‘Who the hell is the Khap to tell us to split up?’


By Brijesh Pandey

RAVINDER SINGH is 25, sports a beard and walks with a swagger. He works in the transport business and has a surfeit of Haryanvi machismo, till you mention Shilpa to him. Shilpa and he have been married a year. Ostracised, their marriage declared incestuous, both have faced the tribulations of a medieval epic together. But mentioning the name of his 20-year-old bride still makes Ravinder redden.

It takes great persuasion to get him even talking about how he and Shilpa met. It was two years ago, when he had gone to Panipat for some work. What work he doesn’t remember now, but he saw her in passing and was instantly hooked for life. He had thought that parents from both the sides would object to his impulse and insist on a more sedately arranged alliance. To his surprise they didn’t object. They were from different villages, their gotras were different (Ravinder, a Gehlot, Shilpa a Kadyan) and all was well.

With this small familial revolution behind him, Ravinder had no idea that his marriage was still going to make international headlines. The wedding was held on 24 April 2009 in Bawana in Outer Delhi at his uncle’s house and went off without a hitch. The first month after the wedding went off like a dream for the newly-weds. But then news of their wedding reached Ravinder’s village in Jhajjhar, Haryana, and all hell broke loose.

Suddenly there was talk of throwing Ravinder’s family, who had been living there for generations, out of the village. To turn them into outcasts within 72 hours. People, who till the day before were Ravinder’s chacha and tau, were now on the other side of the fence. “I was shocked. The majority of the village was up in arms against my marriage,” says Ravinder. “Imagine, panchayats from 12 villages gathered and declared that my wedding was illegal. Imagine that. They said that since both Gehlots and Kadyans had been in the village for generations, I could not marry a Kadyan girl. We could only be brother and sister. I was so angry I can’t tell you. I refused to obey the panchayat’s orders to divorce.”

When Ravinder’s family refused to toe the diktat of the panchayats of 12 villages, the larger Khap panchayat was called. The Khap, after its deliberations, decided that though nobody would say a thing to the extended family, the couple would have to leave the village and never return.

Ravinder and Shilpa agreed. “They thought they would be able to pressurise me but I refused to take it lying down,” says Ravinder. “I was ready to leave the village but not her. And if both our families were happy then who the hell is the panchayat?”

The couple now live in Bawana. Ravinder does not like to talk about his suicide attempt at a point when it looked like the Khaps would never let them live.

Shilpa pipes in for the first time, “Our marriage had an ideal start but the decision of the panchayat ruined things for us. Not that it had any effect on our marriage itself, but it did spoil things. We haven’t done anything wrong but we have been ostracised. He has not gone to his village since then. I know he longs to go, but he can’t.”

Looking lovingly at Shilpa, Ravinder adds, “The Khaps have done what they had to do. They are just playing politics. But looking after her and giving her all the happiness in life is my aim. I won’t let a Khap or its diktats enter my marriage and ruin it.”

Photo: Vijay Pandey

‘I thought it would take a war to win her over’

By Nishita Jha

WHEN A handsome young Punjabi officer, Rajeev Sawhney, fell in love with the daughter of a Nepalese princess and Sikh prince, he was certain it would take a war to win her over. Fortunately for him, her parents were relatively calm. Unfortunately, his navy buddies were not. Ira Singh was the diametrical opposite to the well turned-out hostess army wives. Her cotton salwar kameezes, her solo trips to the mountains, all became a talking point, and a sore subject at home. Her daughters would joke about their family’s version of the Miss India dream — Ira would be over the moon if one of them brought a Muslim girl home to marry! What binds their disparate worlds together? “Space, acceptance, trust, buying antiques together and being best friends,” she smiles.

‘I respect my husband because he didn’t listen to his mother ’

By Anamika Chatterjee

CIRCA 1978: Shyam Benegal’s Junoon releases to the critics’ delight and the male viewer’s pleasure. The reason is its stunning star Nafisa Ali, former Miss India, Miss International runner-up and national swimming champion. Just when she is about to become a curiosity, the 23-year-old one-film sensation announces her marriage to polo player and Arjuna awardee Col RS Sodhi. Ask her why, she offers a whimsical explanation: “When I was 16, I went to Salim Chishti’s dargah at Fatehpur Sikri. I tied a thread there saying, ‘God, please find me a good husband who will love me irrespective of all.”

