A man and a woman become friends, fall in love and get married. Heard that before?
Yes. But this is when the story starts. The story which they have not scripted but the world has scripted for them. All of us, with our own insecurities, have created a story in our heads and put the burden of seeing it through on theirs.
Everyone is writing a chapter for them; by everyone, I mean even those seniors whom I not only idolise but respect, and even those juniors in whom I see a lot of hope, who I think are keeping the flame of good journalism alive. As much as I love and adore these writers, and at most times completely agree with them, this time, I beg to differ.
I am talking about the wedding of firebrand actress Swara Bhasker to youth leader and politician Fahad Ahmad.
After reports on the wedding, both sides of the divide in today’s India got active. One side abhorred (as expected) the wedding, spelling doom – evoking everything possible including the unfortunate Shraddha murder, even stooping to the level of posting fridges and suitcases on the post where they announced their court marriage. There was also a group of Muslims who called the marriage ‘unholy’ and some right-wing accounts who claimed the marriage has saved ‘some Hindu home’.
And if that wasn’t enough, my kind of people, my ilk who are disheartened by the current milieu of hate, jumped in. They saw hope in the alliance and hailed it. All of us did.
However, the problem started when they called it an answer to the ‘love jihad’ propaganda, a slap in the face of the detractors. One of the most vocal actors of our current time chose to marry a Muslim. She has always been calling a spade a spade, but now dared to marry `the other’. The choice was hailed as much as it was hated.
My question is why? Is she the first one in India to have married outside of her religion or community?
Only a few months ago, actors Richa Chadha and Ali Fazal got married. Chadha is as much of a political activist as Bhasker. From time immemorial, lovers have defied the politics of religion, race, colour and creed to unite. Even in the film industry, such marriages are common. If Shahrukh Khan married Gauri Khan when he was just entering Bollywood, a successful actress Kareena Kapoor married a one-time divorcee and much older Saif Ali Khan – and stayed strong not only at the time of her marriage but even when her children’s names were made controversial.
If there are examples of Hindu women marrying Muslim men, there are examples in the other direction too. Katrina Kaif married Vicky Kaushal, before them were Suniel Shetty, Sanjay Dutt, Hrithik Roshan and Manoj Bajpai. And who can forget the magical yesteryear couples – Madhubala and Kishore Kumar, and Sunil Dutt.
But somehow we have collectively chosen to put the burden of ‘defiance’ only on Swara and Fahad. In any society, fanatics want to control women, their choices, even their wombs. To make these alliances normal, our reaction to them must also normal.
We have to remember, it’s just a love story – just a girl falling in love with a boy. There was a surprise element, yes. The groom is not from the ‘film fraternity’, not known to some of us ignorant types. But I am sure when these two fell in love, they didn’t do so to make a statement. They simply fell in love, enough to decide to live together for rest of their livies.
No one in their right mind marries someone to make a statement – we are not living in medieval times, nor is this a marriage arranged for different reasons by the families. It is not Jodha Akbar.
We have seen marriages celebrated for symbolic reasons crumble. Similar noises were made when two IAS toppers, a Hindu and a Muslim, got married a few years ago. Their divorce unfortunately created as much of a buzz as their marriage.
No marriage should be subject to public scrutiny, especially those between two people from different backgrounds. Every relationship needs to grow without being watched. Without being judged. Without the burden of public expectation. Without the need to be politically right always.
They did look dapper in their basic outfits, twinning in red, but we won’t judge them even if they have a big fat Indian (Bollywood) wedding in March (as announced). Let them dazzle in their Sabyasachis if they want to. Let them invite the world, blow up their hard-earned money if they have it.
Let them fight, make mistakes.
Let them love and let them hate each other if they want to. And let them love again.
Let them not just be a Hindu-Muslim couple who got married when Hindu-Muslim unity is no longer in vogue. That is our burden to bear, not theirs to keep.
Toufiq Rashid is a journalist who has covered the Kashmir conflict, health and wellbeing for top Indian newspapers for nearly two decades. She now works at @Pixstory.
This article was first published on The Wire.