Who knew that come 2020, a lovely ad film for jewellery promoting inter-faith love and harmony would draw such severe flak that it would have to be taken down? For the handful perceptive enough to see it, some pre-emptive signs had been there all along – in the form of increased hate speech, communal riots, and angry mobs. But to most, the Tanishq ad fiasco has come as a sudden reckoning of the growing religious intolerance in India. Either way, it has prompted people to come forward and counter bigotry with their personal experiences of interfaith love. Women especially, since Tanishq’s ad was centred around female protagonists, are sharing heartwarming stories of their inter-religious marriages, which despite cultural differences, have been nothing but successful.
For the uninitiated, Tanishq released an ad for their Ekatvam line of jewellery on October 9, showing a Muslim family organising a baby shower (godbharai) for their Hindu daughter-in-law. Within a matter of some hours, the ad began facing heat from religious fanatics who threatened to boycott Tanishq for promoting “love jihad” (religious conversion through love/marriage). The backlash was so severe that the brand pulled the ad on October 12, citing concerns over the “well-being” of its employees. Reportedly, the brand manager of the company had received threats, and so did other store staff in Gujarat. Read more here.
Women Share Heartwarming Stories Of Hindu-Muslim Marriages
To neuter the hostile environment on social media surrounding Tanishq, and Hindu-Muslim communities in general, these women are showing us that religion doesn’t stand in the way of love. Their testimonies are symbols of hope in these bleak times, when the concept alone of a Hindu woman marrying into a Muslim household is indigestible to extremists. The stories of these women tell us that such a concept is not just possible, but is very much alive and active in keeping the cross-cultural threads of India intact.
Trolls blasting Tanishq are repeatedly questioning what the consequences of an ad portraying a Muslim woman marrying into a Hindu family would be. “Why not the other way around?” – they’re asking. This woman’s story is a fitting answer to them. A Muslim woman sharing images from her marriage to a Hindu man with full customs wrote on Twitter: “My maiden name is Zara Farooqui and I am married to Nikhil Parwal… for some bigoted and closed minded people it’s unthinkable but in real India, which looks beyond caste and religion it does happen.”
This is for @TanishqJewelry and #bigots who called for #BoycottTanishq and have questioned “what if” religions were changed.
So here goes, my maiden name is Zara Farooqui and I am married to Nikhil Parwal @NikZar05 since 2016. And these are our wedding pics. #TanishqAd pic.twitter.com/PV2dQScFPJ
— Zara Raj Parwal (@ZParwal) October 14, 2020
Another social media user wrote:
— rach_aha (@rach_aha) October 13, 2020
Rasika Agashe, poet-writer, amid the controversy shared a picture from her godbharai after her marriage to actor Mohammad Zeeshan Ayub Khan. The two have always been vocal in protesting against communal tensions in the country and routinely promote peace and harmony on social media.
— rasika agashe (@rasikaagashe) October 14, 2020
Journalist Suhasini Haidar, daughter of politician Subramanian Swamy, also had an interfaith marriage and wrote about the diversity in her family:
In fact, between all our families we have many inter-faith marriages: Hindu, Muslim, Parsi, Sikh, Jain, Jewish and Christian. Not one has seen a conversion,nor has there been any request for one. This is the India we belong to, and one we live in with pride.🇮🇳 #SaareJahanSeAchcha https://t.co/dIx55Dm7ve
— Suhasini Haidar (@suhasinih) October 14, 2020
Actor and television anchor Mini Mathur also echoed similar sentiments, having married filmmaker Kabir Khan. In a series of Instagram stories, she wrote, “It’s heartbreaking that Tanishq is forced to take down one of the most beautiful ads they have made ever. This and even more love is what I have received in my multicultural marriage!”
Noted journalist and television personality Mrinal Pande too shared a personal anecdote of her daughter having married into a Muslim family, and how the couple’s union was celebrated on both sides:
My daughter married an Indian Muslim in USA, neither converted. Both mothers flew there when our first grand child arrived.Together we cooked, cleaned,entertained family/friends. At night groaning Ya Allah and He Ram, giggled and slept on hard mattresses. So there, ye bigots! https://t.co/62c4VL1ebd
— Mrinal Pande (@MrinalPande1) October 14, 2020
Those outraging against this Tanishq ad must remember that India’s legacy is defined by its longstanding cultural co-existence. We’re a country built upon the personal freedoms of secular citizens. It is what sets India apart as possibly the most colourful dot on the world map. And cries of protest against that very feature serves to potentially endanger our cultural fabric.
Views expressed are the author’s own.