God chose to tie this daughter of a Roman Catholic mother and a Muslim father to Sodhi, who hailed from a staunch Sikh family. Despite Sodhi being 14 years older.

After Nafisa wrapped up the shooting of Junoon, she attended a horse show and polo match in Kolkata. The hazeleyed beauty met ‘Pickles’ Sodhi. But the spark was yet to be ignited. “My sister-in-law was plotting and planning,” recalls Nafisa. “She wanted me to go out with them and watch a film. I kept making excuses, but eventually had to. This is when I interacted with Pickles and liked him instantly.”

The man in question breaks out of his reticence to remind Nafisa that the going wasn’t that smooth: “After a year, she had second thoughts and broke up with me.” Nafisa is ready with her defence. “I just said I don’t want to get married now. But then I began to think. Swimming turned me into a philosopher — it’s the loneliest sport in the world. There is no one except God to talk to. He was a gentleman, a man in uniform. I wanted to be an army officer’s wife.” Nafisa Ali lived the role she was to essay much later in Major Saab. To make up for his shortlived heartbreak, Nafisa planned a good surprise for her would-be husband. “While dining at The Oberoi in Kolkata, I asked the crooners to announce my engagement to him,” she recalls.

The romantic interlude, however, turned out to be a mere teaser. While Nafisa’s family welcomed her decision, Pickles’ mother insisted her son could do without a Muslim girl, that too an actress. The advice went unheeded. “We decided to have a registered marriage in Kolkata,” says the man of a few words. Nafisa recalls her mother-in-law not expecting her at “our family house in Defence Colony”.

“After marriage, I stayed with Pickles’ friends Sudhir and Rosyleen Mulji. Later, my mother-in-law’s eldest brother, a senior advocate, said, ‘We want you to come home. As an elder, I fold my hands. Forget what has happened’.”

The daughter-in-law was home after a grand Sikh wedding. The relationship improved over time. “Years later, when my mother-in-law was terminally ill and bed-ridden, she wanted to stay only with me,” Nafisa says with pride.

MARRIAGE BROUGHT happiness with a fair share of challenges. The ‘Made in Japan’ baby Armana was followed by three consecutive miscarriages. “There was a joke that Nafisa gets pregnant every year. There was a six-year gap between the first two kids and then my son was born. As soon as he was five, Pickles gave up the army prematurely.”

The family’s living room, adorned with idols of Ganesh, Saraswati, Buddha and inscriptions from the Quran, reveals an effort to understand different religions. “I studied Vedanta myself and wanted my children to be exposed to different religions and thoughts,” Nafisa says. She named her son Ajit Ahmed and her second daughter Pia Zaranna.

What about the 14-year age gap? “My dad was 13-and-a half years older than my mother who met him when she was only 17,” says Nafisa. Pickles, however, thinks it was a blessing in disguise. “The maturity I had back then only helped me understand her better. Though, I maintain, she is not the kind of person who can be guided,” he grins. Nafisa chips with: “I could have said I am going to do films, I am going to model. And he couldn’t have stopped me. My husband is lucky that I am a good person.”

Photo: Tarun Sehrawat

‘The more we met, the more I wanted to be with her’

By Srikanth S

THANPUI RALTE was fuming when she entered Syan Furniture shop in Guwahati. The maroon cushions she’d ordered were the wrong colour — and Thanpui was literally, seeing red. An apologetic Kulwinder Singh Syan assured her he’d personally oversee the re-upholstering of Thanpui’s furniture — a housewarming gift for her mother. “Kulwinder came to Shillong and fixed the furniture,” recalls Thanpui. “I offered him tea and we chatted about Guwahati. He seemed interesting.” Kulwinder was already well on his way to falling for the vivacious girl from Mizoram. “The more we met, the more I wanted to be with her,” he smiles. In 1991, Thanpui got a job in New Delhi. In an age devoid of cell phones and the Internet, Kulwinder wrote to her constantly. Four years later, the determined sardar packed his bags and shifted to the capital. He did everything from operating a Blueline bus to running a snooker parlour. “Kuli was a jack of all trades,” laughs Thanpui. The only thing that remained constant was his love for her. Finally, she succumbed. Horrified at the idea of her Christian daughter marrying an outsider, Thanpui’s mother came around only five years later, thanks to ‘Kuli’s’ now-famous persistence. Her one condition — that he should convert to Christianity — posed no issue at all. Kulwinder and Thanpui had a Christian wedding in 2001, followed by a Sikh wedding in 2002.

