Shubha and Joseph George come from diverse backgrounds and have lived in different parts of India. They moved to Bengaluru in the mid-1990s from Mumbai, when the city, according to them, was still great to live in. They chose to return to Mumbai in 2003 at a level of seniority when they did not need to worry very much about issues such as public transport. While the couple share a lot in common, watching films is certainly a big mutual interest. They watch films across languages,making the best of merely one of the many benefits of a cross-cultural marriage. With such high-flying jobs in the media, the exposure that they have makes for interesting listening, and this cuts across issues as diverse as politics, current affairs and sports. Their jobs come with inevitable pressures, though none of that comes in the way of spending time with their 18-year-old daughter.
One would imagine that moving across cities would have meant difficulties in acclimatising to a new environment or just dealing with routine issues. “Not really. Be it the companies we worked for or our clients, the levels of understanding and cooperation have made a huge difference,” says Joseph. Agrees Shubha who maintains that things always fell into place without much ado. Travel is a common area of interest. Their yearly break is sacrosanct and they plan it well in advance — something that is unlikely to change for the next few years at least.
When and where did you meet?
Shubha: We were classmates at the BK School of Business Management in Ahmedabad. Before that, we were together at college as well.
Joseph: Yeah, that was at St Xavier’s College in Ahmedabad in 1985. We finished our MBA and got married the following November.
What drew you to each other?
Joseph: I have never thought of it. Maybe I just liked her. I think Shubha is a very balanced person and has a sound perspective on issues.
Shubha: I am very clear on this. I really love his sense of humour.
Joseph: Actually, a lot has been said about being in similar professions. The way I look at it, as long as you like each other, which profession you are in is immaterial.
What keeps you together still?
Shubha: I think we come from a similar value system and that applies to things such as money, the organisations we work for, or just the approach to anything in life.
Joseph: That is surely a key factor. That kind of understanding is the key to success of a relationship.
Any interests you share in common?
Shubha: A common interest is watching films and we really enjoy doing that together. We watch films in English, Hindi, Tamil and Malayalam. If it’s not out on DVD, we really like watching it at a multiplex.
Joseph: We watch a lot of films. Be it Bang Bang or Haider, we spend a lot of time in this pursuit.
What do you both concur on?
Shubha: It mattered a great deal that Joe and I were in the same business since he was able to understand why we were working late. There was that very comfortable level of understanding.
Joseph: Absolutely. That holds good even today.
Is there something where you are poles apart?
Joseph: I bring back work home more than she does. Shubha is definitely the saner voice at home.
Shubha: That’s nice to hear! Our interactions are at a conceptual level. Our interests are very different. Joe loves sports while I am more the literary kind.
Tell us about your first job.
Shubha: I had joined Ogilvy & Mather straight
after my MBA and moved to Mumbai.
Joseph: I spent 17 years in Gujarat and six years in Mumbai before that, which were very different. My first job was with Chaitra, which is now called Leo Burnett, where my client was P&G. I spent a year there before moving to Lintas, as it was known then.
Do you have children?
Yes, one. Our daughter — Nishita — is 18.
How does she cope with your busy schedules and with the idea of having successful parents?
Shubha: Till the time that she was 16, at least one of us was always at home.
Joseph: That is true. It is not hard to do it if you are committed to the relationship and the family.
Shubha: And success does not really matter. We have brought her up like any other kid with values that we think are important.
Joseph: Obviously, it’s very different from the time we grew up. But that is because of changing times. You have to understand what they need as well.
How do you manage travel schedules?
Shubha: Mine is very structured. I have to go to the US twice a year and need to be in Hong Kong once in two months.
Joseph: I do not travel as much as I used to. It is largely domestic.
What are some of the important decisions you had to make in life for the sake of your family?
Joseph: While living in Mumbai, we realised that the quality of life bit was not going to change in a hurry. If we wanted to spend time with each other without quality being affected, we had to get out of Mumbai. In Bengaluru, we could spend the weekend travelling to places such as Bandipur and Ooty. That was really different from being in Mumbai.
Shubha: We moved to Bengaluru in 1995. We were lucky since our respective organisations were open to it. The transfer, luckily, was a lot simpler than we thought. In Bengaluru, we were able to meet up very often. Home was close to work and there was none of the maniacal traffic that one sees in Bengaluru today. It was a lovely city to be in. Nishita was born in that city in 1996.
Joseph: After a great time in Bengaluru, it was a logical career move to get back to Mumbai in 2003. Nishita was seven years old then and we were a little worried about how she would take to Mumbai. We managed to get her admitted to Dhirubhai Ambani International School and she took to it very well. She is 18 today and has enjoyed herself thoroughly in Mumbai. The lesson for me was to never over-think any move or decision.
Shubha: In many ways, the decision to move back was inevitable. Joe came pretty close to relocating to London in 2009. That did not work out, though.
Joseph: Nishita was in the seventh grade then. It did not matter since I managed to move within the system to get to where I am today.
What were your most challenging moments in life?
Joseph: During our initial phase of living in Mumbai, I had a take home of ₹4,242 and we had a small apartment in Andheri. Shubha and I used to take the 8.14 am local from Andheri. What remains in my mind is standing in the queue for the auto to get to the station. My maid was also in the queue with us. I don’t think we ever ate anything before leaving home.
Shubha: That’s not true, Joe! This man loves to exaggerate. The maid used to come early in the morning and get everything ready from breakfast to dinner. It was a lot of fun. We never thought of money and between us we took home a little over ₹8,000 each month, with a lot of it going towards rent. It didn’t matter, though.
How many holidays do you take?
Shubha: Holiday time is pretty much fixed and that is in June each year, where we take three weeks off to go to the UK.
Joseph: We have started travelling to places around London. This year, we spent most of our time in the UK. Last year, it was London and Turkey. It’s a break we really look forward to.