Video Editor: Sandeep Suman
(This story was first published on 14 February 2021 and is being republished from The Quint's archives to mark one year since the anti-conversion law in Uttar Pradesh came into effect.)
“Interfaith marriages should be promoted. They are a celebration of India and it’s diversity.”
Tamir Khan, a musician, says, ‘‘I believe that you fall in love with the person and at that time, you don’t look at their religion or caste. Love is all that matters.’’
Tamir is married to Krutika Lele, a Maharashtrian. Theirs is an interfaith marriage which they haven’t just embraced, but have ensured that others know about it as well. So, they went ahead and named their band ‘Interfaith’.
The Quint spoke to a few other couples, who are just like Tamir and Krutika, where love triumphed above religious differences. They bravely spoke about their marriage, the hurdles and objections, their relation to faith, and their views on the growing intolerance in India.
Zara & Nikhil: ‘We Didn’t Try to Convince Anyone, We Just Let Our Families Know of Our Decision’
'He cried on our first date'
Nikhil says that when he met Zara for the first time, he knew that she’s the one. On the other hand, Zara was not really sure about him. She ‘friend-zoned’ Nikhil but he was persistent and now they are happily married, since 2016.
It never occurred to Zara that her relationship will be a problem for her family, as she comes from a multi-cultural family with many interfaith marriages. Nikhil assumed that he will face a minor hiccup with his Marwari family but, as they say, all’s well that ends well.
“We just let them know about our relationship and that we are going to get married. At no point did we try to convince anyone. We were busy planning our lives, figuring out things as we wanted to do everything on our own.”Zara & Nikhil
Nikhil even had an excel sheet prepared to show to Zara’s family, on how he will take care of her.
'We are aware of our privilege, but it should be the norm. Everyone should have the freedom to choose'
Except for Netflix and food, there has never been any kind of major differences that could’ve led to fights between the two. They say that their life got easy after marriage as compared to the dating period.
‘‘We have seen people getting married to a person of the same caste, religion, etc, chosen by their family and it still doesn’t work out because their personalities are so different. Faith is a very personal choice and shouldn’t come between love.’’Nikhil Parwal
Even during the Tanishq ad controversy, where the advertisement about the interfaith marriage had to be taken down, Zara took to Twitter to express her feelings. Her tweet went viral.
Payal & Shahzeb: ‘We Knew It’s an Impossible Task But We Took Our Stand’
Shahzeb Yamin & Payal Kumari got married in May 2018 under the Special Marriage Act in Kolkata. This was the culmination of 18 months of emotional trauma, chaos, and fights.
Payal says that Shahzeb’s family was very supportive and accepted her wholeheartedly. It took time for Payal’s family to accept their relationship but today, Payal’s Bihari family adores Shahzeb.
“We love spending time in Patna at my house, where he is cajoled to eat different Bihari delicacies. He participates in all our family traditions, festivals, etc. He cooks biryani and plays the guitar for my family and they love him for what he is.”Payal Kumari
Both of them see adjustment as more of a life skill. It’s almost similar to what one would do while sharing the space with a roommate. Payal loves flowers while Shahzeb prefers cacti. But in their home, there is room for both.
'Celebrations and festivities are added due to intermingling of cultures'
The beauty of India is it’s diversity and the intermingling of cultures is such that there would hardly be anyone who has not celebrated or experienced festivals of other religions.
The same goes for Payal and Shahzeb, there was no such thing as a cultural shock. They both have grown up celebrating all festivals, which they still do.
“As for people who judge or label interfaith couples, I give them an open invitation to come and live with us and see for yourself how beautiful our relationship is.”Shahbez Yamin
Krutika & Tamir: ‘First Came the Music, Love Soon Followed’
“When he proposed to me, of course, I knew he’s Tamir ‘Khan’. I knew what I am getting into. So, I told him that we should prepare to be grilled by my parents, they won’t agree easily.”Krutika Lele
Tamir’s distant relatives objected a little to his marriage to Krutika but his immediate family was happy that he finally found someone. Krutika’s brothers grilled Tamir but once both the families met, everything just fell into place.
In their music band ‘Interfaith’, Krutika sings while Tamir plays the guitar.
“As ‘Interfaith,’ we celebrate the differences and beyond. It is a collaboration of two different people, different identities and most importantly, different styles of music.”Tamir Khan
Krutika never felt awkward when she fell in love with Tamir. She was raised in a family that spoke and practiced religious tolerance and believed in diversity.
‘Distant relatives called to check if I was ‘allowed’ to celebrate Hindu festivals’
In the first year of their marriage, Tamir and Krutika made sure that they celebrated all festivals so that no one is offended. But Kritika’s distant relatives were not convinced, ‘they called me during every festival to ask if he was ‘allowing’ me to celebrate. Before I got married, no one asked me if I am doing pujas, then why now?’
Even people on social media ask her if she wears a niqab, has changed her name, or if she offer namaz?
‘‘I wear the clothes I want to, I am a vegetarian and Tamir is a non-vegetarian and to be honest, he’s reduced eating non-veg food after marriage. It’s just little lifestyle differences like, he keeps the cup or glasses anywhere, doesn’t keep clothes in laundry bag and that’s it. I didn’t have to change anything about me, neither did he and that’s why our marriage works.’’Krutika Lele
Tamir believes that Krutika gets questioned more than him because of the patriarchal mindset of the society as people don’t like the idea of a woman making decisions and taking control of their lives.
'I am beyond a 'Brahmin' or 'Khan's' wife'
Krutika reiterates that her political ideology has nothing to do with religious beliefs or the fact that she is married to a Muslim man. ‘‘It is expected that I will take a certain stand, it happened during CAA-NRC protests too,’’ she added.
In awe of Krutika, Tamir says that he loves her because she is strong and strong women help to shape our coming generation.
“If we have our kids or not, the kids at our home will get the right message from Krutika. She is very mature and handles everything even though she is younger than me. I have learnt so much from her.”Tamir Khan
These are just a few interfaith couples that The Quint spoke to. In a relationship, interfaith or otherwise, where there is true love, trust, and tolerance, there is certainly no place for hate. It’s only when politics interferes with the personal lives of people, that the real problems start.