(Names changed to protect identities)
“Our homes are a mere four-five kilometers away, but it has taken us 14-15 years to cover that distance and find each other…”
Maya* and Meera* began their story with this revelation when I met them on behalf of Bonobology.
Introverted, creative Maya was the first one to speak.
“I was born in a deeply religious and orthodox Hindu family in eastern India, and had to fight to complete my Class XII education. I was 18 when I got married. My ultra-conservative in-laws allowed me to complete my graduation, but from an all-girls college, according to their innumerable archaic rules. During the first nine years of my marriage, there was no relationship – physical or otherwise – between my husband and me. And then a nightmare penetrated my world when my husband raped me, twice – on two consecutive nights – and then ignored me like a tattered rag. Nine months later, I gave birth to my daughter. The final disaster struck when I discovered that my husband was gay. He started bringing his ‘boyfriends’ home and I had to cook for them. One night, my patience finally gave away and I demanded answers. My husband’s blows left me confined to a bed for the next six months.” With incredible strength, Maya obtained a divorce, and started private tuitions and sewing to support herself and her child.
This shocking story demands silence to be fully absorbed. After a while, the extrovert of the duo, Meera, narrated her story.
“Like Maya, I also hail from an orthodox Hindu family. My first experience of ‘being with a woman’ was when I was in Class VII. It was not that I knew about my orientation then, but this relationship meant a lot to me. After finishing school, I entered college and dated boys. But it did not take me long to understand that men’s bodies never appealed to me like a woman’s did.”
And they met in the most unassuming of ways, in college.
With little to no interaction, they knew just that they had something
in common – their faith in the same divine power. After graduation,
they went their separate ways and that should have been the end
of their story. Only it wasn’t.
Cut to 2013.
Meera had taken her scooter out for a test drive when she was forced to brake hard for someone on the road. That someone turned out to be Maya, whose office was in the same lane. They exchanged phone numbers, and started to be constant presences in each other’s lives, through heartbreak or family troubles. Maya’s non-judgmental outlook towards her orientation also meant a lot to Meera.
During a troubled phase with her daughter, Maya asked Meera to go on a vacation with her. This was a turning point in their lives. “I heard Maya sing devotional songs every morning and her mellifluous voice mesmerised me. I lost my soul to her, and found myself wanting to protect her all my life,” says Meera emphatically.
And what about Maya? “During the trip, I discovered that both of us let our tears do the talking when we worship the divine lord. Despite her tough veneer, there was a little child in Meera craving true love,” she recounts.
Their friendship grew stronger, till Meera finally decided to propose. “I could not wait any longer. We watched Cocktail and after it ended, I told her if she noticed how Gautam (Saif Ali Khan) settled down with the spiritual Meera (Diana Penty) and then I asked her, ‘Do you get my drift?’” proclaims Meera.
Maya did. “Given my painful past, my heart had hardened against men. Meera enabled me to see life in a new light. It did not matter that we were, and still are, as different as paneer and chicken – I am using this metaphor since I am a pure vegetarian and Meera is a hard core non-vegetarian. All I knew was that there was a connection and for the first time in my life, I took a decision of my own free will. I said, ‘Yes’,” announces Maya.
But she had one condition. “I had to win the consent of her teenage daughter and I did. This Fathers’ Day, I received a heartwarming message from our daughter,” adds Meera, her eyes twinkling.
Maya and Meera have been together for the last three years, but they lament that they cannot live together – not just yet. “Our mothers have miraculously accepted our relationship but we have to think of our families and society on the whole. But how we wish we could live in a world where couples are not forced to bow down before societal pressure and lose that one chance of being truly loved! After all, we live only once, and each one of us should be allowed to live life the way we wish,” declare Maya and Meera before bidding me goodbye.
I heard them. I agree with them. Do you?
(As told to Jayeeta Ganguly)