Love that defied religious hatred and death threats, love that miraculously survived a death train during Partition, love that defeated the most deep rooted ostracism... these beautiful love stories make you believe in the unbelievable. We feature couples who had unshakable faith in their love and knew that no matter what, they would be together one day. These stories tell us that the powers of evil do not stand a chance in front of unconditional, all encompassing love. These couples reinstate our belief that hate, wrath and rage will always be vanquished, when pitted against love and goodness. Here’s to love that made the lives of ordinary people, extraordinary, with its sheer magic.
WHEN LOVE TRUMPED RELIGION: MONICA AND MUSTAFA
Ask any poet, and they’d tell you love knows no language. And, for Monica Singh and Mustafa Nouri, the verses are strewn together seamlessly. “We met when we were studying in the US, through a common friend. I was 18 and Mustafa, who’s family is from Afghanistan, was 20. When I brought him home, the response was not positive — My mother comes from an orthodox Brahmin family, and my father is a Sikh who went through Partition, so religion was a problem,” says Monica. The couple is now married for 22 years, and are parents to two teenagers, having eventually shifted base to India. And, how did they overcome the struggle? With the help of activist Swami Agnivesh, Monica’s uncle. “When my youngest sister Kamla’s daughter, Monica, met Mustafa my sister said, “Never!” He is Muslim, she can’t stay with him. When I went to the US, I met the guy and was very impressed by him. So I told my sister, don’t take the decision of marriage right now, just ask him home for tea. They called him multiple times, and they themselves fell in love with the boy!,” Swamiji told us, re-telling the story of how the pair eventually wed with an American priestess, Swami Kamla, presiding over the ceremony.
For Mustafa, love has to be accompanied by values. “There was never a moment when I had misgivings about my decision to embark on a life together with Monica. She embodies too many precious qualities for me to have wavered or doubted my decision. In all frankness, the gel that has kept us marching together is more than just love. It is the deep compatibility in thought, outlook, worldview and values, and the fact that we both came from different faith and traditions was of little significance,” he says. “Monica adds: “Once you take off the stereotype, then you realise that a person is a person! I go to the gurudwara, have a little mandir at home, and, when it’s Eid, my husband likes to take the kids to the mosque. So mutual respect is the key.” As Swami Agnivesh put it succinctly: “Universal values are the most important. Applied spirituality of truth, love, compassion and justice is vital.”
I DIDN’T LOOK FOR RELIGION IN HER NAME...
“Dange karwaoge kya? Aur bhi asaan tarikey hain marne ke...(Do you want to trigger riots? There are easier ways to die)”, This is what everyone, who knew their story, told them. Childhood friends, Afsana Bano, 22 and Malkit Singh, 24, belonged to two different religions but their hearts beat as one. Afsana’s father beat her up with an iron rod, burnt her with cigarettes and locked her in a room without food and water for days for loving a Sikh man. Her uncle planned attacking Malkit with the support of local history-sheeters, and pledged to kill the offspring from this union. The locality where the couple lived had a history of communal clashes and faint-hearted cops didn’t intervene, fearing that it would “disturb law and order.” A journalist helped them run away, got them married and ensured police protection once they returned home. The couple had a baby boy last Diwali. “I didn’t look for religion in Afsana’s name..love is the only true religion. This is what Sikhism has taught me,” says Malkit.
A shared past, no matter how painful, often becomes a powerful connector. Their tragic history often connects families that survived India-Pakistan partition. Sudesh Kumar Chhabra and Sumitra Chhabra crossed each other’s path when they took the train from Faisalabad to Delhi during the Partition in 1947. Both were young children, aged 12 and 9 respectively. Little did they know that after 13 years, they will fall in love and will be tied in the bond of marriage. It has been 58 years since then and Sudesh, now 81, and his wife Sumitra, 78, have stayed in love. Sudesh recalls the horrific time when he boarded the train. “It was a miracle that I survived. The memory of watching a sea of dead bodies in the train is still vivid. As fate would have it, my future wife was also on the same train,” he says. “Our families resided in Lyallpur (now Faisalabad) in Pakistan, and knew each other. While Sudesh’s family initially settled in a refugee camp in Delhi, my family made Jalandhar, Punjab, their new home,” recalls Sumitra. Destiny reunited them after a decade. “All that refugees talked about was who made it and who didn’t. One day, my family found out that Sudesh’s family had survived, and we decided to meet. We recalled how we had defeated death in the India bound train. We felt naturally drawn to each other, and a special bond was created. We recalled how we had survived death in that train,” says Sumitra.
“Love is about the faith that God has made that special someone for you. Love can survive anything. We were destined to meet and live together forever,” says Sudesh.
