NEW DELHI: On a warm February noon, the Samandaris – the sexagenarian French couple of Persian origin behind L’Opera line of cafes in Delhi-NCR, reminisce their love story. Édith Piaf’s La Vie En Rose playing in the background forms the perfect mood-setter.
“The feeling, this bond, is as fresh as it was in 1974. Of course, there was physical attraction, but it was more than just that, because we were doing so many things together in different fields… Humanitarian, social activities, education and now as business partners,” says Kazem, Executive Chairman, L’Opera.
As followers of the Bahá’í faith, Kazem had organised a Bahai Winter Camp at Thusis in the Graubünden area of Swiss Alps. Christine, who lived in Paris then, attended the camp with her friends.
“The moment I arrived in the meeting room, I saw Kazem in the phone booth, and something happened in my heart,” blushes Christine, Director of L’Opera. And the feeling was reciprocal. Kazem, then an engineering student in Zurich, says, “The moment I saw her, I knew this was my partner for life. It was love at first sight, and anyone who doesn’t believe in it, I’d say it exists.”
While they had seen each other at previous Bahai meetings, they had never spoken. Even at this meetup, though they were together the whole week, indulging in skiing and other activities with other 100 participants, they didn’t say anything. But, every second weekend after that, Kazem travelled to Paris to meet Christine.
“Since I was studying sociology and anthropology, I used to be at the Library of Musée de l’Homme at Trocadero. He would reach on Saturday morning, and we would meet in a cafe. Six months later, Kazem proposed, we had our engagement party in September and we got married in October,” says Christine.
This love story that began in cafes still continues to revolve around cafes. From completing their PhDs, raising two kids, doing social work. Christine writing a book and fighting breast cancer, they faced it all together. The mantra for their happy marriage – 44 years and counting – is how well they balance each other out. If they disagree over something, Kazem keeps his ego aside and says sorry.
“You have to separate people from their thoughts and acts. If you disagree with a person, disagree only with their thoughts, not with the person.” Christine feels they’ve become more closer now. “I tell Kazem that I feel as if I am your mom. I can tell if something is wrong by just looking in his eyes.”
Their Valentine’s Day plans? “The Portugal president is opening an art show at the embassy, we will go there, and then go for dinner with our son and my brother,” shares Christine.