I knew her initial loneliness and homesickness in France (where she was studying) had been put to an end when her weepy Skype calls to me were reduced and her Facebook timeline filled up with ‘love quotes’. She had fallen in love with an Indian classmate there. It was a happy time and no one cared about the differences in their religion.
Back in India, she was eager to tell her family about the beautiful new development in her life. Her siblings already knew and were excited, but the elders had to be informed.
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Hailing from a joint family where she was pampered, loved and always supported, she thought her love would be accepted.
She was expecting some resistance and understood that she needed to give the family time to accept her choice, but she wasn’t prepared for the emotional trauma that was in store for her. Overnight ‘her happiness’ became secondary to what ‘people would think’. The whole thing felt like a nightmare. She was confused and thought, “I am old enough to live alone in a different country, take critical decisions in office – but still not allowed to marry the man I love.” Many reasons were given to her as to why this marriage must not happen… Different caste/religion/festivals/customs and various other things that could create difficulties in her life. Her father stopped talking to her. The decision to send her to France was regretted and openly cursed. She was blamed for spoiling the family name and compared with cousins who were happily married in their own caste.
Her boyfriend stood by her throughout and assured her warmly that they’d fight it out till the end. He even came over to meet the family, to speak with them and convince them, but nothing positive transpired from it. As things became worse, she began to feel suffocated in her own house. He phone was taken away. She was forced to quit her job and made to endure the guilt of her parents’ daily misery.
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No one can see their parents cry and it hurts more if it is you who made them cry. So one day she broke down, accepted their decision and gave up on her love.
Her boyfriend was devastated, but he knew how the situation had escalated at her home, how upset her family was and how guilty she felt for causing all the trauma around her. So he accepted her decision. But it wasn’t easy for either of them.
She was a different person since that day. Her appetite decreased, she lost all interest in social outings and hobbies. She avoided nosy relatives and rejected all marriage proposals. We didn’t see her smile. Eight months passed.
Finally, her brother and sister-in-law decided enough is enough and took matters into their own hands. They would try to convince the family daily that is not a bad alliance. At the same time they explained to my friend, “If you had the courage to fall in love, you must have the strength to fight for it too” and then they planned a short and secret meeting with her boyfriend. Seeing each other after so long brought their suppressed love and emotions flooding back. The next moment they were in each other’s arms with tears streaming down their cheeks. That’s when it hit her, the wasted past eight months, the crying in self-pity wasn’t going to help. She must fight for her love and life.
Great change takes time, but it could be one tiny moment that triggers it. She began to work hard to get her mother’s approval, to make her gently see that cultural changes are not all that hard to manage. She gave examples of her friends, read stories online about people who were leading happy lives even after an inter-religious marriage. She was still refusing to meet any other boys in spite of family pressure. Meanwhile, her brother did some out-of-the-box thinking and did a fabulous job of continually reminding everyone that she was not getting any younger! After that it was just a matter of time before everyone got on board.
The wedding was a small, family ceremony, but to her it was a dream wedding, as she was getting married to the one she loved.
There are so many who give up on their love and lead a life of compromise. It really is sad when people need to make this harsh choice between love and family.