3 interfaith couples show us what marriage looks like if the love of your life is from another religion
…and finding the best of both cultures
A sasuma who doesn’t screech at her bahu or live up to the stereotypical expectations, walks her pregnant daughter-in-law to their palatial courtyard. The garden is all decked up in shades of white and lilac; baby shower rituals are all set to begin.
Incoming Instagram selfie moments: Moist eyes, laughter of the band of cousins, a secret wink from the husband and a heavy necklace to seal the Insta Reel of the day.
As the admen pitched the idea to their client, Tanishq, there was only one probable response to the concept: “Love it”.
What’s not to love, right? Well, if you’ve spent a minimum of five minutes online yesterday , you’ll know the ad makers went ahead and doubled the beauty of the ad by choosing to go with the concept of interfaith couples. And a barrage of uncalled-for hate broke loose.
Turns out, it’s offensive to portray peace and harmony in the current socio-political landscape that we are trudging through. While you can debate for days with Twitter trolls over the need for the jewellery brand to take down the commercial after the virtual backlash they encountered, we decided to get the verdict from the horses’ mouth – these interfaith couples who’ve been there, done that, against all societal odds.
Three interfaith couples share their multi-cultural journeys into forever
“Generally worries don’t stem from hatred; it’s a fear of the unknown” – Malini Agarwal, founder, MissMalini
I met Nowshad Rizwanullah in 2007 at China House, a restaurant in Mumbai. Sparks flew, and we bonded over the fact that we both had very international backgrounds. My father was in the foreign services, his father was with the UN, both of us had grown up all around the world.
Sure our families were a little wary, but it wasn’t an extreme reaction of any kind. My husband is actually from Bangladesh. He was born in the UK, and his mom had jokingly told him that when you go to India, don’t marry an Indian girl. That’s a funny anecdote now.
We had three weddings: a registered marriage in Mumbai, a conversion ceremony and nikkah in Bangladesh, and the big, fat Hindu wedding in Goa. I’m not particularly religious, but since it would mean a lot to his parents if I went through the conversion ceremony, I didn’t mind.
During the ritual, I kept thinking if I was looking sincere enough. I was wearing a chunni which was slightly dusty so there was an allergic reaction. As a result, there were some tears. Everybody thought I was having a big conversion moment. At our Hindu wedding in Goa, we asked the panditji to wrap it up in 30 minutes, but he took 45. There was a fun mehendi ceremony followed by a great sangeet. So we picked and chose the best bits of everything.
Honestly, people are mostly wary of interfaith weddings because of the fear of the unknown, and not hatred. For instance, I eat everything, including beef, so my mother-in-law was very happy.
For both of us, a lot of things are new now. I didn’t really celebrate Eid earlier, now we have a lot of biryani. My best friends tie rakhi to my husband. He never had a sister growing up, so that’s exciting for him.
These little things add sweet little values to our lives.
But couples need to be honest and open. We were very clear. We had a conversation about conversion – he didn’t force me. If marriage is on the cards, discuss the bigger decisions, like how will you raise your children. Ours get the best of both worlds. Talking really helps.
“Over the years, we have built our own cultural experiences” – Shakeel Sutarwala, partner, Peepul Consulting
For us, religion isn’t the only distinction. Being a same-sex couple adds its own layer of complexity to the mix. I met Aki Narula through common friends, and honestly, religion wasn’t a blip on the radar.
There was a certain attraction which blossomed into friendship and into love. We have been together for 12 years now and quite open to our families too. There was nothing to hide because we weren’t really looting banks, you know.
We have only received acceptance and we are grateful for that. And it helps that we aren’t the only interfaith couple in our families. So it’s a normalised concept for us.
Both of us are not supremely religious; we do have faith in a higher power, though. I observe one fast during Ramzan, Aki goes to the gurudwara once in a while. But that’s about it.
The biggest gain for us has been another set of parents, another culture to explore. Over the years, we’ve built our own cultural experience here. And as we look at it, there were only plusses.
The biggest lesson is to cling on to your own happiness. If your family truly loves you, they will come around, and for any unfortunate reason, they don’t, it’s their loss, not yours. Always safeguard your own happiness.
“We knew it would be a tough fight, but wasn’t as difficult as we imagined” – Imran Ladak, restaurateur
Being part of the community of interfaith couples broadens your mindset and makes you more progressive in reality and not just on paper. It makes you realise the positive and negatives of both sides better. It has helped both of us and our families grow.
I met Ritika in college around 2004, and I was a typical boy, living in the moment. I didn’t think so much about the future or what the families would say. My wife was hesitant initially and knew it would be a tough fight, but eventually, it wasn’t as tough as she imagined it to be.
We waited for about 10 years before we told our families, deciding to tell them only when we made up our minds to get married. Her Parsi-Punjabi family was very cool, but my Muslim family was slightly more conservative and stayed in denial initially, thinking it won’t work out. Closer to the marriage date, we were worried that things would be uncomfortable when the families had to talk.
My wife gets full credit for handling the family side of things. But in terms of the actual wedding ceremony and rituals, it was all pretty smooth. We had a court marriage, a small nikkah ceremony and a big fat reception party.
All I can say is don’t think about appeasing your community so much or be so attached to that aspect of things if you really love someone.