It’s like a dream, says Jean Iqbal as congratulatory messages and cards flooded in.
They came from Queen Elizabeth, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, Governor-General Dame Patsy Reddy, Minister of Internal Affairs Tracey Martin, mayors past and present , Morin Cooper and Phil Goff, and Member of Parliament Simeon Brown —have been delivered on Jean and Mohamed Iqbal’s Diamond Anniversary (60th wedding anniversary).
Due to Covid-19 and their ill health, the Howick couple couldn’t host a celebration but were happy to talk to the Times about the first time they met over curry.
Jean’s friend, also a nurse, invited her home to have curry and introduced her to a friend’s friend who worked with Crown Agents for Overseas Governments and Administrations, London.
As Iqbal, a young barrister who studied law in London, got to know Jean, a night duty nurse at the Chelsea Women’s Hospital, England, he realised that she was determined to study further.
Jean soon left for America.
“It was quite exciting to get engaged on the ship just before I sailed to New York with the intention of staying there for a year to complete my course,” says Jean, now 87.
However, four months later, she cut short her stay and returned to London to be with the young lawyer who had slipped a ring on her finger.
“I missed him too much,” she says.
When Iqbal first broke the news to his parents in Ceylon (Sri Lanka) that he wanted to marry an English girl, they were worried that he would be the first person in the family to marry for love.
It was unheard of.
“My father was a Sufi helped but my mother, who was a direct descendent of Prophet Mohamed, was naturally upset,” says the former Tea Commissioner of Australia, New Zealand and Fiji.
Jean says that her boss and friends tried to warn her against marrying a brown person. They said she would find it difficult to get a house to live in.
“As a nurse, I never understood racism. I had always treated patients of all races with equal love and care,” she says.
Iqbal married Jean Irene Stanton on the April 26, 1960 in London.
Two years later they were blessed with a baby girl who they named Zanhuba (Zan)
After five years in England, the newly married couple moved to Ceylon where Iqbal was offered a job as Secretary to Minister of Housing and Labour.
“Everyone treated me like a queen there,” says Jean.
Their son Rasak (Zak) was born in Colombo.
Three years later the couple moved to New Zealand. “The minute we landed in New Zealand in 1968, I knew this is the place I was meant to be,” Jean says.
Jean and Iqbal say they’ve shared an exciting life, thanks to Iqbal’s job as Honorary Tea Commission New Zealand. They often met prime ministers and heads of state including Robert Muldoon, Mike Moore, Norman Kirk, David Lange, Jawarharlal Nehru, Saddam Hussain, Zial-u-haq, Colonel Gaddafi and the Royal Family of Saudi Arabia.
Iqbal was also the First Honorary Consul for Sri Lanka. He was connected with the Sri Lankan Tea Board for more than 42 years.