The first meeting with Deena Mehta and her husband, Asit Mehta, is ample proof of how different the two of them are. If Deena is talkative and warm, Asit takes time to open up before putting forth his point of view. That said, there is a lot of affection and camaraderie between them. They laugh easily and are self-deprecating to the point of surprise.Like all true-blooded Gujaratis, business comes easily to them and it is what they understand. Deena and Asit are achievers and are visibly understated. They do not speak about their wealth and what kind of success they have encountered. Deena, who was the first woman president of the BSE, speaks with great passion of how much fun it is to travel to new destinations with Asit, their two sons and a daughter-in-law. Asit, for his part, is quite amused and curious about how people recognise his wife when they are abroad and are quick to ask for a stock tip.
Be it their personality or their attitude towards food, there is very little in common between the couple, who laugh easily when told how dissimilar they are. But get them to discuss the destination for their next holiday or why they remain so fond of each other, and there is complete harmony. Of course, this is in addition to their love for investing or just complementing each other’s intellect. Starting from the early days of driving to work from a distant suburb, life has now come a full circle for the couple. Home is relatively closer to work today and they find a lot more time for each other and their immediate family. They look forward to more years of togetherness, romance and, most importantly, loads of laughter
Where did the two of you meet?
Deena: We used to stay in Borivali (a suburb in western Mumbai). Our families knew each other. My father was keen on me getting married to someone within the community. I am a Brahmin and Asit is a baniya. It took time to convince him. We got married barely five months after I finished my MBA.
Asit: We got married in 1984, though we knew each other since 1976. In that sense, we grew up together. We were still staying in Borivali after getting married and used to drive to south Mumbai in a red Ambassador. It was a great time.
Deena: His aspiration was to own a Mercedes. He did manage to do that quite early in his career.
What drew you to each other?
Asit: She has always been a very intelligent person. Deena is very good when it comes to speaking to people and is a very practical person.
Deena: He was very handsome and extremely intelligent. Asit has always encouraged me to work, which was something that was always very important to me.
What are your shared values?
Asit: There is no compromising on our value systems. This includes how business should be done and not using shortcuts or easy approaches anywhere.
Deena: It also comes down to not shortchanging customers, and we have the same approach towards our employees.
Which are the areas where you are poles apart?
Deena: For Asit, everything is either black or white. For me, it is grey. In that sense, I am quite adjusting as a person and practical as well. He is extremely organised as a person. I act as and when the situation demands. When it comes to food, for Asit,it is a necessity and something that is just functional. I love tasting new cuisines. Experimenting with new food fascinates me. For instance, I love street food.
Asit: That is an absolutely correct assessment. I prefer getting a straight answer to a question, which I do not always get from her. I eat to live and she lives to eat. It is as simple as that. I am from Saurashtra, where we are all about simple food. Those from south Gujarat, like Deena, love their food very much. I must add we are like the North Pole and South Pole when it comes to risk. I weigh all the pros and cons before making a decision. I think Deena is a lot more adventurous as a person
What does your spouse mean to you?
Deena: That is an easy one to answer. We are each others’ best friends.
Asit: She is the managing director of the house and the company! In my mind, we have been married forever.
Given your busy schedules at work, do you speak to each other often?
Asit: We call each other every hour. It is actually a case of calling each other simultaneously. There is never a reason why we call each other. We just want to hear each other’s voice.
Deena: It is quite funny. When his line is busy, I know he is trying to call me. And he does, immediately. My children keep saying I smile when I talk to him over the phone (blushes).
Do you celebrate birthdays and anniversaries?
Asit: It is important but we don’t do anything special or specific. Yes, we do cut a cake on those days.
Deena: Our close relatives visit us on those days and we spend a lot of time with them.
After thirty years of being married, is there romance left in the relationship?
Deena: No doubt about that: there is romance every day in our lives. Asit indulges me when it comes to food. He always eats at places that I like, even though he isn’t a foodie.
Asit: I quite agree. We really enjoy being with each other. She also buys everything that I wear.
Deena: In fact, I decide what he wears every day.
And what was the last gift you bought each other?
Deena: He is always buying me something.
Asit: Deena bought a very expensive pair of cuff links. It was lovely. I wore it just once and quietly put it back in my cupboard.
How often do you go on a vacation?
Deena: Every two to three months, we go on a holiday. In October, we were in Mashobra in Himachal Pradesh. In July, we were in Goa and we visited Dalhousie in April. Last December, we were in Spain for around 10 -12 days. Other places that we have been to recently include the Gir Forest and Rajkot last summer for a family puja. We have visited 45 countries so far. The difficulty is in coordinating five calendars — our two sons’ and one daughter-in-law’s.
Asit: Yes, that is slightly tricky; our elder son and daughter-in-law are in London. The younger son is in Mumbai pursuing a degree in law. But we take three to four short vacations spread over about four days. The long break is in December. We also spend time at our farmhouse on the Gujarat border. A break we really enjoyed was the jungle safari at the Jim Corbett National Park. We really love and enjoy our breaks.
Do you attend to work on holidays?
Deena: I just spend time reading a book in the hotel room. He does a lot of exploring. In fact, we now have visited all the continents, except Antarctica. We plan to do that some day.
Asit: I just can’t do that in a new place. I want to move around. I make it a point to read up on new places and that includes the national parks in the US that we have visited.