Fakhrul & Roda Naqvy DELHI BEEN TOGETHER 39 years BIGGEST HURDLE Roda’s parents averse to the idea of her marrying a Muslim
Fakhrul & Roda Naqvy DELHI BEEN TOGETHER 39 years BIGGEST HURDLE Roda’s parents averse to the idea of her marrying a Muslim

‘We had promised each other we wouldn’t convert’

By Kunal Majumder

FAKHRUL NAQVY is 67. His wife Roda is 65. And they are anything but an elderly couple taking a walk at a children’s park. As the monsoon hits the city, the two have found a new escape: a game of Scrabble. And when they do take time out to have a chat, Fakhrul recalls his first meeting with Roda, a 23-year-old Parsi beauty, at Porbandar in 1968. “I took her out for a special tour of a 1965 exhibition train,” recalls Fakhrul. The next day Roda returned for another tour. They exchanged addresses and remained in touch until 1971 when they decided to marry. “We were clear that neither of us would convert,” says Fakhrul. He met the Shahi Imam of Jama Masjid, but the cleric wanted Roda to embrace Islam. Fakhrul then went to Arya Samaj who “wanted both of us to accept Vedic religion”. Finally, the Special Marriages Act came to the couple’s rescue. When informed, Fakhrul’s father was supportive while Roda’s was outraged. She became one of the first Parsi girls of her generation to marry a man outside her community. Her father not only stopped talking to her but did not even invite Roda for her brother’s wedding. The ice broke a year later when Roda gave birth to her first child and her father’s anger took a backseat.

‘My dad lied to his friends that I was marrying a Parsi’

By Kunal Majumder

IN1989, Lal Krishna Advani embarked on his infamous rath yatra to mobilise the kar sevaks. As his procession travelled through north India, communal violence spread, leaving hundreds dead and a country, long known for its secular values, divided on communal lines.

This is when Kajal Sikka, 21, a Punjabi Khatri girl studying economics at Jesus and Mary College, and Aijaz Ilmi, 28, a Muslim boy from Uttar Pradesh who had just come to Delhi after completing his medical studies in Bengaluru, fell in love. In October 1990, even as the communal temperature touched newer highs, they decided to get married. Their only challenge was to convince their deeply conservative parents to accept their marriage. “It was quite an uphill task,” says Kajal. The wounds of Partition were still fresh in her father Om Prakash Sikka’s mind. He had lost many of his family members in the riots of 1947 and could not accept that his only daughter wanted to marry a Muslim. “He tried hard to convince me not to marry Aijaz,” says Kajal. She recalls how he lied to his colleagues in the Ministry of External Affairs, saying Kajal planned to marry a Parsi. To which the reply would often be, “You should be grateful that she is not marrying a Muslim!” On the other hand, Aijaz’s father, Maulana Ishaq Ilmi, the Deoband-educated Chief Editor of Siyasat Jadid, one of the oldest Urdu newspapers in the country, gave his blessings without much hesitation.

FAMILIES ASIDE, some community leaders started voicing their concern. The Maulana, on the other hand, did not only stick to his gun, but also went on to convince Kajal’s father to allow them to marry. Finally, a nikaah took place on 10 January 1991 in Delhi. Kajal’s sceptical father also made the couple marry once again under the Special Marriages Act.

Nineteen years and several challenges later, the couple are still very much in love. Kajal, who is now president of the Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group’s corporate communication arm, says the secret of their relationship lies in their friendship. “I think love is all about companionship,” she says. Aijaz, who is a columnist and a political analyst, feels that both the partners need to make efforts to be by each other’s side. “We lead very hectic lives and it is difficult to find time to be with each other,” he says. In a quest to spend quality time with each other, they meet during lunch breaks and spend time together at parties.

“People ask, ‘don’t you meet at home?’ We don’t get time. She is also my best friend, so I need to speak to her,” he adds. Both celebrate each other’s festivals. “In fact, the special days of celebration are 15 August and 26 January,” he says. The couple have given their 15-year-old son the freedom of choice. “I wouldn’t mind if my son decides to have a love or an arranged marriage as long as he chooses a pretty wife,” says Aijaz. “There is a new trend coming up these days — arranged love marriages. First fall in love and then make suitable arrangements for your parents to accept it.” The couple would not mind subscribing to the latter.

