Love in India Reader Survives Break Up and Achieves His Dreams – Interview

There are those days when you feel like nothing is going to work again. Like the world is over. Like you’ve lost everything.

I know I do.

It might just be the traffic. Or a tiff you had with your mother in the morning. An exam you failed.

Or it might be a break-up.

The end of a significant relationship is one of the most life-altering experiences one goes through in one’s life. It breaks a lot of people. Makes cynics out of the rest. But for a tiny fraction of people this painful and heartbreaking experience becomes the catalyst to a new life, new dreams and a renewed belief in their own abilities.

Subhendra is one such individual. Subhendra had had a devastating break-up some time back. I first got to know him when he wrote to me asking for help with the what he was going through. We kept in touch. A few weeks back I received a happy surprise in my Facebook inbox – Subhendra had got himself a seat in a prestigious management school – something he’d always dreamt of.

I was completely blown away. Here’s a guy who was a crushed, heartbroken mess only a few months back. And today he is an epitome of success – having achieved his dream through sheer hard work, dedication and willpower. I felt proud to have helped him. I also felt eager to share his secrets of this mind-blowing turnaround with all of you. Here are some excerpts from a recent chat I had with Subhendra.

#1. Tell us a bit about yourself.

I’m a very simple person and I like other simple people. Chatting with friends energizes me like anything. Well, I’ve got only a few. But the ones who I call friends are a true life-force to me.

I take success seriously. I want it. I do what I can to achieve it. The more successful I am, the more confident I feel. The more confident I am the more motivated I feel to do more. That’s the recipe for my success, really.

Oh and btw – did I tell you about my new girlfriend? Here she is.

interview - moving onPhoto by victor.lavrentev

Oh yes. She’s the curviest, sexiest, most romantic and most caring thing on earth. I love the way she longs for my touch. When I’m with her, I forget everything else. J

#2. You were in a relationship. How long was it? Tell us a bit about it.

Ah yes, my relationship.

We started as friends really. And surprisingly, it was she who took the lead in turning it into something more. I gave in. I fell.

Love is every bit as crazy, euphoric, beathtakingly happy as they say, you know? I’m glad I’ve tasted it, if only for 4 short months. Oh yeah – that’s how long she stayed. Then she called it off. Just like that.

#3. Subhendra you had a shocking break up some time back. Tell us how it happened. 

Needless to say I have no words to describe my feelings in the months that followed the break-up. For a long time I couldn’t believe it, really. Especially because she never offered any explanations. I begged.

Eventually I came to know that she had gotten engaged to someone else. I felt may be it was the lack of a formally spelt out commitment of marriage from my side which had broken her trust. To make up for this I confessed everything to my family and got my father to talk to her over the phone. I even invited her to my home to meet my parents (yeah I know how lucky I am). She said she was embarrassed and of course, never came.

I’m crazy I know.

#4. How did the break up affect you? 

It has been more than a year since then. I used to feel very lonely. I’d force myself to date other girls, but my past would block everything and my heart would grow cold as I got to know them. I had become a bit of cynic. I felt every girl I met was pretentious and driven by ulterior motives.

I was tired of the so-called positive “pep talk” from people around me. “You can choose to be happy”, and “one day you’ll meet the love of your life” had become meaningless dry platitudes to me. There was no strength, no happiness, no stability in my mind.

#5. What all did you do to cope with your break-up?

My friends were a great support system, to a certain extent. But tell you what – no one can really know what you feel. Hence deep in my heart I was walking alone.

Interview - break up

I’ve learnt a lot from my past. I’ve learnt about myself, others and the “real world”. I’ve learnt to focus on myself, to care for myself, to value myself. If I hadn’t started appreciating and believing in myself more, I would be nowhere near where I stand today.  All in all, I daresay I’ve learnt to be a bit more selfish – it always helps. :D

Needless to say, Sulagnadi’s counselling and articles gave me some very good guidance. They helped me ground myself in reality, to see life for what it was, without any rosy or pessimistic lenses. They helped me think of life in a rational, structured way.

