By Tayo Bero
It was Haroon’s kind face that drew Sehrezade to his Bumble profile. The Toronto-based high school teacher had a great career and a supportive family, and knew she was ready for a serious relationship. So when Sehrezade came across Haroon on Bumble in January 2019, she thought, “Oh, he’s cute,” and swiped right on his profile.
Haroon, a banker, had been on Bumble for less than a month when he matched with Sehrezade. He was skeptical about online dating, but his initial misgivings quickly faded as he got to know her. Over many phone and text message conversations, the pair found out that they shared a love of basketball and traveling, and teased each other about who had a bigger shoe collection. By the time they met up for their first date three weeks later, they felt like they’d known each other forever. “It didn’t feel like I was meeting her for the first time,” Haroon says. “It was like, ‘This is a person that I already know and I’m excited about.’”
From then on, they spent days talking non-stop and quickly made plans to meet up again. By the third or fourth date, they decided to make the relationship official. “Right off the bat he showed me that he wasn’t here to play games or lead me on,” says Sehrezade. She adds that even in the early days of their relationship, Haroon gave her support and a sense of confidence through the most difficult moments, like the time when she thought she might lose her job. “Haroon is very consistent with positive feedback and words of encouragement,” she says. “He’s been my biggest support.”
Sehrezade’s parents are from Mauritius, an island country off the East African coast. She describes them as “old school” due to their cultural background and religion. Despite having had an arranged marriage themselves, Sehrezade’s parents were supportive of her dating someone she met online. “As long as he came from a good family, has a good head on his shoulders, has morals, and is family oriented, how we met didn’t matter,” she says. “They were just looking for someone that genuinely cared for me.” Haroon’s Pakistani parents also gave him their blessing to take the digital route when it came to finding a life partner. “They just wanted my happiness,” Haroon says. “I think for them it was like, ‘We don’t care where you find the girl as long as you’re happy and find love together.’”
So with a solid foundation of honesty and a deep respect for one another, the pair began thinking about marriage six months into the relationship. “What’s the point of waiting, if you know you want to spend the rest of your life with someone?” Haroon says. His original plan was to take Sehrezade to New York to propose, but with COVID-19 restrictions, that wasn’t an option. It was the spring of 2020, the point in the pandemic when people were leaving messages of hope in their windows to be read from the street and neighboring buildings. One night, Haroon suggested the couple go for a walk, purportedly to visit some neighbors. During the walk, Haroon told Sehrezade to look up at their apartment window from the street. She did so, without even noticing that it said “marry me?” in sticky notes, and turned around to see Haroon down on one knee.
Following the proposal, the couple couldn’t wait to start their lives together. Being very traditional, Sehrezade’s parents insisted that they had to be married before she moved in with him. “That’s something that I definitely admire in my parents, and I like having that instilled in me,” she says. Sehrezade agreed, and says that abiding by those values made her feel a sense of approval from her parents as well. The two went ahead with a small pandemic wedding in September 2020.
Still, the couple recognizes that many others just like them often find it difficult to navigate the space between traditional values and all the many options of the digital age, so they started a blog called The Newly Wahids. On the site, they share their love story, tips for other couples, as well as other lifestyle content. Sehrezade’s aim is to help other South Asian couples speak more openly about dating and finding a partner online. “We’re proud of how we met and always promote online dating as a means of meeting people,” she says. “This is why our blog page came about, to promote South Asians to step outside of their comfort zones and put themselves out there.”
Haroon, for his part, says he couldn’t be happier that he took the leap of faith with online dating, despite his early skepticism. “Now,” he says, “I’m a true believer.”
Main photo credit: bli.NC