How we met: ‘I’m normally rational, but this romance was like jumping out of a plane without a parachute’

For Sandhini, 2013 was a busy year. As a guest curator for the Guggenheim Museum in New York, she spent her time travelling between her home in Mumbai and the US for work. That October, she chose to stop for three days in the UK to support friends’ exhibitions. “The first was at the Hayward Gallery in London, and the launch included a dinner,” she says. “My flight was really late and when I got there everyone was already seated at this long, formal table.”

She found herself sitting next to William, who worked in the film industry and was a patron of the gallery. “I tried to attend a few events like that every year,” he says. “On this occasion, I hadn’t wanted to trek across London but my PA convinced me to go because I always enjoyed it once I got there.” When Sandhini walked in, she noticed William straight away. “He was wearing this green tweed jacket – the kind of thing you never usually see in the art world. I was immediately intrigued because I knew we wouldn’t be talking about work.”

Sandhini and William’s wedding ceremony in 2015.
Sandhini and William’s wedding ceremony in 2015. Photograph: Supplied image

William was equally drawn to Sandhini. “I ignored everyone else around me for the first time ever,” he says. “She’s very attractive but I didn’t really register that at first. I was just really captivated by our conversation and knew I was talking to someone who had real substance.”

After the dinner, they exchanged emails and agreed to meet for coffee again before she flew back to India. But when he got home, William decided he didn’t want to wait until the end of her trip. “I emailed to ask if we could meet the next day. When I got to work, I told my PA to clear my schedule while I waited for her to respond.”

Sandhini was happy to meet up, so they went for lunch and she told him about her hopes for a family. “I just had this inherent sense of trust in this person, so I told him I wanted to have children.” She knew William already had two older children, and felt it was important to be transparent.

After lunch, William took her to his office for a private cinema screening. “We watched this extraordinary video about the making of Gravity, one of the films he was working on at the time,” she says. Once the film was over, he walked her to the Hayward Gallery, where she had a meeting. “By then, we’d been chatting for five hours. I thought: ‘I really want to know this woman for the rest of my life,’” he says.

The next day, Sandhini went to Yorkshire for another gallery event, but rushed back when William invited her to the film premiere of Gravity in London. He says the whirlwind romance took him by complete surprise. “I run a complex business and I’m very rational. It was not what I expected in life.”

Sandhini returned to India, but the pair decided they couldn’t be apart. They met up in New York, London and Mumbai, before William asked her to marry him at the end of the year. “He proposed on New Year’s Eve at my family’s house in Mumbai,” says Sandhini. They spent the next year in a long-distance relationship while Sandhini continued her work in New York.

In spring 2015, they married and Sandhini moved to London, where their son was born the following year. She now works with Guggenheim Abu Dhabi from London, while William remains an executive chair in the film industry.

Sandhini appreciates her partner’s optimism and idealism. “Even though the world is a tough place, he’s always very positive. He looks for goodness, creativity and the best in people.”

William describes their romance as “jumping out of a plane without a parachute”. “I adore who she is and what she stands for,” he says. “I also love our cultural differences and the fact that I still have more to discover about Sandhini.”