Sat Singh | Feb 17, 2018 | 7 min read
Rohtak: In a state infamous for feverish casteism and honour killings, here's a heartwarming story that bears testimony to every aphorism about the silent power of love.
Youth of the region understand fully well an inter-caste relation can land them in grave trouble, yet a Jat youth from a village and a Dalit girl living in a small city dared fall in love. They shared a rare compatibility and comfort level. Quietly, they would exchange their thoughts and feelings. Quietly, love blossomed. In no time, it became apparent to both they were meant for each other and their relation had to graduate to marriage.
Given the volatile caste equation in their homeland, it was easier said than done. For, a Jat marrying a Dalit is akin to inviting chaos. First, the families won't agree. Secondly, even if the families were to be persuaded, how to tackle the disapproving community?
Fortunately for Sushil Mahla and Neelam Rani, society didn't poke its nose in their affair. As it happens, both are hearing- and speech-impaired.
Here they were, a differently abled couple with the same disabilities, capable of relating and empathising with each other in a way they could with perhaps nobody else. That it is rare and heartening for two such people to find solace in each other kept the self-appointed custodians of caste at bay. This July 2, the young couple got married in a simple and solemn ceremony at a temple with the blessings of their family.
Sushil, 23, has studied till 10+2 and lives in Garanpur village in Bhiwani district. Neelam, 21, is a school dropout and lived in Siwani city, barely 30 kilometres away from Sushil's village. Every once in a while, Sushil’s parents would raise the issue of his marriage in the sign language they had so gotten used to and Sushil would raise his open hands to the sky, essentially leaving it to the Lord. Now, as it appears, Neelam would do exactly the same whenever her mother broached the subject: hands up in the sky.
It was at a meet for the hearing- and speech-impaired in Hisar this February that the two first met. Red Cross Society and Hisar administration organise these meetings to impart skills to the differently abled every month. Both have been involved with the organisation for long, but February was the first time these star-crossed lovers crossed paths. They hit it off immediately and spoke with each other in sign language for about 20 minutes.
Upon returning home, Sushil found Neelam on Facebook and sent her a friend request. The two started chatting, communicating in Hindi and Haryanvi. This continued for a month as their bond continued to grow.
Sushil told her of his love for bikes, travel, and homemade food. Neelam said she was a homely girl and that it took her time to gel with people. She told him she got so much love and care from her mother that despite the early death of her father, her childhood was one of happy solitude. Of their speech- and hearing- impairment, Sushil told her when he was eight months old, he was taken to his grandmother's home in Rajasthan, where he lost both hearing and speech to high fever. Neelam‘s story was shorter; she was born with these disabilities.
Love vs Caste
One day, Neelam dropped him a message. She asked Sushil to come and meet her at the Agroha Temple for something special. By then head over heels in love, Sushil couldn’t hold his feet from being fast enough to arrive for the rendezvous. Neelam was not alone. Her mother too was there, to whom Sushil was introduced as “my life partner”.
The three struck up a conversation as Neelam’s mother Channo Devi could make sign language as good as Neelam and Sushil. Channo approved Neelam’s choice of life partner but went silent after being told that Sushil is a Jat. In Haryana, one better not step over the caste boundaries.
That evening when Sushil returned home, his father Dalbir Mahla, an ex-army man, asked why he was grinning ear to ear. Later that night, the lovebird let the secret out to his mother. Recalling that day, Dalbir said his son told his mother that he had found his life partner and that he would marry only that girl.
The Mahlas promptly took to enquiring about the girl and were taken aback upon learning her caste. "We were looking for a match within our caste for Sushil but he would reject every girl. He wanted to marry a girl with the same disability,” said Dalbir.
Meanwhile, Channo Devi was doing her bit. She called her brother-in-law Satbir Jangra and told him all. After much thinking, he concluded that while caste could be an issue for the regular lot, the society must be kinder to Neelam and Sushil.
“They both already suffer a lot because of their impairments. Their families should not be cruel to them by denying their right to lead a happy married life,” he told Channo Devi.
At Sushil’s home too, his family held a meeting to take a final call. There could be social repercussions. As it was, a female family member was already panicking. “What would the neighbours say!” she asked.
“The meeting lasted more than three hours. All family members spoke their mind. They agreed to the alliance but remained skeptical,” said Dalbir. “It was my decision. I’m a fauji. In the army, everyone is trained to see with one eye. It’s in my blood. How could I do injustice to my own son!”
Dalbir called Neelam’s mother. They met at Sushil’s home. Sushil’s family assured Channo Devi that Neelam would get the same love, care and respect at Sushil’s home as she gets in her home. The young lovers tied the knot at Siwani temple in a simple affair. No dowry, no showoff.
In her marital home, Neelam Rani has been given the freedom to cast off the veil. “For the world she must be our daughter-in-law but to us, she is our daughter,” said her mother-in-law.
As the families expected, they did not face any hostility from the society for the inter-caste marriage. Instead, people laud them for taking the bold step and for giving priority to their children's happiness over regressive practices.
Now, Sushil has started a provisional store and Neelam helps him run it. For this extraordinary couple, their wedding indeed was the beginning of their "happily ever after".
Having had to compromise on many fronts on account of them being differently abled, the duo is over the moon that life was kind to them when it mattered the most. Through a sign language interpreter, Sushil expressed how grateful he is to have found Neelam, his beaming countenance communicating his feelings better than the sign language could.
He recounted how matchmakers would approach his father with proposals of physically or visually challenged girls even though he was clear about wanting to marry someone who shared his condition. He needed a life partner who could understand his suffering and limitations. He said he got everything he had hoped for when he met Neelam.
Of course, the feelings are mutual. "When I saw him at Hisar Red Cross centre, it was kind of love at first sight. It was like a dream come true when he sent me a friend request on Facebook," said Neelam.
While smitten, she revealed that at first she was unsure about getting into a relation with Sushil as "he looked smart and handsome enough to impress any girl."
She said she had never imagined fate would have such a life partner in store for her. The glowing bride said her mother is more elated than her, as she would always worry about her future and her marriage.
The young couple acknowledges what a miracle it is that their relation could transcend the fiercely protected boundaries of caste and translate into marriage. Sushil said he has never come across a couple in their village or any nearby place where two people madly in love were allowed to marry with parents' permission with such an ease.
"I sometime thank God for making me disabled, otherwise our relation might not have been accepted by the society."
Inputs from Gulshan Popli
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