11 Couples Tell Us What It's Like Being In An Interfaith Marriage In India - Homegrown

11 Couples Tell Us What It's Like Being In An Interfaith Marriage In India

After watching Jodha Akbar; a Bollywood film based on the legendary love story between a Muslim Mughal Emperor and a Hindu Rajput Princess my family’s consensus was that the movie was an evocative depiction of love and well worth the overpriced tickets we had paid for the show. In an urge to play the devil’s advocate I asked my father that if his sentiments for the film were in agreement to the rest of the family’s then he would possibly not have any objections to me bringing a Muslim shauhar; Urdu for husband, home. My father, who had been brought up in a traditional Marwari household and had tried, to the best of his ability, to give his children a liberal upbringing, was not amused. To his relief I didn’t compel him to answer.

While my anecdote isn’t ideal, it isn’t shocking. In a country founded on secular grounds after being partitioned on religious ones, fraught with acts in varying degrees of violence when religious and caste laws are trespassed; the institution of marriage can hardly be a private affair. Interfaith couples in India have antonyms to describe their love; strong or stupid, reckless or courageous. Why so? It’s because religious fascism is so deeply interwoven in the fabric of our society that to spend the rest of your life with someone whose Gods or traditions differ from your own becomes a virtue or a sin, depending on which side of the progressive spectrum you stand.

While compiling this article we came across stories where love has fought the divisive nature of religion with fortitude, many a time with irreparable consequences. While the more recent interfaith love stories have transformed initial familial prejudice to acceptance with minor hiccups, the rare absolutely smooth sailing interfaith union was a pleasant surprise to most of us. Though the many interfaith couples who requested anonymity and many who withdrew after initially volunteering to share their story, even after years of surpassing the struggles to their union, left us imagining that perhaps the wars fought with faith and caste even where love has the last say, may leave open wounds and the persistent fear of further societal scrutiny.

Here are the stories of 11 Indian Interfaith/Caste couples who bravely broke the laws of love prescribed to them so that they could spend the rest of their lives with the person they truly cherished.

I. Rajkumar Emmanuel and Anjum Kazi

“We never let three factors; society, religion and money ever affect our relationship.”

50-year-old Rajkumar was born in a Maharashtrian family from Pune but after being orphaned he was adopted by a Christian family and 47-year-old Anjum was born to a Muslim family. The former is a senior officer for corporate communication while the latter the administration head for a multinational company. They both grew up and currently live in Baroda. They were married in the year 1991.

How They Met

“I met her in the first year of college. At first we were just good friends in a larger group of common friends. Our friendship was devoid of the distinct sense of gender difference that was not uncommon in that day and age. However over time I developed feelings for her and proposed one day. But she accepted only after three years. This was because Anjum wanted to get married only when she was confident that both of us could support ourselves and give our future children a good family life.”

The Objections And The Opposition

“There was a time before our marriage that I had taken Anjum home for Christmas. At the time we had about two hundred guests at my house. In the absence of my mother, Anjum served all the guests from morning till evening as if it were her own house. I think that was one instance from when my father had accepted Anjum as his future daughter-in-law. Even though Anjum’s father was fond of me he would not accept me as his son-in-law. He had certain prejudices against Christians; he felt they indulged in drinking and partying a lot, notions popularised through Bollywood cinema! I assured him that that was not the case with my character but he would not accept our union, though he appreciated the ethical way in which I had asked his daughter’s hand in marriage as opposed to eloping. Moreover, Anjum had two younger sisters and her father was worried that if one of the daughters married out of the community with family support the marriage offers for the other two sisters might be jeopardized. At the end Anjum’s father allowed our marriage on a condition–he and no other member of his family would be part of the wedding. So in an atmosphere of great hostility from Anjum’s family, we had a court marriage.”

True Acceptance

“The turning point in our lives for acceptance from Anjum’s family was when my father-in-law passed away and from amongst her other siblings and their spouses we were the only ones who volunteered to have my mother-in-law move into our house and take responsibility for her care. That is when all those who criticised us for creating a scandal by marrying outside of our respective religions were forced to retrospect on their narrow mindedness. Since then things have been for the better.”