Also Sulagnadi, I know you don’t recommend forcing yourself to hate someone you want to forget, but that’s what worked for me. Hatred is the exact opposite of love. I mean – just like love is that magic potion which brings two people together, hatred is the one that draws them away from each other, naturally. Well, to tell you the truth she’d given me plenty of real reasons to hate her too. I found out many of the moves she’d made during the break-up (and also during the relationship) were predetermined – all part of her plan for her own life. It was bizarre. In hindsight I feel maybe she wanted a guy who was better settled (financially). She knew I was not going to take up a job within the next few years. May be that’s what put her off. At least that’s what I believe. And that has helped me deal with my own feelings. You know, I even called her once and said, “I’m glad you’re not with me anymore. Breaking up with you has taught me a lot, it has leased me a new life. I’m confident I’ll get a better partner than you one day.” ;)

#6. I’m really happy to know you’ve overcome your mental turmoil and have scored a major achievement recently – namely, cracking B-school admissions. Tell us how you feel.

I’ll never forget that moment. The one when MAT results were released, that is. 94 percentile. I almost couldn’t breathe when I saw that number against my name.

It took some time to sink in. All I could feel was, “Is this really happening?”

As of today I’m glad to know I’ve been able to create something for myself worth creating. That’s a huge confidence booster for me. This achievement tells me that I’m finally free of my past. That I’m ready for the future. The institute I’m about to join is a really great one. I’m looking forward to the start of a new life.

#7. How did you get back your zeal for life, your motivation and your desire to be happy? Most people reeling from a recent break-up struggle with these and would benefit immensely from your answer. 

It was not easy, to say the least. Depression has been a constant companion to me for the last one year. Life would feel meaningless from time to time.

What helped me really … was the desire to feel better, to move on, to be happy. I wanted to find a solution. I took to reading inspirational literature. One of my Favourite books is The Secret. It helped me gradually break free of my negative attitude. It helped me hope again, and to believe in myself. I came across the concepts of Dianetics. It helped me immensely in truly believing in my own power to control my life. When you control your mind, you control pretty much everything in your life.

#8. How did you discipline yourself into doing what it took to crack the admissions? Give us some tips. 

This is really ironical, you know. I have never thought of myself as a good student, and never expected to be giving out study tips. This is really amazing.

You see, I just had to prove me to myself. I had lost my strength, my confidence, my belief in myself. So I was really, really determined to give myself a new opportunity for the future. I set myself the goal of getting admission to a good institute of management studies.

After that it was the usual rigour to get the MAT score I needed. Solving previous years’ papers regularly, setting aside time for specific practice activities everyday etc. If I had to share just one principle of success with an aspiring student it would be this – manage your time well. Effective time management is the key to achieving any goal you set your mind to.

#9. Any message for Love in India readers? Especially the ones struggling with the end of a significant relationship?

A couple of things, really.

  1. A break-up is painful. But it’s a part of life. Be aware that you’re not alone.
  2. It’s a great opportunity to learn about life, about the real world and to change yourself for the better, if you want to.
  3. Tough times don’t last. Tough people do. Yeah the old adage is damn true.
  4. Your significant other is (was) a part of your life, not your life itself. Trust me – your purpose on this Earth goes much, much beyond finding happiness with him/her.

Lastly, I want to wholeheartedly thank you, Didi (Sulagna Dasgupta), for doing such awesome work for all of us. Your help means a lot to a lot of people like me. I wish Love in India becomes ever more popular. My heartfelt best wishes are always there with you.

Why “The Groom’s Side” Will Continue to Act High-Handed with You

An acquaintance of mine is now in the process of having her marriage arranged. She meets a new prospective groom every other day (and becomes ever so rich in the Hilarious Life Experience department).We were recently chitchatting about one such experience she had a few days back. She seemed really annoyed with the way the guy and his family treated her in their first (and understandably, only) meeting. Apparently they said they’d like it if she discontinued working after marriage, acted rude all along and to top it all – the guy’s mother took her to the kitchen where she had to demonstrate her cooking skills by preparing a few dishes of her choice under her probing gaze.

“But wasn’t that expected?” I wondered aloud. I’m not sure whether it was my reaction or the groom’s family’s actions which outraged her more.

“What do you mean?” She exclaimed.

