Written by Shahid A. Abbasi
What name does one give to the process by which a Hindu boy steals the heart of a Muslim girl, thereby ‘forcing’ her to marry him? If the ‘sanatan’ equivalent of ‘jehad’ is ‘dharmayuddh’, then a Hindu boy inducing a Muslim girl to marry him can be called ‘prem-dharmayuddh’. A bit of a tongue−twister.
When, seven years ago, my second daughter Tarannum Abbasi (TA) told her mom and me that she wants to marry Balaji Sekar (BS), we were deeply concerned. Not because BS was from a religion different from the one we practiced, but because he was from a different culture.
We have had both ‘prem-dharmayuddh’ and ‘love-jehad’ in our families, so we are acquainted with both versions of love. My niece married Deepak Mehta, her cousins have tied the knot with Ramesh Chandra and Sanjay Mahajan, respectively. Another cousin, Mustafa Ali, has betrothed Usha Lalvani.
There were cultural differences in those pairings, too, but not as drastic as the one the BS−TA union entailed. The earlier pairings had fallen under the nebulous but widely used umbrella term “North Indian”, with its defining features being chapatti, samosa, and Hindi. But BS was a true−blooded “South Indian” who never ate anything but rice, didn’t care for samosas, and had Hindi going over his head like the bouncers Lakshmipati Balaji used to hurl on behalf of India.
We tried hard to dissuade both TA and BS. Marriages need endless adjustments, we said, even when they are between persons of the same religion and culture. But when one has to contend with differences in food habits, attire, language, and other attendant mismatches of an inter-cultural marriage, the odds of it surviving lengthen considerably.
But neither of them budged. Both TA and BS said “Our parents had the same-culture- same-religion marriage but do they quarrel any less than others do?” We had no answer to that googly.
Then came peer-pressure. Close friend Sheikh Saheb insisted that it was our religious duty to prevent this marriage unless BS converted to Islam.
But I happen to know my Islam. It tells me clearly “there can be no compulsion in religion” and “to each his/her own faith”. So how could I have pressurized BS to convert ? Sheikh Saheb also warned us, in the name of Islam, that if we let our child commit this ‘sin’, the curse will visit us as well.
But that too didn’t wash. Islam is clear that every individual is totally and solely responsible for his/her actions. The religious duty of my wife and me is to educate our children on right and wrong. The rest is their karma.
We did suggest to BS that he ‘consider’ the option of adopting a new faith, but he refused. That was it. Sheikh Shaeb accused us of soft-peddling and said he wouldn’t attend the marriage.
Two years after the marriage, a son was born to the TA-BS couple. TA left the honour of naming the child to BS, who chose the name Roshan Darwin. The name sounded odd but after it had been whispered in the ears of the just born bundle of delight by his auntie (as per the culture from mother’s side), it seemed to have transformed into something very sweet and musical.
Roshan Drawin is now a hyper-active 4-year old. His parents moved to Canada in 2013 and when he comes on his annual visit to India, he prefers his maternal grandparent’s house at Puducherry to his paternal grandparent’s flat in Chennai. It is hard on his Tamil ‘Tata’ and ‘Paati’, his grandparents, but they give in to his wishes with only a mock complaint.
BS is an honest, caring, and truthful person which are the qualities a true Muslim is expected to have, just as the wives of Mehta, Chandra, Mahajan, and Mustafa are ‘sanskari’, as ‘sanatan’ wives are expected to be.
Whether they were propelled by ‘love-jehad’ or ‘prem-dharmayuddh’, all these marriages have been smooth, rocky, successful or unsuccessful, just like same-faith marriages are. Religion has never been a cause of tension, nor have they spurred or ‘misguided’ others to follow suit. Most people still want to marry other people from the same faith. So no tension on that front too.
Or maybe I’m still safe because the champions of religious bigotry have not yet turned in my direction.