Rahila and Tarendra’s journey was not so smooth. Rahila comes from Bihar’s Seemanchal area, one of the most backward regions. Resisting the stereotypical life trajectory of most young girls in the area, that of incomplete education and early marriage, she insisted on pursuing higher education and went all the way to JNU to do her M. Phil. PhD.
She met Tarendra in Delhi where they both travelled to participate in a college festival representing their respective universities. As love blossomed, Rahila had to be brave and resist her family’s pressure to get married with a more “appropriate” man of her “own” community. The two secretly tied the knot. “I did not say anything to my family for seven years, we stayed separately to avoid suspicion, I did not visit home,” said Rahila.
Twelve years on, they say the relationships with their families are now normalizing bit by bit.
While Deepika’s parents were not opposed to her choice of a Muslim man, they were worried about the anti-social elements who could create a violent situation and even contemplated shifting the wedding venue out of Gujarat. In the end though, the wedding took place in front of both the couple’s family members in Baroda. “I was worried, but not scared,” said Deepika.
“We had made it clear to our families that we would have a civil marriage under the Special Marriage Act, and there will be no conversion.” Rahila said she would perhaps not been in a relationship “if there was any attempt to alter my identity of which Islam is an important part but Tarendra had no such expectations. He himself is not deeply religious.”