St. Valentine's Special – Love and Trial in New Delhi

A couple struggles to carry on amidst parental disapproval and caste differences.

[This report is based on a series of conversations Mayank Austen Soofi had with Ms. Renu Rani Tyagi. The picture is not related to Ms. Tyagi.]

Ms. Renu Rani Tyagi wants to marry Mr. Vipin Kothiyal but their parents object. She is 5 feet, one inch tall. He is 11 inches taller, and thinner. They live in small town Modinagar and commute daily to Delhi, 35 miles away. She works in a media firm at Greater Kailash-I. His software office, in Okhla Industrial Estate, comes ten minutes after her bus stop. During work, they stay connected through Yahoo Messenger. (Her screen name is Jaanu; his is Vipin).

They first met, ten years ago, while learning Java language in a neighborhood computer training center. The intimacy started much later – during long bus rides to and from work. He liked her “childishness” and she was attracted towards his “quiet nature”. They exchange around 500 phone messages each month.

Since Modinagar is a place where even strangers act as a nosy neighbor, they prefer sharing their time, whatever little could be spared, in the relative anonymity of Delhi. Sometimes they go to the Lotus Temple at Nehru Place, while other evenings are reserved for strolls in Connaught Place. When hungry, Ms. Tyagi likes to have pizzas at the Champagne restaurant, near Delhi Gate. She insists on paying for her own expenses. But they never go to Lodhi Gardens or Ambedkar Park, areas infamous for lovers seeking physical closeness in provocative poses. Mr. Kothiyal feels strongly about anyone doubting his beloved’s reputation.

But circumstances are not ideal. Though they are upper-caste Brahmins, Ms. Tyagi’s sub-caste is Kaushik while his is Bhardwaj. This has not appealed to Ms. Tyagi’s parents. Their five older daughters are married to Kaushiks and they are not keen to get their last child married outside the sub-caste. Additionally, Mr. Kothiyal hails from the Garhwal region of Himalayas. Unlike Ms. Tyagi, his family has no substantial ancestral land. This is a source of anxiety to Ms. Tyagi’s clan.

But these disadvantages have not deterred her parents from being charmed by the well-mannered suitor wanting to be their son-in-law. Last year, Mr. Kothiyal had arranged a cab for Mr. Tyagi, a heart patient, when he had to return home from a hospital stay in Delhi. Both the father and mother were touched. They desire a boy like him – but he has to be a Kaushik.

More difficulties lie ahead. Mr. Kothiyal’s parents are severely unhappy with their son’s choice of life companion. Recently, tensions within the family prompted the besotted son to leave the house. He returned a month later, only after being repeatedly urged by Ms. Tyagi. She believes parents are never to be betrayed.

What if their families never reconcile to the match?

“In that case, I will not marry him.” Ms. Tyagi said determinedly. “But then I shall not marry anyone else.”