“When my boyfriend and I were going strong, my in-laws very happily married off their daughter to a Hindu boy. So accepting me as their daughter-in-law was not difficult for them. I am indebted to them for the rest of my life for this warm and open-minded gesture,” says Sharada Swaminathan, a Tamil Brahmin who married Liyakat Shaikh, a Muslim, roughly a decade ago.
Having grown up in a multicultural family, where my mother and father followed different religions, I have always been fascinated by the concept of inter-caste and inter-religious marriages. Very often, such marriages are the outcome of deep love between two people, who promise to stand by each other during times of joy and sorrow. I was curious to know the stories of couples that have fought against religion, traditions, family, and societal norms to marry their better halves.
“I would suggest that couples take their parents’ permission first, because I know what it feels like when your parents don’t talk to you because you went against them. I know the feeling, because I have suffered this. This is a drawback of an inter-caste marriage,” says Jayashree Gadala, 24, on how her relationship with her father changed post-marriage.
Mahesh Govle and Sneha Jadhav dated for nine years before tying the knot in May, last year. From getting to know each other, to dating, to staying away from each other, to reconciling, this couple seems to have gone through every stage of love. “I used to work as a photographer at a studio, and she used to pass it to go to the school where she used to teach. I used to ask neighbours about her, and she eventually realised what I was doing, so I told her that I want to be friends with her. We would meet outside my studio, and a year and a half later, she finally said yes,” says Mahesh Govle, on how he met Sneha, his wife and life partner.
From getting to know each other’s families and their lifestyle, to convincing her father who opposed the marriage, to being caught together on Valentine’s Day, this couple has come a long way. Their love has truly stood the test of time. But didn’t they ever consider running away and getting married? Sneha tells us, “Mahesh wanted to elope, but I was adamant that we should convince our families and only then get married. We invested nine years in this relationship, and that’s why I wanted permission from both families. If I had to run away, then I would not have invested nine years.”
Not all love stories have a completely happy ending. Satyam and Jayashree Gadala ran away and got in 2011. This South Indian-Maharashtrain couple fell in love when they met each other through a mutual friend. Today, it’s been over six years since they tied the knot, and their relationship celebrates the cultures of both Maharashtra and Hyderabad!
“In the first year, it was very difficult for me to adjust to life in Hyderabad, as I have always been a Mumbai girl. But it is quite fun to live in this city; to learn the local language, the lifestyle, and culture. Over time, I got used to it all. We follow each other’s traditions and celebrate each other’s festivals as well,” says Jayashree, who converses with her husband in Telugu, while he talks to her in Marathi. This is one of the most beautiful aspects of inter-religious marriages – the intermingling of cultures.
Couples who marry outside their caste or religion face a lot of obstacles within the home, whether it has to do with living under the same roof, or sharing a kitchen, or even adapting to the ways of their partner’s family. The compatibility seems to be very high when it comes to such couples, as the partners have almost always known each other for a long time. This was the case with Mr and Mrs Rohra, who have been married since 2006. This Sindhi-Bengali couple met each other while working at the same office, and since then, they have never looked back.
“Inter-caste marriage is a union where the couple is in love with each other; it’s the meeting of two minds, basically. Both partners know who they want to spend the rest of their lives with; they are not concerned what the rest of the world thinks about them. In a marriage of this kind, there are a lot of things to learn,” states Subhash Rohra, a 47-year-old financial consultant.
Inter-caste and inter-religious marriages start with love and end with love. It is this love that keeps the partners going through times of trials and tribulations. It helps them shed their inhibitions and fears, and inspires them to fight against a society that is unjust and unfair to anyone who will break its rules. But whoever thinks that love is easy or that marriages involve only love must think again. It’s never just about love.
“Love is an instinctive feeling. You cannot verify a person’s religion before falling in love with them. So when you do fall in love with a person of a different faith, do not hesitate to commit, and once you have committed to them, learn to respect each other’s religion and individuality. Leave them alone, respect their preferences, and make your marriage a harmonious and a successful one,” says Sharada to all young couples.