As The Newly Weds Will Find Out, Is Love Enough?

Can love fill hungry bellies, provide the bare necessities, and help a couple to “live”? And, does that love stay alive through thick and thin, in health and sickness, till death do them part?

The Newly Weds, by journalist Mansi Choksi, is narrative nonfiction that takes a close look at three couples who defy the age-old tradition of arranged marriage and choose love, despite all opposition.

Through her book, Ms Choksi chronicles the events that shaped their lives and tries to understand if love was enough for them or did they seek social acceptance to survive and live the perfect life they dreamed of.

Did these couples find the love they risked everything for? Did their love win and help them survive the harsh realities of life? Or, did it change them?

Modern outlook, conventional beliefs

The Indian population today consists of a majority of youth born in the Internet age, who grew up with smartphones and social media and have a “global perspective” on life and living. However, when it comes to marriage, they still follow the traditions and customs ingrained in them since childhood: Marrying with their parent’s consent, and (preferably) within their caste. And, God forbid, if love blossoms between two hearts belonging to different religions or castes, or between the same sex, then modernism is flung out of the window because the family’s name and honor are at stake. 

Falling in love is considered a disgrace to the family, especially if there is a difference in caste and religion. Not only do the families oppose, but society does, too, to prevent the chaos that is sure to follow such a departure from tradition. The police, too, refuse to protect the couple and often hand them over to their families to deal with them as they deem best, or arrest the boy under the charges of kidnapping.

As the writer says, “The goal of marriage is to cement those boundaries to ensure the survival of power hierarchies because we are a society that places greater emphasis on collectivism than individualism….We derive our identities from the groups we belong to. Our daily lives and our politics are arranged around them. When young people choose their partners, we threaten order with chaos.”

In short, however much we may consider ourselves progressive, our beliefs about love and marriage are old-fashioned and archaic, refusing to evolve with the times.

Love, union, and the consequences

Dawinder, a truck driver’s son, and Neetu Rani, the daughter of a well-respected family, went against societal norms but were fortunately saved by the Love Commandoes—a voluntary organisation that helps couples in love get married, find protection from honour killings and harassment and get legal aid and accommodation. Sadly, their circumstances put them at the mercy of their so-called protector, who fleeced them of their savings. They finally fled to a distant relative, who provided them shelter and support, but which came at a cost.

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Reshma and Preeti, two distant relatives, fell in love but couldn’t dream of living a life together, and had to flee, too. The narrative takes you along on their journey as a couple who pretends to be sisters to protect themselves and find work to sustain themselves in a strange town. They return home during the pandemic but fail to receive any support from their families, which eventually takes a toll on their relationship.

Arif and Monica face stiff opposition from the Hindu ideology and its supporters, who harassed Arif’s family to get Monica back. Their love blossomed amidst anti-Muslim sentiments in a Hindu nationalist atmosphere, leading to communal conflict; of Hindu groups accusing Muslim men of committing Love Jihad by seducing Hindu women, marrying them and forcing them to convert to Islam. When Monica found that she was pregnant, she secretly converted to Islam to marry the love of her life and avoid any objections from any person, which is one of the conditions of the Special Marriage Act, of 1954. But, did their love win? Or, did it succumb to the pressure and perish?

Opposition from outside forces

It doesn’t matter that the two people who decide to live together for the rest of their lives are consenting adults.

If they belong to the same clan (gotra), or the same village, they are considered siblings and thus have no right to marry, under the Khap law. Despite the Supreme Court ruling against the interference by the Khap Panchayat and the punishment meted out to the young couples based on the Panchayat’s diktats, these judicial bodies consider it their right to take actions against such couples, as can be seen in the book.

Similarly, inter-religion marriages and same-sex relationships, too, find stiff opposition from the families, the local community, and the upholders of customs and traditions in our country. But, why should politics come into the picture, especially when we have marriage laws, according to which consenting adults from a different religion, caste, or community, are allowed to get married? Or, when the archaic Article 377 has been repealed?

Is love enough?

As I read about the three couples fleeing their hometowns, trying to find a space for themselves, and summon the courage to face the repercussions of their decisions, the one question that came to my mind was: Is love enough? Can love fill hungry bellies, provide the bare necessities, and help a couple to “live”? And, does that love stay alive through thick and thin, in health and sickness, till death do them part?

With nothing to fall back on—no familial support or financial resources—how long can a couple survive? The three couples struggled to make do with whatever little help they received from their family, distant relatives or friends. They adjusted as best they could in the sometimes squalid living conditions, as they tried to hide from the powers that be. But, there comes a time when the struggle gets to you, as it did the couples.

The writer shares their arguments and fights that were a result of the stress they had to endure daily. Their yearnings for their family, as they sometimes wondered how it would be had they been home, in a secure place, instead of living in constant fear and stress. Ms Choksi brings out these feelings and experiences beautifully; the tough moments between the couples tug at the heartstrings, and the minute details make the story of every couple come alive.

Ms Choksi’s narration of the couples’ stories, as she followed them for six years to explore their relationship and report the events that shaped their lives, is intimate and beautiful. Her crisp storytelling pulls you into the narrative and you stay invested in the story of their lives. The hardships the couples face are at once heartbreaking and frustrating, leaving you wondering if is it right to fall in love in a country that refuses to move along with the times.

It also brings to mind the question—for how long will all this continue, the refusal to support love? What is really more important—the happiness of our children or our so called ‘honour’?

Want a copy of this book?

If you’d like to pick up The Newly Weds written by Mansi Choksi, use our affiliate links at Amazon Indiaand at Amazon US.

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Image source: Jacob Verghese from Studio India Free on Canva and book cover Amazon

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About the Author

Shilpa Gupte

With the help of words, I share my life. Words that inspire, words that touch a chord, words that share stories of battles we all fight. read more...

13 Posts | 57,607 Views

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