On paper, Ankit Mehta and his wife Anna Mehta don’t have much in common. Ankit is from Mumbai, India, and practices Hinduism. Anna is from Manila, Philippines, and practices Christianity. But the two have found ways to meet in the middle.
“We met in a small town called Skudai in Johor, Malaysia. We had both gone for summer internships in 2011 through our universities and were both placed there,” Anna said.
They became friends over that summer and continued talking almost every day after the internship ended and they returned to their respective countries. After being in a long-distance relationship for two years, Ankit invited Anna to Mumbai to see if it was somewhere she could see herself living.
“That’s when our real relationship started,” said Ankit. “We were together for six years before we got married.”
A marriage between two people from the same country and the same faith can be complicated enough, but the legal, religious, and logistic hurdles for the marriage of people from different countries and faiths can make it seem almost impossible.
“In her country, they are very open about relationships and the family generally approves of their choice of partners. But in India, coming from a traditional Gujarati family, I had a very tough time. We had to hide the seriousness of our relationship from my parents and family for several years, which was difficult for us both,” remembered Ankit.
According to Anna, Ankit comes from a family that “doesn’t really believe in the concept of dating” and where arranged marriages “are very normal.”
“[Ankit’s] dating a non-Hindu and non-Indian girl was a very big deviation from what was considered normal. We kept our relationship on the down-low for the first few years. We wanted to get to know each other and he wanted to make sure that I was going to be comfortable living in India before opening up about our relationship to his parents,” said Anna.
Ankit fought for their love, and eventually, even his parents found common ground with Anna.
“[Ankit’s parents] have always been kind to me ever since the first time I met them. But I think a lot of their concerns or their hesitation about our relationship was just the fear of the unknown,” said Anna. “In time, as his parents and I got to know each other better, I think they were assured that the values I grew up with are very similar to theirs. I would like to think that our genuine love for each other showed, and that was what convinced them in the end. Once we were officially engaged, I was slowly introduced to his relatives and their family friends, and they have all been very kind and accepting.”
The process was long, Ankit admitted, “but it was worth the wait.”
Ankit and Anna got married in Mumbai in 2017 through the Special Marriage Act. “It’s a civil marriage between two people who are of different religions,” Anna explained, adding that she only needed to send the Philippine embassy the documents from the marriage to register it in the Philippines, too.
The civil marriage allowed Anna to officially move to Mumbai on a spouse visa, but it was only the first of what would be a threefold marriage celebration—touching on either partner’s roots but not requiring them to convert religions.
“When we started dating, we always said that should we ever get married in the future, we wouldn’t ask the other person to convert. I think we respected each other’s religion enough and understood that we didn’t need to be of the same faith to be together,” said Anna.
Ankit explained that partners need not be both Hindu to get married in a Hindu ceremony, so in January 2018, he and Anna had a traditional Hindu wedding in Mumbai. It “had multiple functions over two days,” said Anna. “We had our mehendi, cocktail, wedding, and reception. We also had a few smaller functions leading up to the wedding dates. My sister and our friends had supported our relationship from the start and we always knew we wanted them to experience our cultures, so I had invited my friends to Mumbai for the wedding. It was fun to see them in traditional Indian outfits.”
The couple said that in order to have a Christian church wedding in the Philippines, they both needed to be Christian. But this didn’t stop Ankit and Anna from celebrating their love in the Philippines with Anna’s family and their traditions.
“In March 2018, we had a reception in Manila to celebrate our marriage with my side of the family,” said Anna. “I was adamant about us wearing traditional Filipino attire because I wanted to see my husband in a barong (a traditional Filipino garment). Because we were firm on either of us not having to convert, we, unfortunately, couldn’t do a church wedding. We compromised on this by agreeing on having a recommitment ceremony on our 10-year anniversary and saying our vows then. We had also invited his friends from India to come to the Philippines.”
A civil marriage followed by a two-day Hindu wedding followed by a reception in the Philippines might seem like a lot to some, but Anna said they were beautiful culminations of the many hurdles and difficulties she and Ankit had to go through to fight for their love. But it wasn’t just about the two of them either.
“It was also our way of saying thank you for all the love and support we’ve received especially during the early days of our relationship. I truly don’t think we would’ve made it this far without the support from our friends,” Anna said.
Ankit and Anna met at a summer internship, had a long-distance relationship for two years, kept it low-key with Ankit’s parents until they were both sure they could make it work, and found ways to get married and celebrate their union in each of their cultures and traditions—proving again that love really is for all.
“Being in an interracial relationship requires a lot of patience, understanding, and you need to be able to have an open mind,” said Anna. “But if you love someone enough and for as long as you’re not having to compromise on your values and your personal beliefs, I don’t think these differences really matter.”
This article is written in partnership with Closeup. VICE and Closeup celebrate love and champion closeness of all forms. For similar articles, check out www.LoveForAll.info
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