The session starts in the context of the ‘Love Jihad’. Two couples- Natasha and Ashraf, and Sadaf and Yatin, were being interviewed by Samar Halarnkar. Samar Halarnkar begins the session by asking Natasha and Ashraf about how their relationship changed- from the time that it had begun, until today.
Afzal responds first. Change, he said, was more personal. There was no government involvement. You could take support from the administration. They were not the enemy of the social figure back then. At the time the relationship began, Ashraf and Natasha were scared of their parents first, before they began fearing the government.
Ashraf’s parents were not concerned about his marriage. Ashraf kept delaying getting married, and his parents had given up on him. As long as Ashraf got married, they were okay with anyone marrying him. He faced no resistance from them. Natasha, on the other hand, faced a different response from her parents. Her father was very adamant in what he thought- she could marry anyone, but not a Muslim. When the two had started dating, Natasha was concerned if they were doing the right thing.
Samar refers to a picture on the page of India Love Project- a picture of Sadaf and Yatin’s mothers holding each other’s hands had become very popular.
As Sadaf begins to respond about their relationship, she suddenly exclaims, “Don’t nudge me under the table!!” Sadaf and Yatin laugh as Sadaf continues to tell the story about their relationship. Her family is from Lucknow. “My mom told me it’s important to find love.” It was easier for Sadaf to talk to her mom. Her father, however, was against the marriage and only wanted a Muslim husband for Sadaf. She described her father as soft-spoken, but still his “no” was quite affirmative. He understood the differences in opinion between him and Sadaf, so he suggested Sadaf and her father to “part ways”. Sadaf thought of it as nonsense- she kept trying to convince him for a year.
Refering to the popular picture, a Sadaf added how the couple’s mothers had become very close. Yatin’s family were okay with the marriage, and their mothers had started to bond. The photo had been taken last year. Samar then inquired about Natasha’s daughters, and how she introduced them to topics like religion.
For the longest time, Natasha and Ashraf hadn’t spoken about religion with their three children. Their children’s first question about their identity was if they were Pakistanis. Being a Pakistani, Natasha argued, had become a slur, that was the result of all the discriminatory depictions of Muslims. The children began to engage with politics due to the mainstream media and their depictions. Natasha and Ashraf have three children, who all dwell on their mixed identity of being having a Hindu parent as well as a Muslim one. Their two children, Natasha says with pride, have recently started getting curious about their father’s religious prayers. They have started to fast, and even pray with him. Natasha and Ashraf would like them to have an identity that is reflective of both the religions.
Both the couples discussed their opinion on Love Jihad. Sadaf commented on how, while it’s not openly practised by her family, there was always the little ways in which her religion would be hidden away. Her surname itself- Chowdhary, did not bring in any religious connotations, and kept her Hindu in-laws happy.
Love Jihad, and its entire concept is not funny anymore, both parties agree. They discussed about how the government’s involvement in their relationship has become very problematic. However, it was a fun, filled session with inter-religious anecdotes and personal reflections on marriage, and gave an interesting insight towards the India Love Project.
About the Author: Anusha is a final year undergraduate student pursuing English Hons at Christ University. She can usually be found expressing her thoughts in the genres of social concerns and satires, often accompanied with a cup of chai. She currently writes for TheSeer.