Real Life Story

Couples Share The Benefits of Interfaith Marriages

Topics: Inter-Faith,Starting Out,Dating,Getting Serious

From immersing yourself in new worlds to learning and appreciating the finer cultural and religious nuances of your partner’s life – the perks may surprise you.

The entrance of Nikhila Palat and Vivan Bhathena’s home in Mumbai, India, is representative of the wider cultural pool their marriage has created: Hindu gods and Parsi spiritual figures jostle for space among other religious symbols around the main entrance door. The couple doesn’t just do this for show; as people of different faiths, they show their love for each other by celebrating both religions.

“The need to celebrate all the festivals together is not just symbolic but also integral to the health of an interfaith marriage,” said Palat, who works as a reputation manager for F&B clients and other entrepreneurs.

Vivan Bhathena and Nikhila Palat. Photo: Courtesy of Nikhila Palat

Even though interfaith marriage is still largely controversial in India, the Supreme Court recently asserted the right of adults to choose their life partner, saying it was about time society learnt to accept these marriages. Interfaith couples also find that practising both religions broadens their horizons.

A Hindu from Kerala, Palat is married to model-turned-actor Bhathena, who is a Parsi. “You’re not doing this because you simply want to see your partner happy,” she said, “but also because an interfaith marriage provides the right opportunity for you to truly open your eyes to whole new worlds.”

A similar sentiment is echoed by Modhureema Chatterjee, a Hindu who is married to Alberto Campos Donderis, a Spanish Christian.

“He is genuinely curious to know more about my festivals,” Chatterjee said. “When you marry someone from your faith or caste, you pretty much know everything about their general lifestyle. But marrying outside your faith is getting hit by new learnings in the best possible ways.”

Campos Donderis goes out of his way to ask Chatterjee the meaning of Hindu and Indian inside jokes and the rich history behind Hindu festivals. “I always smile at him when he asks which God I am praying to on a particular day,” Chatterjee said.

Photo: Courtesy of Modhureema Chatterjee

Chatterjee also loves that she gets to celebrate her husband’s birthday twice. “He is a Spanish Christian, and they have this custom where the day of the saint whose name you’ve taken will also be celebrated as a birthday. In his case, it’s Saint Albert.”

For Palat, a major advantage of marrying someone from a different faith is getting to discover new ingredients and feast on authentic cuisines from another culture. “The authenticity in feasting on traditional food is unparalleled,” she said. “Every year, during the annual Parsi festival Navroz, we get a Bohri spread replete with savouries, minced meat samosas and so much more.”

Photo: Courtesy of Nikhila Palat

In the case of Campos Donderis and Chatterjee, it’s heartening that their respective in-laws also put in the effort to make everything work smoothly. “My parents are conservative,” Chatterjee said. “But when they saw how happy I was with him, they knew it was either him or no one.” She joked that her husband, however, liked Hinduism because its emphasis on the reverence of guests made him the centre of attention.

Some studies show that interfaith couples are also very good at communicating with one another. In particular, they are good at agreeing on important issues. In Chatterjee’s case, she explains how, while they enjoy each other’s company, having space is important for her husband. “I respect it,” she said. “Ultimately, we’re two individuals with two different sets of needs and ideas about space.”

One of the reasons Palat is grateful for her interfaith marriage is because of the positive effect it has on her 2-year-old daughter Nivaya. “She doesn’t have a single, conscious sense of religion. From the day she was born, she has seen a mosaic of different faiths, varied sensibilities and a cultural hot pot.”

In both these marriages, Palat and Chatterjee say that they have become better individuals as a result. “I’ve definitely become more sensitive. It’s always a learning process and it’s been rewarding throughout.”

Source: Arman Khan, VICE.

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