Mumtaz Mahal and Shah Jahan may be long buried in the ground, and Heer and Ranjha may have died in each other’s arms, but love lives on — even the kind that seems to exist only in Bollywood blockbusters. From a man who cycled thousands of kilometres to meet the love of his life to a couple that stayed together through accusations of terrorism and even a jail sentence, here are 6 love stories of ordinary Indians that prove love isn’t just something that poets write about.
1. This retired post master from Uttar Pradesh who built a replica of the Taj Mahal for his wife:
Faizul Hasan Qadri built a replica of the Taj Mahal for his wife after she died of cancer in 2011. He spent Rs. 14 lakh, which was all of his savings, on the memorial — but ran out of money during the last stage of construction. The UP government is now helping him complete it. Mr. Qadri and his wife had no children, and she would fret about not being remembered after her death. He promised to build her a beautiful mausoleum if she died before he did: a tomb fit for the love of his life. Just like Shah Jahan, he will be buried next to his wife when he dies.
2. This man who cycled from India to Sweden to be reunited with his wife:
In 1975, Charlotte Von Schedvin got her portrait done by Pradyumna Kumar Mahanandia, an artist based in Delhi. In true Bollywood fashion, they fell in love at first sight and wasted no time in getting married. When it was time for Charlotte to leave for Sweden, Pradyumna (who goes by PK) couldn’t accompany her because he was still in his final year of art school. Instead, he promised her that he would finish his studies, then save enough money to reach Sweden by himself.
After finishing college, however, PK realised that he might have spoken to soon — it was going to take him forever to collect enough money for the trip. Not one to break his word, PK bought a bicycle and cycled all the way to Sweden in 1978, where astounded border security personnel allowed him inside the country when he showed them proof of his marriage to Charlotte. Today, Charlotte and PK have been happily married for over 40 years.
3. This couple who persevered through stormy accusations of “love jihad” to finally be together:
In 2014, when people found out about the relationship between Shalu and Kaleem, the two young people realised why religion and love don’t always mix well. Close on the heels of the Sahranpur riots, Kaleem became the poster boy for “love jihad”, a widely-reported phenomenon that many claim has no basis in fact. But this couple stayed together through false accusations of rape, a court case, charges of terrorism, a jail sentence, and the wrath of both close family and (occasionally homicidal) strangers. They finally got married in December 2015. Relationships? We know of bridges that have collapsed under flimsier pressure. Understandably annoyed, the couple now has a suggestion for people who aren’t part of a relationship but still need to control its outcome: mind your own business.
4. This man who invented a bicycle that rides on water just so he could meet his wife on time:
Frustration is indeed the mother of invention. From Motihari, Bihar, comes the story of Mohammad Saidullah, who was annoyed because the boats that went to his village were almost always overcrowded. When this resulted in him not being able to get back home to his wife on time — over and over again — Saidullah decided to take matters into his own hand. He has built an amphibious bicycle that works on both water and land. A serial inventor, his other inventions include a mini tractor, a key operated table fan, and a mini turbine for the generation of electricity. He names all of his innovations after his wife — Noor.
5. This man who didn’t stop searching for his wife, even after she was officially declared dead:
In June 2013, Vijaykanth and Leela travelled for a pilgrimage from Alwar, Rajasthan — where Vijaykanth works as a tour operator — to the mountain state of Uttarakhand. June 2013 was also when devastating floods swept across the state, and Leela went missing. For the next year and a half, Vijaykanth searched for her in Uttarakhand. He didn’t return home even when she was officially declared dead and his family received compensation for her death.
Away from family, including their five children, he went from village to village, with only a photo of Leela for company, asking locals if they had seen someone who resembled her. In January 2015, 19 months after they were separated, Vijaykanth found his wife, who residents had seen wandering around Gongoli village. She was traumatised and didn’t recognise him, but he brought her home.
Leela is now getting a ton of loving from her family and children, and is on the path to recovery. Love and perseverance will indeed conquer all.
6. This woman who didn’t let a traumatising acid attack get in the way of happiness:
When 15-year-old Laxmi had acid thrown on her face by a jilted lover, she could have retreated and given up on life. But she chose instead to stand up and fight against the horrible crime of acid-throwing. When she met social activist Alok Dixit in 2014, they fell in love and are today raising a baby daughter together. They live together but are not married — rejecting a social custom that places an inordinate amount of value on the bride’s looks.
Viva l’amour indeed.