The Relationship With Faith After Marriage

“We have a very syncretic culture at home. There is a picture of Jesus Christ hung on my wall, I even go to the masjid to ask for duas for my loved ones and also often sing at Dussera gatherings!”

The Compromises Made And The Present Situation

“With love and patience, we have won over most of the people who opposed our marriage. In fact when I go to Anjum’s family’s social functions her relatives are always keen to meet us more than they want to meet her other siblings. This acceptance has only come because Anjum and I both never regarded religion as a divisive factor in our relationship.”

Advice To Other Interfaith/Caste Couples

“The secret to the success of our marriage was that we were absolutely dead sure that no matter what difficulties arose we wanted to spend the rest of our lives together. Secondly we never let three factors; society, religion and money ever affect our relationship. That is why we stand strong and united today.”

Image Credit: Rajkumar Emmanuel
Image Credit: Rajkumar Emmanuel

II. Sajid Khan and Lalitha Krishnakumar

“We were both brought up in a secular kind of upbringing but when it came to marriage it quickly became communal.”

45-year-old Sajid was born in a Muslim family is the country manager for South African Airways. Having grown up in Mumbai he worked for nine years in the Middle East and now resides in Mumbai. Lalitha was born in a Hindu Brahmin family and worked for Jet Airways, Times Of India, and also ran her successful business in eCommerce before her marriage and later headed recruitments in the Middle East for a digital agency. They were married in the year 2001.

Lalitha passed away eight years ago and Sajid shares the story of their marriage…

How They Met

“I met Lalli in college. She was a typical South Indian studious girl who would sincerely attend all her lectures and write neat notes with an ink pen. She was the first to sit for a lecture and the first to go home when it ended. On the other hand I was the complete opposite; more likely to be found in the canteen than in class! So our love story only had a head start when we both attended the same management college after graduation. I always thought she was an extremely pretty girl but way out of my league! Since we knew each other from college we ended up spending a considerable amount of time together after classes. Though we loved being with each other we were hesitant of a possible future together. It was only on a trip together to Pune did we realise that we couldn’t ignore the intensity of our affection for each other and that love knows no boundaries of maturity, logic or common sense. It just happens.”

The Objections And The Opposition

“A Hindu Brahmin household would never accept a Muslim and vice-versa. The arguments involved insipid reasoning; our different food habits, religion and society’s opinion. It seemed like an impossible task to convince both the families, especially my family patriarch–my grandfather. But finally after eight years of a long courtship when it was evident to both sides of the family that Lalli and I would not budge from our decision to be together we were married.”

True Acceptance

“The acceptance was easy from both families for us after marriage and eventually they figured out how to accept each other as well by putting their children’s happiness before themselves. The families began to see each other on festivals and birthdays; growing strong each year. Even though Lalli is not with us anymore she is still that bond that keeps us all together.”

The Children’s Faith

“After some uncertainty we eventually agreed that we would teach our children both religions and then let them decide what they want to follow. However, as time passed we realised that there was no reason to choose one religion over the other. Our daughter Ahanah is now 14 and and she enjoys the festivities of both Hinduism and Islam.”

The Relationship With Faith After Marriage

“Lalli always made it a point to celebrate festivals of both the religions. For eid and diwali she would make sure we all dressed up in the respective traditional clothes. Though once in an attempt to keep a religious balance I very stupidly, insisted that our daughter should not wear a bindi because that’s not a neutral religious aesthetic between us. Some years later, when our daughter was was about three or four years old I could no longer take her to the mosque with me in the men’s section and she could not go the ladies’ section unaccompanied. To my amazement, when I shared this dilemma with Lalli, she voluntarily learnt some basic duas (Muslim prayers) by heart and then taught them to our daughter. That is the day I realised that our marriage was built on love which was far more powerful and enriching than the power of any religion.”

Advice To Other Interfaith/Caste Couples

“A marriage requires a tremendous amount of love and respect and there is no space for religion in it.”

Image Credit: Sajid Khan
Image Credit: Sajid Khan

III. Surya Yadav and Shilpa Lewis

“To grow strong with your partner you might have to work very hard to make your relationship work.”

