This Valentine’s Day, we at Feminism in India wanted to highlight the love stories of couples whose romances don’t check society-sanctioned boxes of approval. And so, our campaign #UnsanskariLove was born. Interfaith, intercaste, and queer couples struggle to find acceptance and live a life free of violence, hatred and ostracism in our country. In such a fraught climate, it is more important than ever to visibilize, protect, and celebrate these stories of #UnsanskariLove.
It's nearly #ValentinesDay, and we want to talk about love, and why some kinds of love are legitimate while other kinds…
We put out a call on our social media for our readers to submit their stories of #UnsanskariLove, and as usual, they did not disappoint! Every day this week, we published stories – some tiny anecdotes, some full-length articles – about a different couple in love, and trust me, they’re enough to give you a serious case of the awws. We even had to extend our campaign to accommodate for all the lovely stories we received. Our couples ranged from queer women in love to Indian-Pakistani love stories! Check them out!
Note – All names with asterisks beside them have been changed to protect the anonymity of our submissions.
1. April* & May*
April* & May* identify as genderfluid and gender neutral respectively. They’ve been together for a little more than a year, and run a kick-ass organisation together that dispels myths about the LGBTQIA+ community! Oh, and look at their gorgeous matching tattoos!
2. Tara* & Haider*
Meet Tara* & her boyfriend Haider* – an Indian Hindu and a Pakistani Muslim, who had to ‘fake break-up’ to avoid the wrath of their parents, but have even managed to live in together despite all the opposition! Also, we’re digging the Simpsons wall art.
3. Komal* & Priyanka*
Komal* & Priyanka* are 21 years old, and their relationship began on Twitter! When they met, they had not yet come out, even to themselves. It took for them to get talking and fall in love for them to discover their sexualities. They’ve been making their Lucknow-Delhi long-distance relationship work for three years now, despite having only met thrice during this period. More power to you two!
4. Shweta* & Mazhar*
This story gave us the chills. Why must an Hindu-Muslim couple in India live in such fear? Shweta* & Mazhar* have had to keep their inter-faith relationship of five years completely secret, due to the Hindutva-dominated political climate in their home state of Uttar Pradesh. Shweta* writes powerfully about the trepidation she feels for Mazhar’s* safety when he so much as drops her at a metro station and has to go back home.
A small anecdote just did not cut it for this story – we published a full-length post talking about this above-all-odds love story.
5. Rituparna & Jamal
Rituparna & Jamal are queer feminist activists and have been dating for the past year and a half. She is a queer cis woman, and he is a trans man, and they are ten years apart! When they’re not having fiery discussions on politics, they binge-watch Netflix shows. Rituparna wrote in with this adorable picture and description about the first time she met Jamal.
6. Udita & Peter/Ethel
Udita & Peter/Ethel have braved irate parents and friends to live their love story – one that challenges society-prescribed standards of gender, sexuality, race and age. Udita is a queer cis woman, and her partner Peter/Ethel is genderfluid and non-binary, and they’re both bisexual. Despite the vocal opposition, not just from Udita’s orthodox parents, which they’d expected, but even from friends within the queer community, the pair have traversed continents to live together in Delhi.
That was just an excerpt. Udita wrote a full-length article describing their love story and its challenges, check it out!
7. Cheech* & Chong*
Cheech* & Chong* are two queer women from Delhi. They started out by not wanting to be in a committed monogamous relationship, and ended up falling in love with each other in the span of a week, and then staying together for the next three years! Couple goals much?
8. Vedansh* & Mahi*
Okay, we cheated. We didn’t receive this story this year, we had published it last Valentine’s Day instead. But we loved it so much, we couldn’t not re-share this year. Vedansh* & Mahi* have one of the most tumultuous and powerful love stories we’ve heard of, one that started when they were only in middle school! 8 years later, Vedansh* has come out as a trans man, and his partner Mahi*, a cis woman, has stood by his side throughout everything.
This too, is just an excerpt. This entire 8-year relationship has been chronicled in much more detail by Vedansh in a full-length article.
These love stories elicited so many feelings in us! The overwhelming cute-aggression they induced, yes, but also the bristling unfairness that some couples have to hide in the shadows, while others can hold hands in public, and see likenesses of their love stories emblazoned in advertisements and movie screens.
These stories are tender first steps, but we hope that the visibility that they bring sparks the rebellious and unconstrained love in other couples who live in fear of judgment, violence or ostracism. The consistent message that struck us in all of these stories was the feeling of hope in a better future, where names will not need to hide behind asterisks of anonymity and faces will not need to be cropped out for protection. May we have many more stories of #UnsanskariLove!