Love in the time of honour killings

Marrying out of choice has always been an issue in India but as Ankit Saxena found out recently, parents are willing to kill to protect the “honour” of the family. The Delhi City Team speaks to others in the city to learn how they have dealt with interfaith and inter-caste marriages

February 12, 2018 01:25 am | Updated 09:28 am IST

On January 18, 68-year-old Suresh Iyer and 62-year-old Anita celebrated their 33rd marriage anniversary.

It was this day in 1985 when they decided to go against their families, eloped from their village in Tamil Nadu and came to Delhi.

Caste differences

Suresh is a high-class Brahmin, while Anita’s family, though economically in a better position than Suresh’s, is from a lower caste.

“He studied with my elder brother and used to come home to give me maths tuitions. That’s how we fell in love and decided to get married. I remember when I first told my mother about it, she warned me that she would bury me alive if I did not end this relationship immediately,” said Anita, who recently retired from a Central government job.

Soon after Anita’s conversation with her mother, Suresh was paid his dues and asked not to come for tuitions anymore.

As soon as Anita turned 18, the couple decided to get married and within a month took the train to Delhi.

“Falling in love outside of your social setup is easy, what follows is what requires courage. We were lucky to have come to a city where people cared less about our backgrounds. But both of us lost all contact with our families and that became a huge hurdle in the initial period of our marriage. We were all we had,” said Suresh.

The couple are now parents of two daughters, aged 30 and 27. Over the years, resentment between the two families has also dissipated.

But Suresh has not been able to revive his friendship with Anita’s brother, who still refuses to speak to him.

“We were best friends in college. After the birth of our first daughter, my family came around, but Anita’s family took a while. Even now, her brother doesn’t speak to me. He has forgiven his sister but he can’t look at me,” he said.

Matrimonial websites

The happily married couple got their elder daughter married a year ago.

“The only problem we faced while finding a match for our daughter was that we did not know what to write in the caste column on the matrimonial website. Many rejected her because she was not a ‘pure breed’. We knew that if someone truly deserved her, he had to be above all these things,” Anita said.

Unlike Suresh and Anita, today’s couples feel they are living in a society that just does not accept them.

“When I told my father that I wanted to marry a Muslim man who I had been dating for two years, his only reaction was — ‘don’t ever come back home’,” said Mehak, who found support in friends and colleagues when she decided to go for an interfaith marriage.

“My father sent me to a convent school and brought me up in a secular environment. But the minute it came to marriage, he disowned me,” she said.

Some couples said although their families have accepted their interfaith marriage, others have frowned upon them when they introduce themselves by their first name.

Fatima and Aashish, a newly married couple, said they were judged by property brokers and even landlords when they set out to find a house.

Social media groups

“We have learnt to ignore people who judge us when we introduce ourselves. What sometimes frightens us is when social media groups are formed with links to profiles calling for an attack on the couple,” said Fatima.

In another story, a Malayali Christian woman who got married to a Malayali Muslim man, said even though their parents were supportive of the relationship, they recently decided to move to Australia to get away from all issues like religion, family, church, friends and the old way of life.

“We are here to start again. India now is adopting a rather strange outlook towards interfaith couples and we thought it’s best to move out. Here, we are just two people working hard to build a life. Hopefully, the world will see and take us for just that,” said the man.

‘They stopped talking to me’

His wife said they were very clear that none of them would convert and would live together practising their own faiths.

“My church friends did have some issues and many stopped talking to me. This despite the fact that I still maintained the same church routine. I dropped out of the parish council within a few months of my marriage. I don’t observe the Muslim way of life but I do think of what religion my children would opt for,” she shared.

‘He isn’t accepted’

Going back to when it all started, a woman from Andhra Pradesh who married a Gujarati boy from a different caste, said, “When it all began, I never thought there would be any resistance from my parents. My husband is a PhD scholar, comes from a respected family and is a very balanced person who loves me. I still don’t understand why he isn’t accepted.”

She added that though she belonged to a “lower” caste, her husband’s family accepted her wholeheartedly. Nobody from her family was present at her wedding and till date her father rarely speaks to her and even her brother maintains a distance. “Things started looking up after the children were born, but my family hasn’t really made an effort, I feel. I do go home but we don’t stay there. My children love both sets of grandparents and aren’t aware of the background difference,” she said.

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