37-year-old Shilpa was born in a typical Mangalorean Roman Catholic family while 40-year-old Surya was born in a traditional Hindu Brahmin family from Uttar Pradesh. The former works in the IT department while the latter is a self-employed businessman. Born and brought up in Mumbai they presently reside in the same city. They were married in the year 1990.

Shilpa shares the story of their marriage...

How They Met

“We met in Rizvi College, Mumbai. He was my best friend’s boyfriend’s close friend, so I ended up being around him a lot. At first I disliked him because I thought he had an attitude problem; I felt he was a ‘Daddy’s spoilt brat. But with time, the more I began to get to know him, I realised that he was pure-hearted. Once we fell for each other we dated for a year and a half; often bunking college and visiting hill stations together to spend more time with each other. When college came to an end for Surya, we realised we had to make a decision about our future for once he joined the family business he would not be able to make the time to see me and coming from a family of seven sisters, I knew I would be married off soon enough too. That’s when we decided to get married.”

The Objections And The Opposition

“Both Surya’s and my family were dead against our union. My father worked in Saudi Arabia and wasn’t home to have a say in the matter and for my mother it was pretty clear from the very beginning that marriage was only suppose to be within the community, even Goan Catholics or Christians were out of the question! Surya’s family opposed the marriage because they felt Catholic women were too modern; wearing dresses, drinking, dancing and being financially independent–things which were in my culture both natural and accepted with respect as opposed to being objectionable.”

True Acceptance

“Our marriage was never accepted by either of our families. We had to elope and were married in court. My mother disowned me. Apart from refusing to even see my face she also often walked out of family parties and festive gatherings if I was present so even my siblings and relatives were indirectly forced to cut ties with me. Even when my first child was born and as a young working, struggling mother I approached my mother for help and support, she denied it to me. It was only when my father returned from Saudi Arabia because he was ailing and wished to see all his daughters and grandchildren, my mother accepted my marriage and my children. This was eleven years after being completely distant from her. Today things are vastly different. My mother has grown extremely fond of my husband and also admits to having wronged me at a time I needed my support. We are learning to give our relationship a new life.

Surya’s family did everything in their capacity to break our marriage. They cut off his income from the family business, kept him at his native place for months together in an endeavour to deny me my husband’s support when I was pregnant with my first child. I was often abused over the phone by my sister-in-law while my father-in-law sent a lawyer to our house in Mumbai through whom he demanded that Surya and I mutually agree to a divorce. Emotionally manipulated by his family, Surya wanted to give in too, but I held on. While Surya and my relationship ultimately grew stronger after this tumultuous time, despite my best of efforts his family has still not accepted my children and me.”

Interfaith Marriage For Children

“We would never stand in our child’s way if they wanted to marry out of the community. Though I can’t say Surya would be comfortable with marriage in any community. However, the most important traits we think our children’s future partners should have is a good heart, healthy lifestyle and financial independence which are far more important than religion.”

Image Credit: Shipla Lewis
Image Credit: Shipla Lewis

IV. Ashraf Hussain and Kareena Gadiali

“I think religion has surpassed the expiry date of whatever validity it possessed in the past.”

41-year-old Ashraf was born in a Muslim family while 43-year-old Kareena was born in a Parsi household. They both grew up in Mumbai and currently live in the city itself. The former is a headhunter in recruitment and also in the process of setting up an animal hospital while the latter used to work at the sales department in Vogue. They were married in 2001.

Ashraf shares the story of their marriage..

How They Met

“Kareena was my best friend’s sister’s very close friend. We practically grew up in the same house but it was only when we went to the same college, Jai Hind at Churchgate did we feel romantically attracted to each other. We realised we were both liberal thinkers and had common interests such as a love for wildlife and travel. From then on we dated for the next eight-nine years before we decided to get married.”

The Objections And The Opposition

“Both our families were liberal, even though my parents are religious and follow Islam, we never faced any opposition when it came to our union.”