“Well, you’ve chosen to have an arranged marriage. We all know that the bride/groom selection within the settings of an arranged marriage is a process which has been traditionally disparaging of women. It’s a patent fact that it is still thought of by most Indians – like this guy you unfortunately met – as the man’s privilege to pick and choose the women he’s presented with. If you wanted to be treated with the respect and equality you deserve, shouldn’t you have chosen the more natural way of getting married instead?”

“What do you mean??”

Arranged MarriagePhoto by Praveen_Verma

I realized the short version of my views on this had confused her more. So I explained, this time in detail.

“Let’s start from the A, B, C, shall we? Marriage in general is understood to be a way of giving legal validity to a bond of love between two people (and when I say “love”, I’m NOT talking about crazy, head over heels infatuation but a deep, stable bond between two people built over time, and based on shared values, beliefs, personalities etc.). So marriage is understood as a consequence of two people wanting to be with each other. Here the partner is primary and marriage is secondary because the marriage is a consequence of the existence of the partner. 

Only among certain specific communities (like the majority of people in the Indian subcontinent, some parts of middle East, some parts of China, a few thousand followers of the Unification Church in the US & Europe etc.) it is thought of as the exact opposite of that – a lifelong contract between two people based on various factors, which may or may not culminate in love (again, by love I don’t mean an emotional state but a bond based on compatibility). Here the marriage itself is primary. The partner is secondary, and hence easily replaceable.  

What happens when you’re easily replaceable?

Let’s take an example. Let’s say someone hires you for your unique qualities. They’ve got a job which you – and only you in this world – can perform. What salary would you ask for? As much as you want, right? Because no matter how much you ask for, the employer has to hire you because no one in this whole world can perform your job. In this case your replaceability is zero – you’re irreplaceable. (Think of superstars. They’re paid so highly because they’re unique – completely irreplaceable. Amitabh Bachchan doesn’t get paid for doing his job – acting or whatever. He gets paid for being him.)

On the other hand if you go to someone and offer to wash their floor, what salary would you ask for? Not very high, right? In this case you don’t get to name a price you’d like because yours is a relatively low-skilled job. Hence you’re easily replaceable. The employer is looking for enough skills to get his floor washed; he’s not looking for you specifically. If you don’t want to work for the price the employer is ready to pay you, someone else will.

Hence, the more replaceable you are, the less is your bargaining power.

Coming back to the marriage scene in the Indian context – marriage has been traditionally considered the ultimate achievement of a woman’s life, but not so for men. Even though in a sufficiently large pool of single people (as large as the population of a country/state/city) there would always be roughly equal no. of men and women, for cultural reasons the perceived risk of not being married is much, much higher for an Indian woman than it is for an Indian man. Hence the woman (and/or her family) becomes the “weaker side”, so to speak, in the Indian arranged marriage market. (Think of the earlier employer-employee example. Theoretically speaking both of them need each other equally. But practically, it’s an employers’ market.)

wife sex before marriagePhoto by VishalSinghx

Because of the partner being easily replaceable to followers of the second school of thought on marriage, the bargaining power of the weaker side goes drastically down in case of marriages among these people. As a natural consequence, the stronger side gets to call the shots. This can lead to all sorts of consequences like the stronger side taking an obvious upper hand, treating the weaker side disrespectfully (like in your case), expecting the weaker side to compensate financially in return for the “favour” they’re doing them. (“Since you’re easily replaceable, if you don’t pay someone else will.” That’s what’s called dowry. ;) )

Compare that with a natural process of marriage – “Love marriage”, as it is called in India. Someone wants to marry you because they love you. Hence you’re unique – they want to marry you, not just anybody. You’re irreplaceable to each other. Hence both of you are on equal footing. None is in a position to take an obvious upper-hand.

Anyone is free to choose either of the two interpretations of marriage for themselves. In a patriarchal society like India, in the context of arranged marriage, the various unkind gestures of the guy’s side which you’ve described are all very logical, easily deductible, natural consequences of following the second process of marriage. Particular families can of course be kind and gentle people who choose not to use the privilege which is logically theirs. But in general it’s surprising that these acts can come across as surprising to people who’ve willingly chosen to follow this process of marriage. 

