There’s a scene in Mira Nair’s A Suitable Boy that personally stood out to me. Based in a post-Independent India of the 1950s, a worrisome Hindu mother frantically questions her young daughter about the boy she’s seeing. As the tormented daughter struggles to confess that she’s dating a Muslim boy, the general discomfort and tension was palpable. Although this narrative dates back to a different age, the question of religion has been a defining factor for many marriages and relationships in the country, and often-times, a deal-breaker. Even in today’s climate, it is a topic of constant deliberation and controversy, yet there are many who go against the tide, roping in their opposing families all in the name of love. Here, we speak to three couples who took the leap as they tell us what it’s like to be in an interfaith marriage today, and how they’ve managed to find a middle ground in upholding tradition.
SHEEFA GILANI & AMAN MAROO
HOW IT STARTED
“Love story? I don’t think you can call ours that, it was more of a chance encounter. Aman and I met on the dance floor at a mutual friend’s sangeet, where we were both grooving to Salman Khan’s cheesy number – Jaanam Samjha Karo, back in 2014. I had recently moved to Bombay from London with a broken heart and Aman was already in an almost-perfect relationship. But strangely, we hit it off and what followed was six years of being best friends, nursing each other’s heartbreaks, and now being husband and wife. We’ve had our share of drama but it’s safe to say we’ve come full circle,” says Gilani.
Gilani, a fashion stylist, belongs to a Muslim family while Maroo, a businessman, comes from a conservative Marwari background. The duo dated for over a year in secrecy. When Gilani broke the news to her parents, they were sceptical and curious but gave her the green light. Maroo’s family, however, wasn’t so easily convinced.
“Up until last year, I was looking at wedding proposals that my family had in mind for me, I even ended up meeting a few suitors. Then one day something shifted and I realised that it would be pointless to not try and make this work out just because we belong to different religious communities. I asked Sheefa whether she’d consider marrying me, and as usual, she thought I was pulling one of my ‘cheap tactics’ to woo her again. Even though she agreed, my parents only knew of her as my best friend. With the help of my younger sister, we were able to share the truth with them, but my maternal grandparents (who I’m very close to) weren’t accepting of having a Muslim bahu. They made it clear that they wouldn’t attend the wedding and that I was ‘tarnishing the family’s name’. On the other hand, my paternal grandfather, who I thought would be dead against my decision too, was much more willing to listen to my point of view and have a conversation,” explains Maroo.
After convincing the elders and getting blessings from Gilani’s family, Maroo proposed to her in Agra during a weekend get-away, despite a brief courtship. The couple had always envisioned an imitate wedding for themselves but as they incorporated ceremonies and traditions from both faiths, it led to a month-long extravaganza.
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