These Hindu Muslim couples have the perfect love story to share this Valentine's day. (Designed by Gargi Singh)
Bollywood has often been accused of exaggerating emotions, but one thing that does ring true in movies like Gadar, Veer-Zaara, Bombay, Pinjar and Mr and Mrs Iyer is the fear that looms large over interfaith couples. Bitter opposition, violence and fatal interventions are common in Hindu-Muslim marriages. But can any amount of hurdles stop a true blue love story from coming to fruition?
Suresh Dighe (name changed) recalls the momentous bus ride on February 24, 2019, from Mata Chowk Mahipalpur, when he met his future wife — the DTC bus conductor — for the first time. The aspiring entrepreneur and Geeta Sheikh (name changed) had their first date at the Mehrauli bus terminal.
"I literally had to pay for my bus ticket only twice," Suresh jokes now. "We are already living the Bollywood dream. But the journey was not all hunky-dory when we started out. Being from a Maharashtrian household, my parents were apprehensive about this union and Geeta's family responsibility to take care of her five sisters was holding her back," he told indianexpress.com.
"My mother would pack food for her daily, but she opposed the marriage as she was concerned about her safety. The biggest challenge was to make this happen legally while keeping our individual cultures intact. Though my mother eventually came around, it was difficult to find a pandit who was ready to perform the rituals. For us, the signatures during the court marriage under the Special Marriage Act (SMA) were as sacred as the wedding pheras," shared Suresh.
Mohammad Abdul Suaib and Akanksha Sharma.
But as they say, love can come from the most unexpected places. Cupid's arrow struck Akanksha Sharma and Mohammad Abdul Suaib, when they started working for the same organisation in 2011. But it was two years before they realised their feelings for each other.
"Both of us are from traditional religious families of Uttar Pradesh. At my home, even the idea of marrying anyone outside the Brahmin caste was inconceivable. It was extremely difficult for my family to accept that I wanted to marry a Muslim guy. All sorts of stereotypes about Muslims were considered to be true, such as polygamy and 'love jihad'. Though I was never subjected to physical abuse by my family, it was emotionally too much for me to bear. It affected me professionally as well. At my husband's place, since he had an unmarried elder brother and a younger sister, his parents decided to put the issue in the background as his marriage was not a priority at the time. They hoped that once I was married to someone else, he would move on. He too underwent depression," revealed Akanksha.
The biggest challenge for the couple was to get registered under the SMA. They claim to have faced hurdles at the courts, where they were asked to get the marriage notification published in three leading dailies. They would also have to deal with the prospect of the notice reaching their family homes. "Later, we decided to move to Delhi and apply from there, where we would not face these issues. However, it took over three months for the complete process, but our marriage was finally solemnised after spending a hefty sum. We were married in April 2015 after four years of courtship," Akanksha informed. During this process, they also had to deal with Suaib losing his job at an MNC, because his boss who was a Muslim found out that they got married without family's consent.
"We both practice our religion and it has never interfered with our married life. The lovely thing is now we get to celebrate more festivals since we celebrate both religions. My husband fasts during Ramzan and we have Iftar and Eid parties at our home. We celebrate Holi, Diwali, Karvachauth and all other Hindu festivals also with the same excitement. My husband offers namaz every Friday and I have a temple at my home where I pray daily. When we shifted to our new house, we did both havan and Qurankhwani followed by a party for friends. So things are not as complicated as people may think in an interfaith marriage," remarked Akanksha.
Sehar and Amitabh, too, had an office romance, but it was only after Amitabh left the organisation that their relationship progressed. The couple had to weather several family disagreements. "When we told our families, things got ugly. Amitabh had to leave his sister's place where he was living, and my mother started looking for matches for me. Irrespective of our families being liberal and educated, things didn't go as we expected," recalled Sehar. It took them 15 years to take the plunge but being financially independent made it possible. They too solemnised their marriage through SMA. "We didn't face any issue while registering our marriage in Delhi. We were clear that I won't be taking his surname and we will be following our religion as we wished," she added.
However, for some Hindu-Muslim lovebirds, the journey is smooth and things do fall in place perfectly making their romantic story a quintessential fairy tale. One such couple is Akriti Sachdev and Farhan, who recently married in a picture-perfect ceremony at Kodaikanal, with the wedding theme as 'Love has no religion'. The popular bridal makeup artist from Chennai first met Farhan, who is a commercial pilot, at a mutual friend's party in 2011. "Farhan had just come back from the US after flying school and I had returned from Manchester after my undergraduate course in International Business. We hit it off instantly and dated for nearly seven years before tying the knot. I would like to say Farhan made the first move, but he thinks I did. Till date, we still laugh about who actually made the first move. We’re yet to come up with the final verdict," shared Akriti.
Initially, her parents were a bit skeptical since they were from different religious backgrounds but after a while, they realised that love has no religion. "As soon as they met Farhan, they gave me the green signal. His family was extremely supportive from the time we started dating. For them, it was about their son's happiness. We’re both extremely grateful to our families for blessing us with their love and support," she added.
Samir and Swagata.
It was smooth sailing for Swagata and Samir as well, who have been together 12 years, and married for five. Though their parents supported their union, they faced an uphill battle when trying to rent an apartment in Mumbai, because of Samir's religion. "Interfaith marriage, especially one between a Hindu and a Muslim, is still seen as a taboo of sorts. When we decided to be together, although religion was a concern, it quickly took a backseat. We would like to believe the context was different in 2007 (when we got together), but the truth is, we did not reveal our relationship to our families until we decided to marry and I don’t think that has changed today. We don’t wear religion on our sleeves," commented Samir.
Asked what Valentines Day means to them, these couples were of the unanimous belief that it is just another day where you celebrate your love for each other.
Suresh Dighe (name changed) and Geeta Sheikh (name changed), Mohammad Abdul Suaib and Akanksha Sharma and Sehar and Amitabh are also the members of Dhanak Facebook community.