Caught and Bowled – Wasim and Shaniera Akram
What is it like being married to THE Wasim Akram, one of the most handsome men ever, we ask the legendary Pakistani pacer’s wife Shaniera Thompson. “Dream. I pinch myself every day. It is wonderful. All marriages should be wonderful. Funny, adventurous, romantic, beautiful. We find our obstacles and we get over them, very quickly. I am enjoying every minute,” says the Aussie girl. “So am I,” smiles Wasim, seated beside her at ITC Sonar’s Darjeeling Lounge. And you instantly feel the chemistry. A t2 chat.
Wasim Akram and Shaniera Thompson at ITC Sonar. Pictures: Rashbehari Das
You’ve been married for almost nine months now. What has the journey been like so far?
Shaniera: It is like a romantic comedy every day (laughs)! He always cracks me up. Lots of funny things….
Wasim: I think it has been excellent. She has adapted to the Pakistani culture, our subcontinent culture. She is enjoying the hospitality of the people in India and Pakistan and she is just taking everything in her stride and it’s been an excellent ride for me so far, touch wood!
Shaniera tweeted that you have been “talking like an Aussie ‘Down Under for the Australian Summer’” while she has been learning Urdu!
Wasim: I will get there someday (laughs). Picking up the slang…
How has it been for you, Shaniera?
I found it very natural, which is great. I used to say to Wasim, ‘I am going home in Australia’ and now when I am in Australia, I say ‘I am going home to Pakistan’. That’s a good sign.
You met in 2011?
Wasim: 2011 summer, when India were touring. I met her at a friend’s house at a barbecue in Melbourne.
So, was it love at first sight?
Wasim: Not really…
Shaniera: For him (laughs)!
Wasim: For me, may be, yeah!
Shaniera: It took some time. We were friends for a long time.
Wasim: Yeah, yeah.
Shaniera: It wasn’t romantic for a while. We were just good friends and he just made me laugh so much. There was something there. So, when it did become more, falling in love was pretty easy.
You went down on your knees to propose?
Wasim: On my one knee! I have dodgy knees, so dono knees pe toh mushkil ho jayega thoda. Yes, it was a proper (proposal)… with a ring in my hand. I bought the ring about two weeks before but the courage came after three weeks. In our culture we don’t do that. Parents go and say, ‘rishta de do, rishta le lo’ (laughs). It was new and different, something more fun.
Shaniera: I hadn’t expected it at all. Ah! Swept me off my feet.
Did you immediately say yes?
Shaniera: I did?
Wasim: She had no other option (laughs)!
How is it being married to THE WASIM AKRAM, on whom every girl has a crush?
Wasim: She didn’t know who I was. Aussie log football follow kartey hain. Cricket in Australia is not a woman’s game at all.
You didn’t tell her that you played cricket?!
Wasim: I said I played cricket and now I am a commentator. Didn’t brag about it… that I did this and did that… simple.
Shaniera: Google helped (both burst out laughing)! The first game of cricket I ever went to was in Calcutta. Calcutta is very meaningful for me.
Wasim: It was in 2012 when KKR won. She came and watched one or two games.
Shaniera: I think I brought them luck (smiles). It was at the Eden Gardens. I love the Eden Gardens. I really didn’t enjoy (the game). I was asking all the other WAGs, ‘Is that good?’ (Laughs)
Wasim: She asked one of the Australian teammates, ‘What time is the kick-off?’
Shaniera: I am in awe of my husband’s achievements throughout his life and I am constantly learning more and more. He was a commentator by profession when I met him. So, when we are going for a game, I wouldn’t necessarily be going for a certain team, you (looks at Wasim) commentating on both the teams and being fair to both the teams.
So, you really didn’t know about the massive craze?
Shaniera: He said he was quite a big deal in his country. I said, ‘Yeah sure!’
Wasim: I had to throw in that line at some stage…
Shaniera: I thought he was joking, but when I went to Pakistan I realised, ‘Wow (laughs)! You really are a big deal.’
What brought you together?
Wasim: We were friends and we knew each other and then we became close. My kids (sons Taimur, 16, and Akbar, 13) are also very close to Shaniera.
Shaniera: Friendship is the most important thing, especially when you are in an across-oceans love affair. You got to have that friendship, that trust… and we had that. The rest was just a movie. And I think when I met his children, that day I knew that I was in love with three people, not just one.
Wasim: We started going out and we got to know her more as a person. She is a great person, a sweetheart and very simple and down to earth and that mattered a lot to me and still matters a lot to me. I am learning a lot from her as well.
Shaniera: I think it was when I started eating desi food the first time (laughs) he thought, ‘I could marry this woman’. I think it’s about the person who he has become, he grows in front of my eyes every day. Stronger and more wise.
What are your favourite pastimes?
Wasim: We like spending time together. When I am home, I am always home, physically and mentally.
Shaniera: We are very down to earth.
Wasim: We have meals together with the kids… we have a good laugh. If I am going out, it’s with the kids and her. That’s my life. I am enjoying being home now.
Shaniera, do you travel with him a lot?
