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From the 1940s onwards, we bring you three heart-warming, real-life, true love stories to celebrate Valentine’s Day.
By Debjani Talapatra
The young often (foolishly!) believe that they have a copyright over all things love, especially in a country like India. The residents of ‘Modern India’ feel smug that love is entirely their own invention, that they are the ones that brought about a change from arranged marriages and the stifling state of romantic affairs in this country.
While Gen X and Gen Y have certainly changed the very face of relationships in India, what with their fast hook-ups and even faster break-ups – the winds of change began to blow decades ago. At a time when love marriages were mostly limited to celluloid, a select few followed their hearts and paved the way for generations to follow.
Kishan and Jaspreet Kaul first set eyes on each other in 1946; they were mere teenagers living in the Lahore of pre-partition India. Kishan was attending a wedding in Jaspreet’s locality. “We didn’t speak or anything. We just saw each other and took a liking for one another”, recalls Jaspreet. They didn’t speak till a year later, and even then, it was through letters and notes hurriedly exchanged on the way to school.
She adds, “Those were different times, a girl and a boy if caught meeting alone would result in scandal. We wrote letters and got to know to each other.” So they wrote letters, full of ghazals and shayaari and met when they could manage to steal a few moments, away from prying eyes.
Then, everything changed. Lahore, a city with a large Hindu population went to the newly formed Pakistan. Jaspreet and her family decided to leave the only home they knew. “We left everything behind. Our entire lives were packed up in a matter of hours. But it was still too late, my uncle and three cousin brothers were killed by the rioters. ”
Jaspreet spent the next few years in a small village in Punjab with extended family. As far as she knew, Kishan was dead. “I heard that Hindu families in Kishan’s neighbourhood had been butchered. I assumed Kishan too had been a casualty.”
Kishan had survived, but only just. He was the only male member of his family to make it alive out of Lahore. He too assumed that Jaspreet was dead and spent the next few years in Delhi mourning Jaspreet and his family. In 1952, after Jaspreet’s father passed away, she moved to Delhi with her elder brother and his family. It was this move that changed Jaspreet’s life.
“Our first week in Delhi, we went to a Gurudwara. We just sat down to have langar and there he was, sitting in the opposite row. I couldn’t believe my eyes, I thought I was dreaming,” Jaspreet recollects fondly. She jumped out of her seat, not caring about her brother and his confusion. “Meeting Jaspreet was the best thing that ever happened to me, especially after the entire trauma I had been through. Meeting her turned things around for me. Slowly we built a life together, something I didn’t think would happen for us,” adds her husband.
Kishan and Jaspreet have been married 59 years and today, their family includes 3 children, 7 grandchildren and 2 great-grandchildren.
It all began with an argument about politics. Prodeep Sen was on a marathon bride viewing spree when he met Sharmishta; only – she wasn’t the bride in question. “Prodeep had come to see my neighbour and dear friend, I was there for moral support and to lend a hand. I was left alone with the ‘couple’ so that conversation would flow easily”, says Sharmishta.
The conversation did flow – except, the prospective bride was not a part of it! Prodeep and Sharmishta hit it off and argued about politics and the state of affairs of the country. No one was surprised when Prodeep refused the alliance. Similarly, no one present in the house that evening was surprised when they announced that they were seeing each other four months later.
Prodeep recalls, “Sharmishta let it slip in the course of the evening that she frequented a particular bookshop at College Street. I camped at that shop for three weeks before I saw her again.” Soon enough, fights about political views gave way to other conversations. They were married a year later and celebrated 40 years of marriage last November with their 2 children and children in-law.
They still argue about politics with the same passion and energy.
If you thought parental opposition, eloping and living in hiding was strictly for the movies, think again. Mahesh and Fleur Nathani can put the movies to shame. They met in college and fell madly in love, fully knowing that their families wouldn’t be comfortable with an inter-religious union. But the heart wants it wants.
“By the time we graduated and wanted to get married, both families told us in no uncertain terms that we would be disowned if we got married. But since we were only 21, they thought we wouldn’t tie the knot so soon, so obviously, that is exactly what we did”, Fleur remembers and laughs before getting serious. “We ran away, had a court marriage and then all hell broke loose. My parents cut off all ties with me and refused to even meet me. Mahesh’s parents were so angry they actually threatened me.”
Fearful, they left Mumbai and lived in Goa for a year with Fleur’s cousins and then moved back when their son was born. “It was hard those first few years, no family support and struggling to make ends meet. But I don’t regret any of it.” They remained confident of her decision and she thinks that is the reason why eventually both sets of families eventually accepted their marriage.
“It was obvious that we were serious about each other. My family accepted us first and Mahesh’s family came around about ten years later. It hurt, but family is family.” Their family now includes their son and twin daughters, all of whom know the dramatic details of their parents’ marriage and think it’s very ‘cool’. They have also been told that they can marry anyone they please, religion and caste being no barriers as long as they are good people.
Share with us your own love story or any other interesting ones you’ve come across! What’s more – we have a ‘different’ Valentine’s day contest for you to participate in and win a lovely coffee mug – check out the Women’s Web “What Love Isn’t” contest here!
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