By Natasha Badhwar
think people who dare to go in for inter-caste marriages in India are missing
the anxiety gene,” a friend commented on my Facebook post where I had shared a
story from the India Love Project, a new social media venture where the
curators encourage couples to share personal stories of love and marriage
outside the shackles of faith, caste, ethnicity and gender. This storytelling and
photo project has been launched by the journalist couple Priya Ramani and Samar
Halarnkar and their friend, Niloufer Venkatraman.
Photo for representational purpose only
Priya and I
have been friends and colleagues for a decade now. We had been travelling
together in Odisha when she had first mentioned this idea of creating an online
archive of real people’s love stories to me. Love that had defied differences
in religion, caste and class, and survived to tell the tale.
I am a
Hindu woman and my husband is a Muslim, and for me, this detail of our
religious backgrounds is the least important or interesting thing about either
of us. I remember sharing with Priya that it bothers me when we exceptionalise
these stories. In the 21st century, love across boundaries should be seen as
commonplace. I don’t want to be placed on a pedestal like an exhibit for our
Priya sent me a link to the Instagram account of India Love Project and asked
me to send three photos and 150 words, it took me less than half an hour to
respond to her. Partly because I am obedient in friendship, and partly because
I have come to realise the power of the personal story as a counter to the
narrative of hate that has muddied the skies above us and polluted the air that
sustains us as a society.
It has been
less than two weeks yet and already this project has become a vibrant space for
candid conversation, insights and solidarity. Sharing one’s story with honesty
and humour is an invitation for the audience to open up their hearts too.
Everyone wants to be heard. We need to air our fears and vulnerabilities.
Empathetic listening dissipates insecurities. It revives our courage.
In a recent
post by Vineeta Yadav and Tanvir Aeijaz, the couple share the story of naming
their daughter Kuhu. “Is that a Hindu name or a Muslim one?” they are asked.
a nightingale’s song/chirping be any religion?” the new parents reply.
what will she grow up to follow?”
to decide it herself, to follow or not to follow. Till then, it is on us that
she doesn’t let in hate for anyone. ”
comment on the post, Rupa Abdi, who has also submitted her story and photos to
the project, writes, “Your story sounds so familiar. When we announced our
marriage, one of the main concern of some of the people we knew was, ‘Will your
kids go to a mandir or a masjid?’As if that is what religion is all about!”
this exchange makes me realise the potency of simple sentences. When did we
normalise the reduction of one’s personal faith to the location of worship?
is meant to be a moral compass for us — guiding one towards love, compassion,
inclusivity and forgiveness. How did we allow religious identity to become an
excuse to hate, kill and deprive the other of their basic humanity?
As I read
the new stories on India Love Project everyday, I feel inspired and exuberant.
Subhadra Khaperde and Rahul Banerjee have had an inter-caste marriage and
describe themselves as a casteless, atheist couple fighting for a socio-economically
just and ecologically sustainable world. “The major discord between us is that
I bathe on an average only once a week,” shares Rahul.
married at the court at the old collectorate in Gheekanta,” writes TM
Veeraraghav, who is married to Salma. “Both families were in attendance, but
the ritual was a court document, the priest was the magistrate and the God, a
photo of the Mahatma on the wall.”
you turn away from love?” asks Maria Manjil, a Christian from Kerala who is
married to Sandeep Jain, a North Indian Jain. “I saw his kind heart, gentle
demeanour, intellectual compatibility, and deep affection for me. I couldn’t
let him go just because he prayed to a different God and spoke a different
Love is the
best resistance to hate. Let our stories soar like kites. Let them disperse the
joy of plurality all over our wounded land. I insist that falling in love isn’t
exceptional. Making it work is the hard part — irrespective of our identity
markers. At the end of the day, we are all hungry for connection. We all need
validation. We are all moved by love stories.
Natasha Badhwar is an author and filmmaker
Original Headline: Investing in love, across
boundaries of religion, caste, class
Source: The Tribune India
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