That’s all I meant. :) ”

Well let’s not go into what happened next. Let’s just say … she was a very nice person. ;)

What about you? Irate? Angry? Hurt? Happy? Vindicated? Completely confused and decided never to come back?

Whatever is your reaction, I want to know it. Do pour in the comments. Let’s find out the truth. If it exists. :P 

My Valentine’s Day 3: “I Give You Time Till Valentine’s Day Midnight to Come Back”, Anwesha’s Open Letter

Oh Yes. Valentine’s Day.

I’ll never forget our first.

Here I was at home, getting my morning fix of local news, when this huge bouquet arrived. You should thank your stars that it was me and not my mom who opened the door.

There was no note, no name. I have to admit I felt secretly happy, even though I was already in a relationship with you at the time.

But that was not all – a CD collection of my favourite singer, along with a note arrived around mid-day. It was an invitation to a candle lit dinner, complete with directions.

In the hierarchy of forbidden pleasures, few can match that of a woman in a committed relationship receiving non-boyfriend non-husband attention. I decided to go ahead. ;)

If there’s anything called a trauma of exhilaration, I got a taste of it that day.

I reached the restaurant and there you were! Wearing the shirt I gave you last birthday and my favourite smile, it was my prince, who’d planned an elaborate Valentine’s Day for his princess – complete with all the surprises a girl could ask for and then some!

It’s real that we’re not together anymore, is it? I don’t even know what went wrong. I have tried my best. I know I’m always there and I’ll keep every promise I made you, even if we never see each other again. Whatever you do, please – please be happy.

Maybe…just… remember me sometimes. Maybe when you’re asleep, sometimes dream of what could’ve been, if we’d tried.

I know I can handle the challenges you were afraid of. And if you know me or my love at all, you know that too.

You remember those pretty verses I used to write for you which always made you laugh? Here’s one I wrote last night.

Dono ankhon mein ashq liya karte hain
Hum apni neend mein tera naam kiya karte hain
Jab bhi palkein jhapke tumhari,
Samajh lena hum tumhe dil se yaad kiya karte hain…..

Outgrowing my feelings for you is hard to do it seems. ;)

On this Valentine’s Day I want you to know that I’ll be waiting…till  11:59: 59 PM today. If you ever loved me, show me now. But if you don’t, I’ll understand. I’ll understand that it was my mistake – I was living in a reality of make-believe. That all that happened over the all those months were mere figments of my imagination – even your love. That’ll make it easier for me to close this chapter forever. 

My Valentine’s Day 2: “The Mysterious Event Which Occurred One Valentine’s Day…”

Hi friends. I’m Anuradha Mallick. You wouldn’t have heard of Mogra – the little town about an hour and a half away from Kolkata where I grew up – or my school, Dr. B.C. Roy High School. It’s here that I first heard about Valentine’s Day – or “Vegetable Day” as it was known among the kids back then.

My Valentine's DayPhoto by Anuradha Mallik

To us, it meant gossip. Loads of it.

Who got the maximum number of proposals from boys?

Who accepted?

Who rejected?

Who got the most candy?


Ah the days of childhood.

I had to leave them behind though (don’t we all?), and went on to earn my B. Tech. (still battling its final throes), along with pursuing my dreams of becoming a photographer.

My Valentine's DayPhoto by Anuradha Mallik

I was in my 2nd year when it happened.

It was 14th Feb. I was about to go out for a jog, when I discovered it just by the door.

A box full of chocolates, and a bunch of exquisite red roses. No note. No sign.

No guys, I don’t have a photo of those mysterious objects. The world was not so click-o-manic back then. At least ours wasn’t. But I digress…

Expectedly, it was a shock. I can’t deny that sudden flutter in my stomach and that hot feeling on my cheeks. I strived to tell myself that it may not be for me, but I knew it was. A rush of confused feelings flooded my system. Happiness. Panick. Dizziness. Excitement.

Unfortunately my first surprise Valentine’s Day gifts had to end up in the wild bushes behind our home. Bringing them in would’ve raised eyebrows. And I didn’t want to be asked pointed questions about my non-existent boyfriend.

The next year my anonymous admirer surprised me with his intimate knowledge of my taste of chocolates – I got a bar of Bourneville and one of Crackle that year, which I’d acquired a taste for only shortly before.