THERE’S A BABA WHO STANDS BY LOVE
You wouldn’t expect a shelter for rescued lovers to be brimming with smiles, the sound of pot and pans clinking in the kitchen, wafting with aromas of fresh cooked dal and chapatis. The peeling plaster and a lonely sherwani mark the walls. Love Commandos shelter is a home for the loved and the loveless. The soldier, Sanjoy Sachdev, fondly called Baba, who leads the battalion from the front, while rescuing these couples, is managing interviews with print and TV reporters. He punctuates our conversations with the couples with anecdotes of his own. “Would you believe that even in a place like Delhi, issues of caste and religion stand in the way of love?,” asks Sachdev. His core team is currently out on a rescue operation, and will return the next morning. The shelter is patrolled by police. “There are policemen outside. We are under protection as families can go to any extent to protect their honour,” he says. Baba takes it upon himself to get them married and safeguard their love, forever. He can be contacted at the following helpline numbers: 09313784375 and 09313550006
IF YOU LOVE, YOU FEAR NOTHING
Ajay Singh, 25, met Kavita Solanki, 23, at her cousin’s wedding in 2010. After years of courtship, they decided to get married. Her parents had already fixed her match, and to make things worse, the couple belonged to different castes. “I am an OBC and she is a Jat. Jat apne aage kisi ko samajhte hain kya,” says Ajay. Kavita refused to marry anyone, and rebelled, despite knowing that it could cost them their lives. The couple ran away from Agra and reached Delhi on December 11, last year. “The very next day, we got married in an Arya Samaj temple. When my family got to know, they beat up my husband’s friends for information. They blocked his ATM cards and started tracking his phone. We are living in hiding as our families want to kill us. But they can’t separate us. If you love, you fear nothing,” she says.
CASTE IS NOT OUR ONLY IDENTITY... FEW UNDERSTAND THIS
Priyamvad Ajaat, a Brahmin boy and Vibhavari, a Dalit girl, met while they were perusing their graduation at Allahabad University. They were introduced by common friends and in no time, the two found the perfect partner in each other. “I was drawn to his positive vibes and the work he was doing as a part of student rights activist. It was his point of view on things and open-mindedness that made a girl like me from a small town fall in love with him,” says Vaibhavari. Soon, they became sure that they wanted to live together forever. However, this was not going to be easy. “We not only had to fight our families, but also the relatives and the society.It took us almost six years to convince my parents to let us marry. My husband’s parents didn’t accept me even when we married in an Arya Samaj mandir,” recalls Vibhavari. She remembers the time when she had to hear insulting things about herself and the caste she belonged to. “ Priyamvadh’s parents used to introduce me to relatives as ‘a girl from Allahabad’ so that they don’t get to know about my caste. I’m scheduled caste and I am cool with telling this to the world. So why change it? Zaat hi insaan ki pehchaan nahi hoti par yeh har koe nahi samjhta (Caste is not the only identity, but few people understand it),” she says. In a country where a scheduled caste person is considered as ‘untouchable’ or socially disadvantaged, it was hard to deal with the pressure for the couple. But love, we know, knows no boundaries. After fighting for years, the couple is happily married today, They still face social boycott sometimes, but they have learnt to live with it. Priyamvadh and Vibhavari are now “weekend lovers” as she puts it for us. “I’m here in Delhi and he is working in Rudrapur. We meet only on weekend which is really hard for me to deal with. But Priyamvadh’s love and his company is my biggest strength,” says Vibhavari with moist eyes.
LOVE KNOWS NO RULES
Fashion stylist Prayag Menon and fashion photographer Porus Vimadalal are among the few people from the LGBTQ community who are married and living in a country where homosexuality is a crime and people are still fighting for their rights. Ask Prayag about his D-day and he gushes, “ It was the most wonderful day of my life. I was surrounded by my close friends and the man I loved.” The stylist and photographer duo got married at City Hall, New York City in June 2016. They first met in 2006 and love was a natural process that happened. There was nothing unnatural about their love, since love is love. The duo did have a tough time convincing their parents when they decided to take the next step and walk down the aisle. Their parents didn’t take long to accept their kids and supported the marriage. “Our parents saw that we will be happy together and for them our happiness is their priority,” says Prayag. “ We are lucky to have the friends/ support system that we do and being a part of the fashion industry which is progressive, welcoming and inclusive, we never felt any prejudice,” he adds.
THE ONLY CASTE THAT EXISTS IS LOVE
Ketan and Sonal Patdiya, both 24, fell in love while they were in high school in Rajkot. Ketan is a Kumhar by caste, while Sonal is a Yadav. Their families ordered them to forget each other due to the caste difference. Love made them decide otherwise and they ran away. Ketan was badly beaten up by Sonal’s brother, and his parents were labelled outcasts and forced to leave the village. Sonal’s parents traced them down to the Love Commandos shelter in Delhi, along with Gujarat police but they were married by then. They threatened the couple that they would kill them if they ever step out of the shelter. “We are not afraid. After living such hell, our love has only grown stronger. Ours is a bond forever,” says Sonal.
CONCEPT: Shara Ashraf
TEXT: Shara Ashraf, Snigdha Ahuja, Etti Bali, Abhinav Verma, Akshay Kaushal