I always say that’s the hardest thing because I have to split my time between three people, four actually… kids, Wasim, myself and my family in Australia. I have to give equal time to everyone. I try to come with my husband when I can and then I give him his space as well. Then I will be with the kids, trying to give some regularity to their lives as well. Then, there’s me-time.
What’s me-time for you?
Shaniera: (Laughs) Well, when I did have me-time… I think actually hanging out with him (laughs).
Wasim: We like to get up early and go for a run in the morning.
Shaniera: By 6.30am we are up.
Wasim: We go to bed early and wake up with the kids, try to spend time together as much as we can when we are together. This is our our-time.
Shaniera, have you ever pursued a sport?
I was a swimmer. I never went to the professional level… there was too much life going on (laughs), studies and things like that.
Wasim: She has just started playing golf. If you cannot beat them, join them!
Shaniera: I love watching him play golf! I have seen him play cricket. Hmm… but golf, wow! I really think he has got something. I am nothing like him. I will take years to come to that level.
What’s the secret of this leaner Wasim Akram?
Wasim: I think healthy lifestyle. We picked good stuff from each other. In her culture, you eat dinner by 7.30pm-8pm and go to bed by 10.30pm. In India, Pakistan, you are eating dinner by 10.30pm and going to bed by 2am and then we say, ‘Oh! How come I am not losing weight?!’ Obviously, you won’t.
Shaniera: We take the best of Pakistan and Australia and mix it up.
Wasim: Same with the kids. They are getting more responsible. Apna kaam khud karna hai bachchon ko. That’s good for them because in future when they go to study abroad….
Shaniera: When we have gone for holidays, they pack their own things. They take the suitcases and wash dishes if they have to. They are more productive in their lives….
Wasim, are you the strict dad and Shaniera the cool mom?
Wasim: It’s the opposite!
Shaniera: I am the mom. So, I am everything! The kids and I love one another so much. We have our little tiffs… just like the mom and son kind of thing… I love banter. And dad’s just scary! He (Wasim) is the final decision-maker. I am very lucky (for the great bond). Thank god for that. They share their secrets.
Wasim: Yeah, both of them.
Shaniera: Wasim gets really upset (laughs)!
Wasim: But it’s gone well so far. Everything has gone according to the plan. We are enjoying our lives and the kids are well-settled. It was tough in the beginning, not this relationship… in general, me looking after the kids. But with Shaniera, everything has fallen into the right place. She’s got consistency in my life…. And that you can love yourself as well…. It is disciplined for the better.
Shaniera: He used to always thank everyone else for making his life. I think I told him that, ‘No, you did it! You are responsible for your life. Everyone else contributed.’
Are your kids into cricket?
Shaniera: If it’s on the Xbox, they might.
Wasim: Taimur is into basketball. He is in his school team. And Akbar has got into tennis.
Shaniera: We are raising them to be individuals. Whatever they are good at, we will nurture that.
What are your messages for each other?
Wasim: I want this life and Shaniera, be the way you are. You are the best person.
Shaniera: I look forward to the 40 years of you feeding me (laughs)!
Shaniera: I must say Calcutta is one of my favourite cities in India.
Wasim: We have been to Park Street and for a drive along the river.
Shaniera: The buildings are incredible… it is like chaos and harmony mixed. The people are so friendly. The city has got a sense of…
What are you taking back?
Shaniera: I am going to go shopping… antiques. Last time he came back with a head made out of junk (from Dhaka)! It stares at me every time I wake up in the morning.
BEST AND WORST
Wasim: She is always happy and positive and it is good to have a person in your life who is happy all the time. It’s rare in our culture. It’s a plus. And like any other woman, she argues unnecessarily!
Shaniera: So many great things about Wasim. The one thing I love is that he has never let me down and I don’t think he ever will. I can bank on him 100 per cent for anything. Bad thing? He can get a little bit moody (laughs)!
Wasim: That’s the price of being Wasim Akram!
Shaniera’s cricket faves: I love all the boys in KKR. All amazing. I think they have got a good shot at the trophy.
Hindi films she has watched: “She has watched Veer-Zaara and Lagaan,” says Wasim. “I loved those. I love meaningful Bollywood ones,” she says. Shah Rukh Khan is the only Bollywood star she has met. “And he made me do the Chammak challo,” she laughs. “Shah Rukh is a lovely guy. Charismatic and down to earth,” she says.
Desi dishes she loves: She had dosa for breakfast on Friday and loved the sambhar. “And who can go past a good dal-chawal?!” she asks.
Desi dishes she can make: Dal, keema, meat balls (kofta).
Wasim: I enjoy her cooking as well. When she is cooking, the kids and me are just tasting…. (I like) the meat balls that she makes, Italian style…
Shaniera: Because they are made with?
Wasim: Love (smiles)!
Shaniera: When you have boys in the family, they just hang around when there is food! So, the way to a boy’s heart is definitely through food.
Wasim: The Australians love barbecue and my father-in-law Tony Thompson makes the best barbecue… the lamb, the fish, the steak… he puts up a spread for us.
Courtesy: THE TELEGRAPH