HT Brunch Cover Story: Milind Soman, Ankita Konwar and their ageless love story
In December 2015, during a breakfast session I hosted for a conclave for Business Today magazine, Milind Soman threw me off balance.
This was the year “India’s last male supermodel” had won the Ironman Race in Europe and despite crying himself hoarse with humility, saying that he was indeed just one of six Indian men who had completed the race that year, Milind Soman – at 50 – was back to being what he was best at: a poster boy.
Women swooned. The men didn’t envy. They wanted to emulate!
That morning on stage, my attempt was to wake the sleepy corporate crowd up from their reverie. So I attempted a KJo-style Rapid Fire: “If a girl half your age proposes marriage, what will you tell her?” I asked.
Milind smiled that easy smile, and with a flicker of contemplation, stumped me with his reply: “My girlfriend is half my age and I’m going to ask her to marry me!”
Cut to the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit exactly a year later, where Milind Soman had just conducted a chat with international supermodel Naomi Campbell. “I want to introduce you to someone,” he told me, unusually excited. My heart skipped a beat: it had to be Naomi Campbell!
Instead, it turned out to be 25-year-old girl with bright eyes and an infectious smile, Ankita Konwar. “Meet my fiancé,” Milind said, entwining his fingers in hers, looking into her eyes, not noticing me go off balance again. “Jamal, Ankita really wants to meet Salman Khan. How can we make this happen?”
Age no bar
Marriages with age differences are no new thing, and certainly not anything to be scorned. Yet, for a star of Milind Soman’s stature, a national level swimming champion, India’s best-known male model and a mainstream Bollywood actor, to make public his affection for a girl half his age was unusual to say the least.
But just four months later, Milind Soman, 52, and flight attendent Ankita Konwar, 26, after four years of dating, tied the knot.
“To be honest, Ankita and I spoke about the concept of marriage and our age difference when we went on our first date six years ago and agreed marriage wasn’t really important to either of us,” says Milind. “I don’t know when all that changed, but I am glad that it did.”
Surely it crossed your mind how the world would perceive you, we say. “I never think about how the world perceives me,” Milind replies. “Sure, I did come across a little negativity. I thought the narrow-mindedness was amusing.”
Ankita has a poignant story to tell. “When I first met Milind, I was still trying to overcome my ex-boyfriend’s death, even though it happened years ago. Milind and I texted and met often, but I still couldn’t bring myself to get fully involved. One day, I told him that there was a part of me that couldn’t let go of my past. Milind told me, ‘When I fell in love with you, I fell in love with all of you: even the part that carries the burden of your past. So don’t be afraid. We’re in this together.’ That’s when I knew this was the man for me!”
Nothing but a number
But surely there were concerns; after all, she was 25, he was 51! Crushing on a celebrity is one thing, marrying him is another.
“When I decided to go out with him, I got to know the person he is. I started liking that person, adoring him over time, and eventually I fell in love with him,” says Ankita. “My friends were a little concerned, like every friend is when a new guy enters a friend’s life. But once they got to know him for real, they were supportive. My family, on the other hand, had a whole lot of questions about all our crazy differences, the age gap being a serious one amongst them. But again, when they met Milind and got to know how humble and real he was, they all accepted us wholeheartedly.”
Pardon us being a bit forward, Ankita, and tell us: how much older is Milind than your dad?
“Hahahaha!” the 28-year old laughs heartily, then says, “Milind is not older than my father. He is a year older than my mother though, and my mom and dad have an age gap of 10 years. So you do the math!”
Milind, you’re fitter than guys many years younger than you. But does it bother you that your wife will still be hitting middle age when you’re getting seriously old?
“I do think of it sometimes, but it doesn’t really bother me,” says Milind. “We will see what it’s like when we get there. We have loved every moment of being together ever since we met, and I wouldn’t swap the last six years for anything!”
Et tu, Ankita? Did you stop to think that even Ironman will get old, and you’ll still be in your prime?
“Age is nothing but a number,” says Ankita. “When we fall in love, we connect with someone mentally, spiritually and physically. We love their very essence. So no matter how old or how young we stay, we will always have that.”
Norway to Spain via Portugal
Leaving me with no choice but to move to more comfortable subjects, the unusual couple humours me with stories full of romance.
“He proposed to me on a cold November day on top of a hill in Tromso, Norway,” says Ankita. “The Arctic in the winter is breathtaking. Milind took me to a hilltop where we could see the city spread below us, and just as we were staring into a painting-like view, he said, marry me.”
And the wedding? We hear Milind carried your dress to the venue in a backpack?
“Ankita had always told me that she found the idea of churches and white wedding gowns really romantic,” says Milind. “So when we decided to get married, she wanted a church wedding in addition to the Hindu wedding, and I promised her one on one condition: I would choose the church. Of course, the church I chose was Santiago de Compostela in Spain, and the only right way to get there is to walk. So we did. Over 300 km from Lisbon in Portugal, with me carrying the most precious cargo of the white wedding dress in my backpack!”
Marriage! And a baby carriage?
How have the last two years been, we ask.
Milind volunteers an answer. “I have always been a solitary person, but being with Ankita at home, running, travelling or just hanging around, has given me some of the most warm, beautiful moments of my life. Ankita has always been a loner too, and I think for some reason, we are just comfortable being around each other. I think running brought us closer together as well: Ankita started running the full marathon almost two years ago, and we ran her first, which was the Athens marathon, together every step, and both of us cried at the finish line.”
“My father was diagnosed with chronic kidney disease and was hospitalised for almost two months, and I was in a really bad place mentally,” says Ankita. “But the way Milind stood by me and took care of me, I think it brought us even closer!”
Tell us, Ankita, what are the top three things that you must still teach a husband double your age?
“Only three?” Ankita smiles in reply, then says without missing a step: “One. Life is much simpler when you sort out your priorities. Two. Sometimes, just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. And three. Wet towels are not a good thing for your mattress!”
And Milind, tell us the top three things to learn from a wife who is half your age?
“Patience, patience, patience,” Milind answers. “It is so much fun to see the world through two pairs of eyes, one 26 years younger than the other.”
Where does this marriage head to: do you both want children, a home? Where? When?
“We talk about children sometimes,” says Milind. “But nothing’s decided. Sometimes we feel we should, and at other times it’s like, really?”
“Children are a may be,” Ankita echoes. But we haven’t decided when. We like spending time on the beach and in the hills. Thankfully, we can switch houses depending on our mood.”
Choose love always
Finally, both of you: if there are others who have an unusually large age difference but want to get married, what would your advice to them be?
“Just do it. Life is short,” volunteers Milind.
But it is young Ankita who has the final, most sensible word. “Always stand by the things you believe in. Do the things your heart says are right. People are entitled to their opinions, so let them have them. Be bold enough to live your truth. You owe it to yourself to be with the one you love. Let’s face it: 10 years of happiness is far greater than 30 years of regret!”
Join the conversation using #Minkita
India’s first editorial photoshoot conducted remotely over zoom. How we did it? Read!
Couple capers: Quick questions with Milind Soman and Ankita Konwar. Read
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From HT Brunch, May 31, 2020
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