Photo: Anshika Varma

‘It felt as if her father’s ghost had got inside me’

IDIDN’T KNOW Kiran or her kin when I returned to India from my Mexico stint in 1956. They were also refugees from Pakistan. She was an art student at the Delhi Polytechnic, which held a reception for me. I don’t know if I saw her, but she saw me.

I had done a portrait of Lala Lajpat Rai for Parliament House, but the committee wouldn’t approve it. The critic Charles Fabri helped me exhibit the painting. Kiran came to see that show with a common friend. Afterwards, we all went to my brother’s house to see more of my work. That occasion became a landmark in my life. For the first time, The Statesman’s front page damned the committee. Indira Gandhi showed Nehru the review, and he asked to see the portrait. Nehru took one look at it and dismissed the committee! It’s still in the Central Hall of Parliament. It also marked the beginning of a friendship so close and so quick that within three meetings I proposed and she accepted. But things were not going to be that easy.

HER FATHER opposed it, and (of hearing). There was also our age gap of 12 years. Any father wants good for his children. This went on for one year — we kept meeting, her family kept opposing (though they allowed us to meet). A year is a long time, and soon the story was around town that we were going on and on. I’d become close to Nehru’s family. Without telling me, he asked our friend Marie Seton to plead with Kiran’s father, but it didn’t work. My brother (IK Gujral) went to her father. He didn’t agree. So we married in court.

For a while, it seemed the break with her family was forever. The evening before our marriage, my brother and I sat out in the garden. I was unusually silent. It felt as if her father’s ghost had got inside me — I started to doubt if it should happen. But fathers are fathers. After a few months, everything was settled and we became friends. Now it seems simple. But that one year — it was the tale of the town! If my kids wanted to marry similarly, my first reaction would be to oppose it. I’d oppose, but I wouldn’t break. I’d agree if my family wanted it.

In my autobiography (A Brush With Life), I say that providence took from me my hearing, and gave Kiran to me. She became my bridge to life. I still can’t understand how, from the first day we met, we had a simple communication like you see today. Neither she nor I have felt it to be a strange relationship. I don’t like arranged marriages. I find my idea of love isn’t shared by my friends or children. She sucked the poison out of my life. Most couples don’t find much to talk about. We always talk. In these 53 years, we’ve parted only a few days. Being an artist alone doesn’t make your character. Being with her made me a different man. It gave me courage to change my style many times.

One thing that ruins marriages is greed — always wanting what you don’t have. Providence has been kind to me with both hardship and then a better life. But I always thought it was a good life. Young love now is often not so much love as a one-night stand. They think it’s passing — one night, one year. They don’t understand — love is a many-splendoured thing.

Photo: Anshika Varma

As told to Gaurav Jain

‘The traditional arranged marriage binds your life in feudal chains’

By Reyaz Ul Haque

AFTER THEIR first meeting in 2000, Shahzad, an electricity board employee, and Bharti spent nine years as friends before deciding to marry. Shahzad refused to have a religious ceremony and still faces pressure to conduct nikaah. When the couple tried to register at the magistrate office, a religious Additional District Magistrate AK Kaushal asked Bharti to reconsider the match. When this failed, Kaushal ordered them to provide letters of consent for the marriage from five relatives. Today, the couple says, “We want our children’s generation to live with freedom”.

Photo: Vijay Pandey

‘She spoke through the light switch. I sang on the roof’

By Tusha Mittal

BOLE TOH,” Jawahar Monga begins in Bollywoodesque demeanor, a gold chain hanging below three open buttons, “I was the phantoosh, lafanga type.” And there is plenty of Bollywood in his love story — docile, rich Marwari girl meets brute Punjabi boy next door. There’s whisky, nights serenading a closed window, even throwing stones at his father-inlaw. There are her suicide attempts — swallowing rat poison first, a diamond ring next. There’s five years of separation when the couple spoke only seven times. The girl was tossed from relative to relative — Mumbai, Kolkata, Surat, so he would not find her. There’s the angry Punjabis beating up four men with a hockey stick before smashing the girl’s father’s Maruti. There’s the 100 men grouping to thrash him. And there’s the grand elopement. Twenty-three years later, Jawahar and Sulakshna are married with two sons. He runs a bookstore and she is a fashion designer.

