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When Vivek and Vishwa met at a cafe in Ahmedabad five years ago, they did not expect to fall in love, much less get married.
"You can't really plan whom you fall in love with," the couple told The Quint, when we first reached out to them for an interview.
Vivek and Vishwa are like any other married 'millennial' couple living in India's big cities. Only, their same-sex marriage is not recognised by the Indian law.
“Our marriage is not different. Our marriage does not exist for them. In the eyes of law, we are literally strangers,” says Vivek, who is a Manager at a daycare in Gurugram.
The couple got married on 1 February 2017, and four years later, they are yet to register their marriage.
Multiple pleas in various Indian courts are seeking to legalise same-sex marriage under the Special Marriage Act, 1954. The Delhi High Court is all set to hear the plea to allow registration of such marriages on 8 January, 2021.
While they did not "plan" to get married right from the start of their relationship, Vishwa said that it seemed like the "most natural thing".
“Yes, I bent the knee. More like... It was early morning, and we were living together in the same house at the time. One morning, I woke up and saw him...and I kind of just turned around and asked, ‘Do you want to get married? Like...do you want to marry?’ And he said, ‘Yeah, okay, let’s get married.’”Vishwa
...And the Intimate Wedding Soon After
Vishwa's mother, who lives with the couple now, was hardly given three days to plan a wedding. With just 10-12 friends and family, the couple had an intimate wedding in their Gurugram home.
“I was always worried...and I would share it with Vishwa about him liking men. So, there was no choice of finding a woman, how could we find a man for him? I used to tell him that I would be the happiest when he finds a partner. And after Vivek came, this worry has vanished completely. [sic.]”Vishwa’s Mother
But it took Vivek's family more than three years to accept their relationship.
“When we first told them about our relationship, that’s when things got serious. I got thrashed, and he was thrashed at his place,” but the couple added that they did not want to give up on each other.
A year after their marriage, the Supreme Court decriminalised Section 377 that allowed the police to prosecute LGBTQ members as criminals. The conversation around that prompted Vivek's family to reach out to the couple.
'Want to Be Lawfully Recognised as Partners'
With jobs in the social sector, family and friends by their side, at first glance, it might seem like the couple had "all they needed". But more than anything, the couple want to be recognised as lawful partners.
“Tomorrow, if I have a heart attack, and if I am in a critical place...he will have no right over my medical procedures. He will have no right over my body. My parents will have to come and claim [it] because he is still a stranger.”Vishwa
“With me being an atheist, I did not clearly understand all the rituals that were being performed – the pheras, the garlands... In the back of my mind, it wasn’t making sense. I wanted a paper or a legal thing to it. The legal aspect was missing.”
And more than anything, the couple want to be equal in the eyes of law and an answer to people who “question” their relationship.
“If you go around the fire seven times, does it mean you are married? For them, that’s the question, and we don’t have an answer for it,” the couple said.
(This story was first published on 23 October 2021. It has been republished from The Quint’s archives to mark Pride Month.)