The Childrens’ Faith

“My wife and I are atheists. I was always resistant to religion whenever religion was brought to me. I did not like preconceived notions people have with religious identity and I did not want to be prey to any kind of stereotyping. So our daughter Hayden; the name being deliberately sans religious connotations does not follow any religion. Whatever she knows of religion is through her learning in school and her friends. At home, we try to instill in her the values of kindness and generosity which we think are essential to all religions. However, later in her life if she wishes to follow any particular faith we will not stand in her way.”

The Relationship With Faith After Marriage

“Faith was never something that Kareena and I spoke about before or after marriage. We just knew we wanted to be with each other regardless of what faith we belonged to. We both view religion as a divider as opposed to a harmoniser. I think religion has surpassed the expiry date of whatever validity it possessed in the past.”

Advice To Other Interfaith/Caste Couples

“I think one has to first be sure about about where your heart lies; in faith or in the person. If the former is the priority then you stand strong as a couple to whatever society throws at you.”

Image Credit: Ashraf Hussain
Image Credit: Ashraf Hussain

V. Saahil Memon And Gauri Rege

“No matter how tough it gets, if both partners just stand by each other, they can conquer anything.”

27-year-old Gauri was born in a typical Maharashtrian household while her 27 year-old partner Saahil was born to a Muslim father and South Indian Brahmin mother. The Mumbai based couple are practicing lawyers and live in Parel, Mumbai. They were married in 2016.

Gauri shares the story of their marriage….

How They Met

“Saahil and I met in Rizvi Law College almost a decade ago. We became best friends and have stayed so for over a year. After our first year in Rizvi, I shifted to a law school in Bangalore, but instead of taking a step back from each other’s life we ended up dating and being in a long distance relationship for the next five years! Despite all the obstacles that distance brings with it we surpassed them all and ended up falling more and more in love with each passing year.”

The Objections And The Opposition

“I hail from a typical maharashtrian Shiv Sena supporter kind of family. Forget someone marrying a Muslim, our family barely knew any Muslims. My family, though full of very kind and loving people, carried with it some age old inhibitions regarding interfaith unions and it was my responsibility to bring about the change in perspective. When I first broke the news to my parents, a huge drama unfolded. They felt betrayed and asked me to end my relationship. I was quite firm that I would never do that. So that left them with no option but to concede and at least attempt to get to know Saahil’s family. Although Saahil’s mother was a Hindu, they knew eventually my name would have a Muslim title to it and that’s what perturbed them. They were scared to face all the questions society would ask them. But slowly and steadily our love and Saahil’s confidence and persistence won over my family. Through all the fights, misunderstandings he never gave up on me. He was always there to make me laugh through it all.”

True Acceptance

“Considering the fact that my parents love Saahil more than they love me now, I can safely say our relationship has been truly accepted. Even Saahil’s family has given me unconditional love and made me feel like I am one of them. From our grandparents to all our cousins, they all admire us for our courage.”

The Relationship With Faith After Marriage

“We both follow our respective religions and have also simultaneously adopted aspects of each others’ faiths. Now we have twice as many celebrations and festivals; twice as much love to help us through life!”

Image Credit: Gauri Rege
Image Credit: Gauri Rege

VI. Rakesh Sharma And Amita Kaur

I lost my desire to follow my faith for many years and felt my husband’s faith was just easier to accept.”

Rakesh was born in a Hindu household while Amita was born to a Sikh family. (The names of the contributors have been changed to protect their identity.)

Amita shares the story of their marriage....

How They Met

“We met in the first year of college. But we were very good friends before we became partners. Through the five years of college, we dated each other, but we weren’t always consciously thinking about a future together. After witnessing an incident together where both our lives were threatened, we decided that we wanted to be together for the rest of our lives.”

The Objections And The Opposition

“Rakesh’s parents were reasonable about our decision; they believed that their son was the best judge when it came to choosing his life partner. On the other hand, for my parents, getting married to Rakesh was absolutely unacceptable. They were angry, manipulative and sarcastic when it came to any open, logical conversation about my marriage. Though it was mainly my father who opposed the union. While bizarre and deceptive arguments, mainly against my in-laws were put forward to prevent my marriage no one ever openly admitted that it was my future husband’s religion that my family had a problem with. Why? My father did not want to appear narrow-minded but behind the closed doors of home, that was the heart of the issue. Even my own mother (the classic house-wife) couldn’t stand up to my father. She only advised me to run away if I wanted to marry Rakesh, for she was sure it would never happen with my father’s blessings.”

