StoryCorps: They Came To U.S. And Found Love. But First, They Found 'Love' In A Dictionary When he asked her out, she needed a pocket dictionary — and two whole days — to respond in English, on a napkin: "Yes, OK." Decades later, the two immigrants are still together — and still in love.
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They Came To America And Found Love. But First, They Found 'Love' In A Dictionary

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They Came To America And Found Love. But First, They Found 'Love' In A Dictionary

They Came To America And Found Love. But First, They Found 'Love' In A Dictionary

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(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Time now for StoryCorps. This week, a story about immigrants that has nothing to do with walls or border security - it's a love story. It starts in 1989 when a woman named Tabinda took a job as a housekeeper in a New York City hotel. She had recently come to the U.S. from the Dominican Republic. She caught the eye of Tariq Sheikh, who worked at the front desk. He's from Pakistan and, like Tabinda, was a recent immigrant himself.

TABINDA SHEIKH: Do you remember the first time you saw me?

TARIQ SHEIKH: You have yellow gloves on, and I could not say, hello, hi - nothing.

TABINDA SHEIKH: Oh, I thought he was rude and mean. I said, oh, my God, this guy don't even say hi. You are just staring at me (laughter).

TARIQ SHEIKH: Yeah because you was the girl who was in my dreams.

TABINDA SHEIKH: Yeah, but I didn't have that dream.

TARIQ SHEIKH: You remember I ask you, do you want to go with me for coffee? You gave me answer after two days.

TABINDA SHEIKH: Because I didn't know how to speak English.

TARIQ SHEIKH: I remember you have a small dictionary in your pocket, a Spanish-to-English. And on, like, a paper...

TABINDA SHEIKH: Napkin.

TARIQ SHEIKH: ...Napkin, you write, OK, yes.

TABINDA SHEIKH: Language is not a barrier for the love (laughter).

TARIQ SHEIKH: After that, I bought a yellow cab. I was a driver, you know? One day I said, you know your address where you live. Let me drop you your home. You say, I live in New Jersey - just New Jersey.

TABINDA SHEIKH: (Laughter).

TARIQ SHEIKH: I say, oh, my God, today I going to have a long night. When I went there, it was YMCA. I say, why you don't tell me you live in YMCA? You say, I don't know. YMCA's, like, a famous thing (laughter).

TABINDA SHEIKH: I didn't have no family here. He didn't have no family here.

TARIQ SHEIKH: Yeah.

TABINDA SHEIKH: And when I call back home and I say, I am in love; I have a gordito. They say, gordito? Chubby man? You don't like fat men.

TARIQ SHEIKH: I was not that fat, just chubby, yes.

TABINDA SHEIKH: I know, sweetheart. But for us, this was fat.

TARIQ SHEIKH: Yeah. So I was working, like, 72 hours continuously. I was very tired. And I remember there was a park over there nearby. We went, and there was a bench. And I put my head on your leg, and I slept.

TABINDA SHEIKH: I don't even want to move. If I move, he's going to wake up. It was beautiful looking the moon, the stars.

TARIQ SHEIKH: I woke up morning time, and you were still sitting there. And I said, what? That was the moment I fell in love with you.

TABINDA SHEIKH: Love is a wonderful thing. This is my man, and we're going to be married 23 years now.

TARIQ SHEIKH: She's telling me it's 23 years. For me, it's like yesterday.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MONTAGNE: That's Tariq Sheikh with his wife, Tabinda Sheikh, at StoryCorps in New York City. Their conversation is archived at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress and featured on the StoryCorps podcast.

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