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Round and round the city, holding hands

With prying eyes everywhere, an inter-caste couple in Patna was forced to date in the three-wheeler. Thankfully, all ended well, writes Rakesh Verma.

patna Updated: Feb 13, 2009 19:53 IST
Rakesh Verma
Rakesh Verma
Hindustan Times

They met in college, fell in love. Rohit Singh said he fell for Savita's "1,000-watt smile" at first sight.

But in this case, the girl was a Bhumihar, the boy a Rajput. Both were upper castes, but castes that have famously never got along.

Gibberish, you might think. Especially in the Internet age, when even aged aunts have taken their matchmaking online in urban India.

But in Patna, that minor difference could be murder on young love. Literally.

"I know of at least two instances when the entire clan got together to hound out youngsters who had dared to defy their families. In one case, the girl committed suicide," Singh said.

"Caste dominates life in Bihar. Our social interactions have not really succeeded in breaching the caste barriers and I do not see inter-caste marriages taking place with the ease they do elsewhere, at least in the near future," said Ajay Jha, a sociologist associated with the prestigious AN Sinha Institute of Social Studies here.

So Rohit, 32, and Savita, 29, decided to keep their love secret.

Of course, in Patna, that wasn't easy to do.

"Families here are like octopuses, hundreds of eyes and scores of arms reaching out everywhere," smiles Rohit. "So we did what we learnt later a whole lot of similarly placed couples do. We hired three-wheelers for say, half a day and went round and round the city holding hands, dreaming dreams, happy just to be together."

They talked about running away together, but were afraid that would only enrage their families fuming, and "there's no saying when some mad brother would get his goon friends to run us down".

Every meeting was fraught with danger.

Rohit once got a cousin, who was Savita's friend, to take her to a food court for golguppas.

"She came and we had golgappas," he says. "As we were leaving, she spotted into a cousin, a big, muscular fellow who, had he seen her with me, would have raised hell right there. That was a really close shave."

The couple finally decided, in early 2005, that they had had enough and Rahul got his family to propose marriage.

Both the mothers were college teachers, and the dads, one in government the other a businessman. They would understand, they figured.

The proposal kicked off a series endless arguments about family honour and how their name would be compromised by the match.

"But we stuck it out… and here we are," says Savita, cradling her two-year-old daughter.

The couple was married in 2005, and the families eventually made their peace with each other.

In fact, said Rahul, the big, burly cousin is now a really close friend.

First Published: Feb 13, 2009 19:51 IST