In 1982, Sulakshna left her sprawling haveli in Rajasthan to complete Class 12 in Delhi. She moved in with her uncle and Jawahar lived across the street. “It was Mere Samne Wali Khidki Mein,” Jawahar laughs. First there was only the lure of a ` 200 bet in the colony. “Whoever took her out would win. Even my elder brother competed.”

ONE MORNING, Jawahar walked up to her. “In front of Ever Green Sweet House in Green Park,” he proposed that they become friends. Sulakshna scampered away. “We were a traditional Bania family. Talking to a boy was like running away with him,” Sulakshna says. By 1983, the romancing had begun. “We spoke through the light switch. I’d flick it three times, she’d flick it four. I’d stand on the terrace and sing. I didn’t care if her family saw. I was bindaas.” Sulakshna’s father arrived in Delhi and there ensued a farce. Daddy dares Jawahar to show up. He does so promptly. Daddy tries to slam the door shut. Jawahar pushes it back hard. Daddy falls. “My father had a heart attack. My mother cried. My brother stopped talking to me,” Sulakshna says.

Jawahar, 49, says, “She left Delhi and I didn’t know when I’d see her again. That’s when I fell in love.” He refused a ` 5 lakh offer from her family. He dodged a beating. The next year he tried to gatecrash a wedding in Rajasthan he had heard Sulakshna would be attending. When Jawahar appeared at the marriage hall, Sulakshna’s mother shrieked and dropped her plate. He fled.

In 1986, Sulakshna returned to Delhi. By then, Jawahar had a new girlfriend — Saleena. When she proposed, Jawahar confessed that his love lay elsewhere. Together, they hatched a plan. Saleena was planted inside Sulakshna’s house to tutor her uncle’s children. Saleena found that Sulakshna was scared but had stayed true.

On a crisp March morning in 1987, a silver Bullet arrived outside Sulakshna’s house. They sped to the nearest Arya Samaj temple. They called her parents. It was then that her household relented, with a “beta, come back” sigh. “I had a morality to live up to,” Sulakshna says. “The first man to kiss me had to be the last.”

Photo: Vijay Pandey

‘Arranged marriages are only good for parents’

By Kunal Majumder

IN 1989, Kashmir changed for ever. Militancy assumed an ugly face in the Valley, altering the lives of Kashmiris and putting a stop to Muzaffar Ali’s ambitious project — Zooni. Ali, then 43, had already made a name for himself through Umrao Jaan and was working on a film about Habba Khatoon, a poetess who lived in 16th century Kashmir and rose to become a queen. Unnerved, he returned to Delhi. Waiting to restart filming Zooni, he began a small project to make films on improving the habitat. At his new office in the Sarai Kale Khan area in south Delhi worked a 20-year-old architecture graduate from Gujarat’s Institute of Environmental Design — Meera Saluja.

“We got to know each other better and became friends. We realised there were a lot of things we could do together,” recalls the filmmaker. “Sometimes in life, you have dreams that cannot be realised alone. My one dream was already shattered. I had to start afresh.” Six weeks after meeting each other, Meera and Muzaffar Ali married on 13 May, 1990. Meera’s parents, who were originally from Lahore, were opposed to this alliance. “They were worried because of the inter-religious nature of our relationship. It took them a year to accept us,” recalls Meera. Does the difference in religion affect their relationship? “Religion is a very private affair. Love is about understanding,” she adds.

Wasn’t six weeks too short a time to decide? “I didn’t decide at that time but I thought it was the right thing. At that point, I didn’t even want to think about the rest of my life,” says Meera. But her family and friends weren’t happy seeing her married to a filmmaker whose most ambitious project was just stalled. “He had come back a little bruised and battered. When I met him, he was a disturbed man,” she recalls. Muzaffar adds: “It became a big challenge for me to reinvent myself as a creative person. Coming together with Meera was like creating a completely new world on the debris of Kashmir and at the same time on the foundation of my village – Kotwara in Uttar Pradesh (he hails from the royal family of Kotwara).”

After marriage, Meera and Muzaffar decided to work together to promote the craft of Kotwara. “That is one interest I had developed while I was in Kashmir. We were designing everything for the film. I had got into crafts,” he says. Together they launched their fashion house — Kotwara Studios and fashion label Meera and Muzaffar Ali. Challenges in their relationship increased as they worked together.

