They were told that they were not meant for each other, and that their love was a mistake. They were mocked and ridiculed by the world. And yet, they chose to be together, no matter what. We bring to you five true love stories that will reinstate your faith in unconditional love, love that can face the mightiest of storms, only to grow stronger. Love sails through. Always.

When Shadab Khan chose Rudrani Chhetri, a transgender woman as his life partner, many prayed and hoped that it was ‘just a temporary weird phase’ in his life. It was impossible for the couple’s loved ones to come to terms with the relationship. For Rudrani’s father, Shadab is just another boy, a male friend of his ‘son’. He can never be his son-in-law. “That’s because he can’t accept me as his daughter,” says the actor and LGBTQ rights activist. Shadab’s parents also hoped that he would soon get over Rudrani. The fact their relationship cannot culminate into marriage due to lack of legal approval also made life tough, but the couple stuck together. “We will never be treated like other ‘normal’ couples, we do not have equal rights, but our love’s so strong that everything else is immaterial,” says Rudrani. It’s a commitment for eternity, they say.

Devika Das is a popular Delhi-based model. You’ll spot her smiling at you from billboards featuring jewellery and fashion wear in South Extension and Karol Bagh markets. Some 11 years ago, Devika hated her face – she was made to believe by those around her that she was not good-looking because she was dark skinned. When Monish Rahi, her former school mate told her she was the prettiest woman he had ever dated, Devika thought he was lying. It took years of convincing for Monish to make Devika see what he saw in her —a truly beautiful woman. But Monish’s family downrightly and very callously rejected Devika for being dark. They wanted a ‘gori chitti bahu’ for their son, lest they have to bring up dark skinned grandchildren. Monish’s mother told Devika that since she was dark, the family would be very embarrassed to introduce her to their relatives. But Monish and Devika have
been together for the last 11 years despite so much hate coming their way. Monish also encouraged Devika to take up modelling, and stood by her in her journey. The couple hopes that one day Monish’s parents will be able to see her innate beauty that’s much deeper than skin colour.

Across the world, ageism hurts women more than men. From matrimonial ads to online profiles, being younger than her partner is considered a prized virtue for women. However, for Rubina Dhankar, 43, and Himanshu Yadav, 25, the ‘jaw-dropping’ age gap between them and the ridicule, the whispered snide remarks such convention-defying often couples invite, didn’t matter. What mattered was how they felt when they were together. “We are a couple that wasn’t meant to be. He’s a different generation, I had lived in times that don’t exist! We knew this was never to work… Yet something in our hugs kept us hanging by a thread,” writes Rubina, an interior designer, in one of her Facebook posts. When the couple told their family about their relationship, they were astounded. “We belong to traditional families so to accept is not easy. But we are happy together, so nothing else matters,” adds Rubina. The couple’s key to a great relationship is keeping it real. Pretence takes away love, they believe.

Businessman Malkit Singh’s relatives and friends expected him to settle down with a ‘fair and beautiful’ girl from his own community who would bring a handsome dowry. They believed matches are made between people of the ‘same class’. Malkit shocked everyone by declaring that he wanted to marry Afsana Bano, a domestic help whose family struggled to put together two square meals a day. She was seen as a girl who “will bring no wealth and only a bad name” to his family. For a graduate with his own garment business, this was a ‘doomed match’, said one of Malkit’s relatives. The fact that the two belonged to two different faiths only made the situation worse, with Afsana’s family sending death threats to Malkit’s folks. But Malkit was not the one to budge. He married Afsana in an Arya Samaj mandir and lived in hiding for months before they could return home. Later, his family came around, so did Afsana’s. He also encouraged his wife to pursue a career. He got her enrolled in makeup classes so that she could open her own parlour. The couple now has a four-year-old son, Manveer, who is imbibing the best of both faiths.

It was a number dialled by mistake that led Gaurav to acid attack survivor Mohini, only for both to realise that they felt as if they’ve known each other for eternity. When they finally met after being ‘phone friends’ for three years, Gaurav took no time in declaring his love for Mohini. It took a long time for Mohini to say yes. It was tough for her to believe someone could love her so madly despite the acid attack. The countless painful surgeries and the mental anguish she faced after the tragedy had sapped her strength. Marriage was the last thing on her mind. When she finally did say yes, after four years, Gaurav couldn’t feel luckier. But his parents felt let down by his choice. His relatives whispered heartless comments such as ‘ladki ne hi phasaya hoga (the girl must have trapped him in her love) and ‘woh toh musibat talenge hi (her folks will put their burden on us). “People had the most cruel, soul-crushing things to say. But every time I broke down, Gaurav held me and told me we’ll survive, and we did. Love never lets you down,” says Mohini, who now handles crime complaints at the Delhi Commission for Women.

Concept: Shara Ashraf Prayag
Styling Assistance and production: Digvijay
Photos: Raajessh Kashyap/HT and Gokul VS/HT
Garments: 1469, Asha Gautam and Shantanu & Nikhil
Hair and Makeup: Kanchan Mehra, Tasneem Subzwari and Akanksha Thakral
Jewellery: The Tiana

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