Couples in mixed, interfaith marriages recall their journey to love and be loved

Love is said to brook no barrier and leaps over fences. Couples in mixed, inter-faith marriages recall their own experience

Couples in mixed, interfaith marriages recall their journey to love and be loved


Religious differences were farthest from their mind during their courtship, admit couples in mixed marriages. It began with liking each other, progressed to enjoying each other’s company before they fell in love.

Their education and financial independence helped, they concede. It enabled them to resist pressure from family members for one of them to convert. “When two people love each other, why should one get converted,” argues Rahila. None of the couples NH spoke to (their names have been changed in this report) have converted. But the pressure on the woman to convert is always there, concedes Sultana

The domestic help had more problems with our respective religion. She was puzzled at seeing us celebrate both Diwali and Eid. She seemed relieved when we brought a Christmas tree home, recalls Sultana with a laugh.

But the couples are worried about children and how they would be able to cope with the toxicity around religion. Naming the children is a major exercise, confesses Deepika. She and Nadeem have named their son, Shabad.

Her father, when told of the marriage, was more worried about reaction of neighbours and relatives; her mother was both unhappy and apprehensive. “I remember a heated exchange when I reminded her that she always would hum the song ‘Tu Na Hindu Banega, Na Mussalman Banega, Insan ka Aulad Hai, Insaan Banega”.

Significantly, the women are unanimous that what attracted them to their partners were their sensitivity, open mind, quiet confidence and the dignified way they treated women. Hyper masculinity put them off, they say. Here are their stories:

Deepika met Nadeem at a social work organization in Gujarat where they were colleagues and found everything she always wanted in a man, qualities she thought was not possible to find in an arranged marriage.

“I found him calm, unassuming and he did not display the predictable hypermasculinity that we are becoming wary of these days,” Deepika said.

They have been in a happy relationship for about nine years now.

Sultana and Gyaneshwar is another such happy couple. Their friendship began at a renowned science institute where they both were PhD candidates. “Gyaneshwar’s soulful rendition of Urdu ghazals and poetry had made him stand out among dozens of men trying to woo me,” said Sultana. Gyneshwar belongs to a Brahmin family, and had to face a bit of resistance to his marriage to a Muslim woman but it was eventually sorted. Sultana’s family had no objection to the match.

They have now been together for over 24 years.

Rahila and Tarendra’s journey was not so smooth. Rahila comes from Bihar’s Seemanchal area, one of the most backward regions. Resisting the stereotypical life trajectory of most young girls in the area, that of incomplete education and early marriage, she insisted on pursuing higher education and went all the way to JNU to do her M. Phil. PhD.

She met Tarendra in Delhi where they both travelled to participate in a college festival representing their respective universities. As love blossomed, Rahila had to be brave and resist her family’s pressure to get married with a more “appropriate” man of her “own” community. The two secretly tied the knot. “I did not say anything to my family for seven years, we stayed separately to avoid suspicion, I did not visit home,” said Rahila.

Twelve years on, they say the relationships with their families are now normalizing bit by bit.

While Deepika’s parents were not opposed to her choice of a Muslim man, they were worried about the anti-social elements who could create a violent situation and even contemplated shifting the wedding venue out of Gujarat. In the end though, the wedding took place in front of both the couple’s family members in Baroda. “I was worried, but not scared,” said Deepika.

“We had made it clear to our families that we would have a civil marriage under the Special Marriage Act, and there will be no conversion.” Rahila said she would perhaps not been in a relationship “if there was any attempt to alter my identity of which Islam is an important part but Tarendra had no such expectations. He himself is not deeply religious.”

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