MEERA ACKNOWLEDGES she didn’t know much about Muzaffar before marriage. “I knew what an average person knew about him, that he was a filmmaker. My friends knew more about him. I was still in college when Umrao Jaan released,” she says. When her friends came to know that she was seeing Muzaffar, they were thrilled. “When I first met him, I thought he was really handsome and polite,” she recalls. Was it love at first sight? “I don’t know if you can define it as love. But I was extremely intrigued and attracted,” she says. Did Muzaffar notice her ? “Yes, yes I did,” he answers with a grin.

Their daughter, 19-year-old Sama, is still in college and the couple says she can marry whoever she wants in future. “I don’t care if he is dark or fair. Though I would prefer he is tall,” says Meera with a wink. Both Meera and Muzaffar are opposed to the idea of arranged marriage. “Arranged marriages are only good for the parents,” Muzaffar quips.

Muzaffar, 64, calls Meera, 44, the backbone to his sanity and madness. Over the years, he has diversified into other creative fields. Apart from fashion and craft, he is also involved in painting, Sufi music — his Jahan-e-Khusrau has now become an annual festival. He is now planning a foray into tourism. He even attempted politics after the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992. And through thick and thin, Meera has been his friend, philosopher and wife.

Photo: Shailendra Pandey

‘For us the world began and ended with each other’

WHEN WE met, Tiger hadn’t seen any of my films and I was quite the cricket buff. Yet somehow, we got on famously from the start. He had a great sense of humour and was extremely charming. He was aware of Hindi cinema, just not of my presence in it! He loved Lata Mangeshkar and Vyjayanthimala, he was extremely fond of Indian music — Girish Karnad would tell me how Tiger always played Hindi music in his room at Oxford, when not playing the harmonium or the flute himself.

Back in the 1960s, I was not aware of any communal feelings. Although my grandmother wouldn’t give money to the Muslim League because she had experienced the pain of Partition; we didn’t harbour ill-will against any community. We were crazy about Yusuf Khan (Dilip Kumar), Madhubala and Bismillah Khan — art has a way of transcending boundaries. Tiger’s family, however, was aware of the discrimination against Muslims. It would rear its head in unexpected ways — for instance, Muslims could work hard, but promotions would always seem to elude them. Tiger remembers sitting on the terrace of Pataudi with his father during the riots of 1947. Father and son bravely warded off the violent mob below with their ‘machine gun’ — the family’s recently purchased refrigerator. Along with his cousins and siblings, Tiger was ultimately flown to the safety of his grandfather — the nawab of Bhopal’s home — while his parents stayed behind to guard their subjects. These are things that leave indelible imprints on a child’s mind. After his return from Oxford, he left Delhi to play cricket in Hyderabad — simply because he could not come to terms with the communal politics in the Delhi Cricket Board.

WHEN WE decided to get married, we didn’t even know the words secular or communal — we were in the throes of young love; we didn’t know what the fuss around us was all about. We weren’t aware of the larger ramifications because for us, the world began and ended with each other. Being together wasn’t really a deliberate defiance of norms, it just stemmed from an overwhelming desire to be together.

Tiger’s family tried to dissuade him, on the grounds that I was Hindu and that I was an actress. My family’s concern was that he didn’t have a 9 to 5 job. His being a ‘Nawab’ evoked images of all kinds of debauchery for them! But we were economically independent, and absolutely convinced that we had to be together — so they came around. Even though our families had made their peace with us, there was the odd threat to disrupt our wedding plans. To be cautious, my parents obtained permission to have us married in a small ceremony at Fort William. But since some of our guests were from Pakistan, we could not get married there. The ceremony finally took place at a friend’s home in Kolkata. One morning, I woke up to find two gentlemen from the CID in my sitting room. Apparently they had been sent from Delhi, for my ‘protection’. I assured them I didn’t need any, but they politely refused to budge. That was the political climate of India then — in spite of the fact that the man I had married was the captain of the Indian cricket team! A few weeks later, the Shankaracharya of Puri excommunicated me for marrying a Muslim.

Looking back, we realise how privileged we were. We belonged to the urban elite, both of us already had a national identity that transcended our religions. Even so, we were told we wouldn’t last — apparently a serious institution like ‘marriage’ was not for ‘fickle’ young people like us. Thank god we proved them wrong!

As you become a parent, you learn to worry, to be afraid. But fortunately, the young are impervious to the machinations of the world. They have the courage to follow their hearts through treacherous terrain. This courage — which isn’t a conscious will to defy, but is born of freedom and love — should be celebrated, not silenced.

As told to Nishita Jha


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