Tariq Sheikh and Tabinda Sheikh: Finding Love In A Dictionary

In 1989, Tabinda was working in a Manhattan hotel as a housekeeper. She had just immigrated to the United States from the Dominican Republic and one day at work, she caught the eye of a fellow employee who was working behind the hotel’s front desk—Tariq Sheikh.

Tariq was also a recent immigrant, but from Pakistan, and he remembers that the first time he saw her, Tabinda was hard at work. She was still in her yellow gloves and neither spoke English too well, but after a few clumsy love notes, a relationship was born. Tariq and Tabinda have now been married for 25 years and have a 20-year-old son, Madani Sheikh. They live in Jersey City, New Jersey, not far from the park bench they were sharing the first time Tariq realized he had fallen in love with Tabinda.

They came to StoryCorps to share the story of how they met. Audio produced for Morning Edition by Liyna Anwar and Jasmyn Belcher Morris.

Originally aired October 21, 2016, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

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…


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.


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.


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.


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