a wonderful person in all respects. She's a great wife and mother, a good homemaker, a savvy businesswoman and also something of a mentor to me. We've been together for 26 years now, and the love and respect we have for each other, is just as strong as ever.

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