Tiny Love Stories: ‘Our Families Couldn’t Know’

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Landing in Mumbai feels like releasing a breath I didn’t know I had been holding. My husband remembers India as dirt, poverty, noise. I remember aromas of masala-fried pomfret, generosity of gruff cabbies saying, “No madam, you keep the change,” daylong cries of crows, hawkers, doorbells. In America, I play music to curb silences. For me, India is no longer a country; it’s an ache. I left the place I love for the man I love. It’s not a complaint. I’m only saying, sometimes, the most unconditional of loves are also the most inconvenient. — Kanika Punwani Sharma

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“Nana” means maternal grandfather in Hindi and Urdu. Though you speak both, we spend the sweltering Delhi summers keeping silent company. We start each day with the crossword and end it playing cards. We dry mangoes for pickling, feed cows leftover roti and make model airplanes. When we do talk, I ask you about serving in the Indian Air Force, about migrating from Lahore to Amritsar during Partition. Every July on my birthday, I ask what my mother was like at my age. I tell you you’re the best Nana, and you just smile gently and hold my hand. — Anisha Chadha

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We met our first year of college. By our final year we were inseparable but kept our relationship secret. Our families couldn’t know. Kruttik was Hindu; I was Muslim. An impossible union. When my mother eventually found out, my family acted like a loved one had died. Seven years of tears, family estrangement and emotional torture later, Kruttik and I married in three ceremonies in three Indian cities, trying to keep the Hindu and the Muslim gods happy. That was 12 years ago. We have two daughters and a new sense of family now. We are also atheists. — Zainab Zaki

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We met how many adults in their 20s did in the early 2000s: via the comments section of the social media platform LiveJournal. He wrote bad poetry. I left fawning comments. Long emails “explaining” his poems followed (“Mansplaining” was, sadly, not yet a term). When blogging went kaput, I lost him in the digital wonderlands. Last year, we connected on LinkedIn. Turns out, he has traded poetry for something called Blockchain. — Radhika Venkatarayan

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I approached her in the coastal city of Kozhikode and said I’d like to go out with her. “Maybe,” she said. I immigrated to America in 1981. Four years later, we met again while she was visiting New York City. This time I told her I loved her and asked if she would be with me. “Maybe,” she said. Two years later (to my surprise) she agreed to marry me, saying, “I do but my answer is still maybe.” Thirty years and two children later, she continues to tell me “maybe.” OMG! She is so indecisive. — Faizal Tamton

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“She’s pretty, for a dark-skinned girl.” I heard this often growing up in skin-color-obsessed India. We met in college. Nishanth was a handsome, light-skinned man. He loved me for who I was and never considered my skin color. But friends, family and strangers did and wondered, some quietly, others aloud: “Why is he with her?” His family objected. What would people think if he were to bring a dark-skinned girl into their light-skinned family? We fought to be together. Twenty years and a son later, Nishanth still sees me, not my complexion. — Deepthi Nishanth

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