True Acceptance

“After marriage, my husband’s parents welcomed me with open arms and it has been that way ever since. With my family, however, our relationship only turned worse until it became non-existent. They didn’t want to keep any contact with me. I even asked for the help from some of the senior people in the family at the time (who I knew would have influence on the issue) but they refused to intervene.”

The Relationship With Faith After Marriage

“I willingly adopted so much of my husband’s culture. Culture is all about family. My family had completely abandoned me and consequently pushed me away from all my childhood cultural associations with my faith. A decade of very painful insight and reflection on those events followed. It took me years to recover and when I did, slowly I found comfort in my Sikh culture and traditions. This made me find my identity and perhaps build some new memories around the old painful ones.”

The Compromises Made And The Present Situation

“My parents did not communicate with me over a decade and a half because of my marriage. I drowned myself in following my career and bringing up a young family. I finally went to see my father when he was ailing, and after that he passed away. Now my family seems mostly amicable towards me and finally my children have found their long lost cousins and I am not letting that go any time soon.”

Marriage Then And Now

“My father accepted my sibling’s inter-caste marriage which happened a few years after mine. Perhaps my family would have accepted mine if I wasn’t the first to marry outside the community; the price for being the oldest I guess.”

Advice To Other Interfaith/Caste Couples

“If I was to re-write my story again I would still have done the same thing – married the man I loved and respected , followed my education and my dreams and above all and believed in the richness and positivity of life. However, I think I paid a big price for it.”

VII. Simran Duggal and Jimmy George

“You are the best person to pick your better-half.”

25-year-old Simran was born in a Punjabi family while Jimmy was born to a Syrian Christian Malayali family. The former is a digital media planner and was brought up in Jaipur while the latter a brand manager was brought up in Ahmedabad. They both currently live in Mumbai. They will be married in 2018.

How They Met

“I was doing my post-graduation in digital marketing at Northpoint Centre Of Learning in Khandala in 2013 and Jimmy was taking a break from his job and doing a course there in market research. Towards the end of the course, we had to do a mandatory internship, for which we were both looking for a house in Mumbai. Neither of us could find a house that was close to our workplace as well as suited our needs. When a friend at Northpoint offered us their spare house on rent we happily moved in. After we started living together we began to spend more time together and a few months later we started dating.”

The Objections And The Opposition

“Jimmy’s parents had absolutely no objection, in fact they were only too happy that he’d finally found somebody at his age, (32) who accepted him for the person he is; his past was marked with a certain degree of notoriety! My parents on the other hand were a little skeptical on several grounds – the difference in age, religion and language being some of them. But after meeting him a couple of times and with confidence and trust in my choice, they realised he is a genuine guy that truly loves me.”

True Acceptance

“Although we aren’t married yet, there were a few challenges we faced from Jimmy’s other relatives who expected me to convert to Christianity so we could get accepted by the Church and the community. They put tremendous pressure on his parents and him, but he stood up for me and put his foot down; he believed that forcing religious conversion on me was both ridiculous and meaningless and his parents supported his decision.”

Interfaith Marriage For Children

“We hope to raise our kids with an absolutely liberal mindset – insignificant barriers like religion, culture, and age will hold no meaning for our acceptance of their choices. In marriage you need to be a team, complete each other not just romantically but also complement each other’s personal growth.”

Advice To Other Interfaith/Caste Couples

“Don’t let a community mould your identity, make your decisions, or pick your life partner; a person who is suppose to be your better half.”

Image Credit: Simran Duggal
Image Credit: Simran Duggal

VIII. Dushyant Somani and Puja Seth

“Our parents were just happy that we were finally getting married!”

42-year old Dushyant was born in a typical Marwari family while 37 year-old Pooja was born in a Punjabi household. The former is a self-employed businessman while the latter is a freelance interior-decorator. They both grew up in Mumbai and presently reside in the same city. They were married in the year 2009.

