01 January 1970

Love Beyond Caste And Society

Weekend Reads

Love Beyond Caste And Society

A short story about a couple who broke traditions and culture and went against societal complexities for love.

A couple holding hands
A couple holding hands Getty images

In medical college, it is an established saying that the journey of all lovers begins from Dissection Hall. No one ever established any such saying for liberal arts students and of other streams. Majaz and Maryam established that not all love stories begin from stalking in social media but a few still evolve from intellectual discourse taking place in the corridor of the library. This is where Majaz meets Maryam. Maryam was a senior to Majaz in their undergraduate degree course – a lean and tall lady with curly brown hair and deep grey eyes. She had heard a lot about Majaz – from being political to intellectual – a tall, handsome and aggressive lad. Majaz himself never denied the fact of being political. He believes that politics gives us the power necessary to propagate intellectual discourse. Otherwise, intellectual discourse will be suppressed. In undergraduate, Majaz had fought for the General Secretary election and won. This multidimensional personality of Majaz appealed to Maryam to meet him. But, Maryam had no reason to begin the conversation with Majaz. Perhaps, the mental map of seniority was creating a psychological hindrance. But, somehow she managed to have a conversation with him. 

In the mental map of Maryam, Majaz was beyond her imagination in the ambit of sharpness, knowledge and clarity. And in the mind of Majaz, Maryam was the kind of lady whom he began to admire silently. Her social etiquette, academic appetite and rational thinking enticed him wholeheartedly. The corridors of the library, canteen tea and evening discourse from postmodernism to contemporary politics, touching contrapuntal reading of Edward Said to the philosophical discourse of Michael Foucault, took no time in sublimating the bond into a love relationship. There is no doubt that Maryam, too, is parallel to Majaz's wisdom and knowledge. Albeit, the difference occurs in the art of expression. Their chemistry was exceptional in college times. To this, one day, a colleague of Maryam asked her about her love for Majaz – how long had this been to you? To this, she responded, "Isn't it enough to love someone even for a moment?" And yes, it is enough and there is always a space to love. Majaz finds this question invalid at a time when hate is being served as a meal.

Majaz wanted to do a PhD in Sociology, while Maryam was more inclined towards government jobs. Their professional aspirations never became a social hindrance in marrying two souls. But their family and societal complexities. They both are Muslims but who will deny the fact that there is no caste among Muslims? And so, there is caste hegemony. Majaz is a Surajpuri Muslim and Maryam is a Mewati Muslim (a Meo). Regionally, both castes are 1400 kilometres apart. According to Majaz, both Surajpuri and Mewati communities are anthropologically as well as socially similar, but the only difference is that the Mewati community has been placed under OBC category while Surajpuri community is still denied any categorisation for their social upliftment and treated as a General category. 

Once, Majaz shared a story of himself that one day while performing Namaz in his hometown, he did "Rafa-al-yadein", which goes against the Hanafi school of thought but at the core. It is Islamic. His act of doing Rafa-al-yadein became the topic of the town, and his image was slightly maligned and was called Ahl-e-hadith, which is also a sect, though used in derogatory terms. This social behaviour had a long-lasting impact on his mind, and he reiterated how the quote "little knowledge is dangerous" befits him here and everywhere. 

When the subject matter of marriage arrived in front of them, it invited the worst phase in their life. None of them had ever found themselves in a state of intense anxiety and quagmire. Majaz hadn't been surrounded by so much pressure even during his PhD thesis submission and the same with Maryam while giving an interview for a job in the Ministry of External Affairs. On the side of Majaz's family, they feared that they would lose their son. In Surajpuri culture, there is a saying that, if a Surajpuri marries outside of Surajpuri, then it is likely that he will become an adopted son of the in-law's house. The family believes that their son will be submissive to a girl who doesn't belong to Surajpuri since it is hard to be so while marrying a Surajpuri girl because they lack proper education and personality exposure. It is also unacceptable to a larger extent to marry a girl who holds a job, and the reason behind this is unclear. Maybe it is believed that a man is here to feed women. A patriarchal narrative. 

The essence of stories is similar in the Mewat community as well. Her family was not ready to send her daughter out of Haryana. However, Maryam told them that she and Majaz would settle in Delhi, which is hardly a two-hour journey from her hometown. Her paternal, as well as maternal relatives were not ready to allow her to marry. Perhaps her independence was creating obstacles in their manliness. If a girl marries outside of Mewat, she is being called whore by the society. Her whole family faces psychological trauma in terms of abuse, social boycott and being branded by derogatory remarks. While Maryam was completing her graduation, she faced a lot of challenges in terms of questions like – ‘Why study? Why not marry?’ This had a serious impact on her social-psychological behaviour and injected in her an aversion towards her own culture. The stiffness in her culture is more compact than that of Majaz. Perhaps, because of the fact that she is a girl. Hence, a patriarchal narrative.

To Majaz, Maryam is everything for him. He used to quote a statement from the novel 'Beloved' about Maryam's entry into his life – "She is a best friend of mine. She gathers me, man. The pieces I am, she gathers them and gives them back to me in all the right order.” 
Since the subject matter of marriage was not reaching any conclusion even after half a year, both of them decided to marry without the assent of their families and Qazi Sahab as well. I mean, court marriage. They broke their traditions and culture and went against societal complexities. They disown caste, which is still prevailing among Muslims. They created their own value system. Why be concerned about these social structures when they are not concerned about us? 

I visited the couple last month in their flat in Green Park. They have one daughter and one son. The upbringing of their children is done in a multicultural way. They've introduced all major Indian cultures subject to different religions to their children. This way of upbringing has developed a sense of reverence in their children towards all religions. They celebrate Eid and Diwali with the same enthusiasm. They taught their children to respect every religion, culture and custom. They have developed an interest in poetry in their children. Their daughter, who is in her matriculation, has read grand literature, the work of Simone de Beauvoir and is in the midst of accomplishing Nehru's The Discovery of India. And what Majaz used to say regarding the subject matter of upbringing children, I found exactly the same. I could sense how his words changed into reality. 

In a time when religious supremacy is the cardinal talk, both Maryam and Majaz are allowed to embrace all religions with their children. When love is seen as a crime by society, they let their children be in love. When video games and social media are the breakfast of every teenager, they create an appetite for books to read in their Children. Maryam made sure that their children never face Oedipus Complexion in their lives. On meeting them for dinner, I felt that sometimes going against everything becomes a blessing in disguise. Going beyond caste proves a boon for the generation to come. All they have created is a family – a social capital – and nurtured the greatest minds to come in future.

(Shadman Shaidai is a writer. His works have been published in The Hindu's Open Page, Outlook India and Youth ki Awaaz. He co-authored a book titled ‘Jamia Millia Islamia: Through the eyes of Jamians')