‘Love is a choice’.
Love and Sex

#MyLoveStory: Akanksha and Mustafa’s Union of Souls! 

Inhone bhaag ke shaadi kari” is often the brickbat hurled at rebellious couples in our glorious Indian society, but my husband and I graciously accept the tag as a bouquet we have earned. But hey let’s face it, you need balls of steel to be in a Hindu-Muslim marriage in this country. And for all those of you toeing the religious bigotry line, this was no devious attempt to convert me to Islam.

But love and honour, especially when that honour is the unwanted responsibility of women, is a high price to pay. I risked everything to choose love. Yes, I chose to fall in love with Mustafa Shahanshah, despite the obsession with ‘log kya kahengey’ lending a dark pall of gloom to our future.

(Photo Courtesy: Akanksha Swarup/altered by The Quint)

As an 18-year-old fresh out of Lucknow’s Loreto Convent, I went on to study English Literature from DU’s Miranda House. The point I’m making is that I was a product of a cloistered upbringing, much like the nuns who had provided the diktats of my early years. No doubt my experience with the opposite sex was a limited and restrained one. That, coupled with a feminist bent of mind that had been perhaps a by-product of studying Literature and living in Delhi, had turned me into the anti-thesis of the convent educated, homely girl so often sought after in the Sunday matrimonial columns.

Delhi’s swagger-touting men failed to sweep me off my feet. It was a pub outing during my summer vacations with my Lucknow gang back home that led to my love story. Little did I know that I was being introduced to my future spouse, Mustafa Shahanshah.

A calm and courteous guy, he seemed to enjoy my tipsy, boisterous energy. Even though my best friend privately approved of him suggesting that we could have fun, I quickly shunned the thought. The idea of courting a Muslim man seemed like a travesty. He might as well have been an alien!

(Photo Courtesy: Akanksha Swarup/altered by The Quint)

But this Lucknow aristocrat believed in wooing his interest, and so he did. What began as a frivolous long-distance relationship soon turned into a torrid affair leading to frequently hushed trips. Mustafa was a breath of fresh air after the patriarchal men in my family. From exchanging books, to sharing a common mania for Jim Morrison, to movie marathons of Hollywood/Bollywood classics or feasting on his exceptional culinary skills, this Scorpion somehow knew how to tame a Lioness, which of course translated into explosive chemistry.

Mustafa had done what no man could do or had done. He had fanned my inner fire, encouraging me to become the best version of myself. Being with him felt like coming home.

But parental pressure cornered us into taking a break from our relationship. Which only confirmed the fact that we were meant to be. Guess this was true love. Three days of being apart had brought home that truth.

(Photo Courtesy: Akanksha Swarup/altered by The Quint)

However, my fiercely protective father – a senior bureaucrat – was quick to entertain me with a conga-line of geeks, mostly in the form of civil servants and engineers who seemed more scandalised than impressed. By now, Mustafa too had shifted base to Delhi, securing an IT job in order to take our relationship to the next level. And so it was one afternoon that decided the fate of our relationship. My mom overheard our conversation through a phone call I had previously received from her that shockingly hadn’t cancelled. She heard me talking about Mustafa and, needless to say, was furious. Predictably enough, all hell broke loose. Ordered into quitting a new job with one of the city’s reputed news channels, I was commanded to make a hasty exit from Delhi and return to Lucknow.

The moment had arrived. Mustafa popped the question to which he quickly received an affirmative reply. Without further ado, we solemnised our marriage the next day on 13 April 2008 in an aryasamaj ceremony with my best friend as a steadfast witness while everybody else chickened out. Another friend performed my kanyadan and a couple of cousins added entertainment to our pheras.

(Photo Credit: Akanksha Swarup/altered by The Quint)

We couldn’t have asked for a more sundar, sasta and tikau ceremony because seven thousand is all we shelled out. In retrospect, couples like us are the bane of designers, TV shows, wedding planners and the hospitality industry that capitalise on the institution of marriage.

Unable to contain the excitement and anxiety of this turning point, our families were informed of our union. After much lament and shock, my folks arrived in Delhi within 48 hours. Thanks to the collective persuasion of my extended family of paternal and maternal uncles, I was invited to my mama’s residence to introduce my husband.

It was a bear hug from Papa that welcomed Musa, turning my jitters into tears of happiness. After all, you make your own happily ever after!

(This story was first published on 12 February 2016 and has been reposted from The Quint's archives.)