Puja shares the story of their marriage….

How They Met

“We had seen each other around; especially at the CCI Club where we both are members but we first had a conversation at a common friend’s party. We kept in touch after that and when we found that we both were attracted to each other and looking to get married soon we decided to seal the deal!”

The Objections And The Opposition

“We faced no opposition. I think that was mainly because Dushyant and I were in our thirties when we decided to get hitched; an age group that Indian society considers well past the expiry date of the ‘marriageable age’; so our parents were just happy that we had finally found a partner for ourselves.”

True Acceptance

“I was well accepted in Dushyant’s family after marriage. Though we did come from different ethnic communities but because we lived in the same demographic area; South Bombay our lifestyles were very similar and thus there very little adjustments I had to make as a new bride in a joint family. I was always given a choice if I wanted to imbibe and follow the traditions of my husband’s community.”

The Relationship With Faith After Marriage

“During the first couple of years of marriage I was quite enthusiastic about learning and following the traditions of my husband’s community. Now it’s just a way of life.”

The Compromises Made And The Present Situation

“There were no compromises as such our marriage had to undergo. The present situation is just like it was before; a happy married life with family support from both sides!”

IX. Abhishek Shetty And Foram Mehta

“Having a faith is important, as long as it’s practical not blind.”

35-year-old Foram was born in a Gujarati house while 37 year-old Abhishek was born in a Mangalorean family. The former a retail manager and the latter a business manager in hospitality, they were both brought up in Mumbai and presently live in Melbourne. They were married in the year 2008.

Foram shares the story of their marriage...

How They Met

“I met Abhishek in college. He was a popular face in college extra-curricular activities and we interacted through this common interest of ours. Though at first we were only good friends who spent a lot of time with each other; talking, working and eating together! It was Abhi who finally confessed his romantic interest in me and though I reciprocated his feelings I was hesitant; I knew that my father would never accept the idea of me having a boyfriend. But ultimately I gave in to my feelings. Our dating life wasn’t a conventional one because the strict curfews I had at home. Abhi and I would get to spend an hour each day together and it was only after he gifted me my first mobile phone that I was able to speak to him over the phone; secretly at night! In 2004 after four years of dating I moved to Melbourne to pursue further studies and then after one and a half years of being in a long distance relationship Abhi moved to Melbourne to be with me. We were married soon after that.”

The Objections And The Opposition

“Both our parents; surprisingly even my father, did not have any objections to our inter-caste marriage. It was only Abhi’s grandfather who couldn’t reconcile with the fact that Abhi would be leaving the family business and moving to Melbourne. Unfortunately he seldom spoke to Abhi after that.”

True Acceptance

“We have gained acceptance from the day our parents found out about our relationship. There was no fuss and everyone seemed happy and supportive about our union.”

The Relationship With Faith After Marriage

“Abhi and I both still follow our respective faiths. For us having a faith is important, as long as it’s practical not blind faith. Faith is an important part of who we are and has helped bind us together and will help us with our family in the future.”

Advice To Other Interfaith/Caste Couples

“Learn to value people and not religion as a decisive factor.”

Image Credit: Foram Shetty
Image Credit: Foram Shetty

X. Wasim Khan and Karishma Shahani

I think once we got through the long distance both our families knew that our bond couldn’t be broken due to societal expectations.”

39-year-old Wasim was born to a Muslim family in Jamshedpur while 30-year-old Karishma was born in a Hindu household in Pune. The couple are both designers and now live in Pune. They were married in the year 2011.

Karishma tells the story of their marriage....

How They Met

“We met in Pune while I was completing a diploma in fashion design. Wasim is nine years older than me and he would come in to give us feedback on certain projects. We also had a few common friends due to which we would see each other often. There was always so much to talk about. And I think it was this that really kick started our relationship.”

The Objections And The Opposition

“Initially people weren’t exactly thrilled about our union. We’ve always been very open with our families about our lives so we had met each other’s families early in our relationship. We were together for six years before we got married of which three years were long-distance while I was studying in London. I think once we got through the long distance, both our families saw that there was something there that couldn’t just be broken due to societal expectations. Also these years of interaction with each other’s families helped them see us for who we were and remove any pre-conceived notions based on religion, that they might have had. There was a lot of conversations and explaining to do but more to extended family than our parents, when we finally decided that we wanted to get married. I feel time really helped us.”

