We have this burning rage over casteism, communalism, and race all around. In the macrocosm of the nation where preaching fear and hate is getting easier each passing day, we certainly believe that there are umpteen cases of these cross-cultural marriages conquering over differences and friction. We bring to you three stories of intercultural love marriage that hold the belief of a nation that was built on the grounds of love and unity.
Rahul & Subhadra
Subhadra Khaperde, my wife, is a Dalit Neo-Buddhist by birth. She is from a family of marginal farmers in Chhattisgarh, earning a precarious living making bidis to supplement a meagre income. She joined an NGO in the 1980s as a creche worker, and then became a rights activist, first in Chhattisgarh and later among Bhil Adivasis in the Dhar district of Madhya Pradesh (MP). I, on the other hand, was born in a Brahmin Hindu upper-class family. After I graduated from IIT, Kharagpur I renounced technology and began working for Adivasi rights in Dhar, MP. That is where we met.
In the course of our struggles for social justice, we fell in love. There was fierce opposition to our relationship from both families, so in 1995 we got hitched in court. My family being a Savarna family, my mother was angry that I had married a Dalit. She did not attend our love marriage, though later after our son was born, she became alright. Subhadra’s community, Mahars, ostracised her and her family for marrying out of caste. Eventually, she had to pay a fine and give a feast to the community as otherwise the family would remain ostracised. In Subhadra’s community, there have been many more out of caste marriages later. My community is still against marrying Dalits.
We have lived and worked together since. I had already become habituated to rural living as an activist, so it was no problem. Subhadra has picked up middle-class life and adjusted to it. She doesn’t know Bengali, but she loves fish and Bengali vegetables and so relishes spending time in Kolkata. We are a casteless atheist couple fighting for a socio-economically just, and ecologically sustainable world.
Ashraf and Arjun
I met Ashraf in 1988 when I was doing my post-graduation in Management from XLRI, Jamshedpur. We were in the same batch, but we didn’t start going out until we were in our second year. We decided to get hitched in 1992. Our parents didn’t object to our decision of getting married, as both sides of our families themselves had married out of love. Ashraf’s father was a Sunni Muslim, and her mother was a Hindu Jain. Even my parents, who were both Hindus, had an inter-regional love marriage. One was from Rajasthan and the other from Punjab, Pakistan. Although, when we were trying to get registered ourselves in court, we did receive a fair share of hate-filled letters from random strangers.
During our honeymoon, in Andaman, Babri Masjid demolition took place. Everything became immediately chaotic. It reminded us of the 1984 riots. That’s when we decided to establish our very own organization, ‘Pravah’. Since communal hate was increasingly becoming part of our narratives, we were determined to stir the minds of our youth in the right direction of creating effective social change. Our work, just like our marriage, has been 28 years strong.
Since we both already come from liberal backgrounds accepting each other’s culture was not at all a big deal. Little things like Ashraf’s mother learning to cook meat for us on certain occasions, and her father going out and giving Diwali gifts to his friends, are the anecdotes that tell us to live life like our parents who accepted each other’s differences with great reverence. They were the ones who had to fight for each other, making it far easier for our love to bloom. It is their stories that make us stand tall regardless of the conditions we face.
Jimmy & Janak
James (Jimmy) R. McGilligan, my late husband grew up in Garvagh, Northern Ireland. Leaving his home country and his business, he came to India to volunteer in response to a call from the Bahá’í World Centre in 1986. Jimmy and I met on 16 October 1988 and were married 27 November 1988, in Chandigarh. We gave a lot of cultural shocks to each other. He was Irish and, I was hardcore Punjabi. But I feel none of these things came in our way because we had shared Bahai values of service, and we respected each other. And that is all that matters in love marriage.
He started working with me at the Barli Development Institute for Rural Women, Indore. We started our marriage in service together in a one-room apartment in the dormitory of the Institute. He built the solar kitchen at the Institute, innovated many other environmentally friendly solar technologies, and transferred and promoted alternative sources of energy technologies to more than 500 villages and many countries around the globe. This made him very popular, and in November 2008 he was awarded the Order of the British Empire (OBE) by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II for his ‘services to social causes and the use of alternative energy in rural communities in India’
He loved and enjoyed it all – especially when thousands of tribal people and the Institute staff popularly called him ‘jeejaji’ (brother-in-law/sister’s husband ). He used to be so proud of being Jeejaji and told people “ I married Janak and married half of India.” I lost Jimmy to a very tragic road accident on 21 April 2011. I moved to the village where Jimmy had been working to complete our dream house. Now I live here along with our adopted family Nanda, Rajender and their children Sunil and Raveena.