Celebrating love outside the shackles of faith caste, ethnicity and gender

The India Love Project aims to counter communally divisive narratives around marriages by profiling couples who dared to break the mould

Updated - November 11, 2020 02:10 pm IST

Published - November 11, 2020 07:38 am IST

The wedding story of Daniela Menichella and Raj Awatramani written by their daughter is one of the many stories featured on India Love Project.

The wedding story of Daniela Menichella and Raj Awatramani written by their daughter is one of the many stories featured on India Love Project.

At a time when social media is inundated with communally divisive narratives around inter-faith marriages, when politicians are talking about “love jihad laws”, and when a jewellery brand pulled back an advertisement depicting such a union after public outrage, three journalists are showcasing examples of unions that are not constrained by traditional boundaries.

The ‘India Love Project’ (ILP) features stories of love and marriage outside the shackles of faith, caste, ethnicity and gender. Founded by Priya Ramani, Samar Halarnkar and Niloufer Venkatraman and launched around a fortnight ago, it comprises 150-word stories and pictures of couples on its Instagram and Facebook handles. Couples share the struggles, fights and prejudice they faced to get married.

The vignettes depict how beautifully binaries co-exist in relationships and homes. One of the stories is of Daniela Menichella and Raj Awatramani, which was written by their daughter. It begins by how a cross tucked by the front door of the house faces a painting of Krishna on the west wall.

Explaining how the project started, Ms. Ramani says that while they had been tossing the idea for a while, they started discussing it actively last year after politicians started spreading hate on interfaith marriage. But they did not launch it given the amount of effort and time a website would take to set up.

“After we saw the bullying that Tanishq was subjected to because of an inter-faith advertisement, and feeling disheartened at the way the company immediately withdrew its ad, we decided we had to launch ILP as soon as possible. We adopted a millennial entrepreneur strategy and launched it on the fly without thinking of all the details,” she said.

Ms. Ramani says, through their project, they are hoping to change the toxic conversation around love and marriage, and bring back that warm, fuzzy feeling associated with love.

Although the government had last year stated in Parliament that love jihad was not a legally recognised term and does not exist, Mr. Halarnkar says it has been weaponised and normalised to the point that people believe it is a legitimate national concern. “We believe this fake narrative must be countered. What better way to combat something that is fake with something that is real. Nothing could be more real than the lovely, inspiring stories landing on our page,” he said.

The team now wants to release one love story on their social media pages each day and is also thinking of joining hands with organisations that are already working to help such couples overcome obstacles. Their project has received an overwhelming response, and they are now in the midst of organising the flood of responses they have received. They also want to get more stories from the hinterland and feature more intercaste and LGBTQ love stories.

Talking about whether the struggles of young couples are different or easier when compared to the older generation, Ms. Ramani said, “I think older couples find it easier to share their stories. Younger couples probably worry about bigoted landlords, or maintaining a “low profile” at their workplaces. But there are enough stories across all age categories to keep us going for a long time. As far as their struggles go, some things don’t change, but yes, younger couples do talk about how difficult it is to keep the narrative focused on love in a time of great hate.”

A few inter-faith couples, who are yet to formalise their relationship, have written telling them that the project and the stories are deeply inspiring. One of the messages they have received says: “... These stories are like rays of hope in these times when there is a growing hatred towards minorities.”

Summing up Mr. Halarnkar added, “More inter-faith relationships just make a lot of sense in a country where dating is frowned upon and young people find it so hard to meet someone. Widening the pool, so to say, simply allows more to jump in. And that is a good thing. Love makes you calmer and gentler, and calmness and gentleness are things this country desperately requires.”

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