True Acceptance

“We as a couple have come to realise that at times in the process of gaining acceptance you tend to get lost along the way because you try to be someone that you are not. So now, we maintain the middle ground by being respectful to situations and emotions that come our way with respect to our diverse cultures.”

The Children’s Faith

“We just know that we wish to expose our son Zayn to respect people for their choices and just be a good human being, which is the essence of every religion. We teach him what we understand of our respective faiths and don’t impose anything on him.”

The Compromises Made And The Present Situation

“We have faced unnecessary reactions from lots of people from our various interactions. One of the biggest tasks was when I was applying for the addition to my name for my documents after marriage. The things people said and did were shocking. It really upset me to realise that one is more often than not judged for what one’s name sounds like rather than the person one is.”

Advice To Other Interfaith/Caste Couple

“Don’t allow opinions of others to alter your relationship or your expectations.”

Image Credit: Karishma Shahani Khan
Image Credit: Karishma Shahani Khan

XI. Murali Sivaraman and Jaishri Bavishi

“When you care for family values any religious barrier can be broken. Ultimately relationships survive; the rest is superfluous.”

Murali was born in a traditional Tamilian Brahmin family in Calcutta while Jaishri was born in a Jain household in Bombay. The former works in the growth field for Phillips and the latter has worked in advertising and education and she reinvents her career path as often as she can. The couple who are now in their fifties, presently live in Singapore. They were married in 1991.

Jaishri shares the story of their marriage...

How They Met

“We met at a common friend’s party. Initially I thought Murali was strange; he smoked a pipe and I hated that! In fact we are absolutely unlike each other! From professional sensibilities to our taste in music and film we are poles apart. But somehow we know how to have a great time together and I think that’s what drew us to each other in the first place and that’s what keeps us together even today!”

The Objections And The Opposition

“The resistance from my family was comparatively less as opposed to Murali’s family. That’s because Tamilians, especially the Brahmins are extremely religious with various rituals accompanying their lifestyle. While I was brought up in a religion that has more to do with the self and little with rituals. So naturally, my husband’s family was concerned whether or not I would be able to adjust with their family set-up.”

True Acceptance

“My family had accepted Murali soon for they saw how happy I was with him. For a woman it’s just not that easy. She must assimilate with the family before true acceptance. Though after my husband’s family saw that I was someone who was strong on maintaining familial relations with my small but significant gestures they accepted me with open arms. From then on I have always had their love and support.”

The Children’s Faith

“When we had a daughter my husband would tell her stories from Hindu mythology and I imbibed Jain principles in her through stories from my religion in an effort to expose her to both our faiths but never in a way to influence her. We both had decided that our daughter would be given full freedom to choose her religious or spiritual path. While we are pure vegetarians our daughter eats non-vegetarian food, so you can understand when we mean it’s really her choice!”

The Relationship With Faith After Marriage

“Murali and I both came from families where our respective religion were followed very meticulously. But when we moved in together leaving our respective homes we let go of a lot of these religious prescriptions. I stopped fasting and Murali stopped wearing the Brahmin holy thread. Not because either one of us had a problem with the other’s religion but because away from home, the traditions of our faiths were no longer that significant.”

The Compromises Made And The Present Situation

“I made compromises but just to a small extent-when I met my husband’s family I wear the mangalsutra, traditional clothes and followed rituals even though I didn’t believe in any of them. It was just to make the family happy and I don’t regret it because at the end of the day family matters very much to me.”

Marriage Then And Now

“There would definitely be much less opposition if I were to get married today. That’s because people have evolved; they see the shortness of life and the loneliness that comes with it when you don’t have a partner and then people who can keep you happy become far more important than religion.”

Advice To Other Interfaith/Caste Couples

“When you care for family values any religious barrier can be broken. Ultimately relationships survive; the rest is superfluous.”

Image Credit: Jaishri Sivaraman
Image Credit: Jaishri Sivaraman

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