Another year my niece discovered my present, went wild with juvenile curiosity and got me into trouble by somehow managing to involve my parents. It was hilarious.

In hindsight.

I still receive my roses and box of chocolates every Valentine’s Day. The sender is still elusive. I’m still searching.

My Valentine's DayPhoto by Anuradha Mallik

Note: Anuradha is one of the first and most ardent fans of Love in India. She’s also one of the few budding photographer friends whose photos I love. Do check out her page Anuradha Mallick photography for a taste of her talents.


“Valentine’s Day is The Day of Being Fooled, Cheated & Robbed,” My Interview With Love in India Fan

Valentine’s Day is in the air. But the chocolaty aroma is not free of the acidic fumes of over-commercialization and over-westernization – according to some. What does the Indian youth really think of Valentine’s Day? To find out, I got chatting with a few young fans of Love in India. Today is the first in this interview series, My Valentine’s Day.

Rahul (that’s not his real name folks) is a fine young man, in the process of earning his MBA somewhere in Mumbai, after dutifully completing his graduation in Chemical Engineering, in 2011. He’s a gourmet, movie-buff, Facebook-ist (I invented that word when I came to know Rahul) and travel-junkie. “Spending all my life amidst the din and bustle of Mumbai makes me irresistibly attracted to the tranquillity of places like Haridwar, Hrishikesh etc.”, he says, “You should try it.”

So Rahul, what are your thoughts on Valentine’s Day?

Valentine's Day IndiaPhoto by Andovercookiemama

To me, it’s a great opportunity to get fooled, cheated and robbed.

Many hearts are broken, many suicides occur around this time. And of course – getting a lot of your money nicked by clever corporations is also a part of the whole game. Prices of gift items double around this time. So it’s basically an occasion for well-meaning boys trying to impress their girls, to cough up a lot of money, saved over weeks, or even months. Nowadays you’ve got restaurants, resorts and spas luring you with special offers (some call them “discounts”, I wonder why) around Valentine’s Day. All for the gullible trying to win over the loyalty of their partners by spending money.

The market has managed to name a price on everything – pleasure, companionship, togetherness.

Maybe even love.

Oh … well… quite a strong position there…What would you say about Valentine’s Day having so-called ‘evil influences’ on today’s Indian youth – as claimed (and unfortunately acted upon) by some political parties?

14th Feb. is the second most popular day of the year for rapes, sexual crimes, and substance abuse – after Dec. 31.

If I remember correctly, statistics say that after 31st Dec., 14th Feb. is the date on which maximum rapes & related sexual crimes take place. Many an unwanted pregnancy, many a violent crime are recorded around Valentine’s Day all around the world. Even sales of drugs & alcohol peak in this period.

You’ve got this designated day when couples want to look good/hot/cool. I remember from my school days, girls wearing short skirts displaying their waxed legs as 14th Feb. grew close…That week used to be full of eve-teasing and fighting among the boys. Sometimes these tiffs – started off around Valentine’s Day – would linger on for a long time, even years. And I’m not joking. Teenagers, as you know, are the most enthusiastic about Valentine’s Day. Sometimes they tend to get a bit too carried away by the adrenalin. So you go to pubs, get drunk, dance and willingly or unwillingly get exploited. Young people often don’t fully realize the implications of their actions. That’s the problem. If they can be educated to celebrate this day while also taking full responsibility for themselves, then may be that’s a solution. Otherwise, the negative implications which have been highlighted can’t be wished away at all.

That’s interesting, coming from a youngster like you. I’m curious to know your own experience of Valentine’s Day… What was your experience of it as a child?

In my convent Valentine’s Day was “That day when the Christian girls wear very short skirts, roam around with their boyfriends and get naughty.” 

I have studied in a convent. So I was aware of the existence of something called Valentine’s Day from as early as the beginning of secondary school, even though it wasn’t so widespread in India at the time.

I was your classic nerd – in love with nothing but my studies. In my school Valentine’s Day celebrations were limited mainly to Christian boys and girls. So the way I saw it was, “That day when the Christian girls wear very short skirts, roam around with their boyfriends and get naughty.”  I was in 8th standard or so by the time it started to gain widespread popularity as a day for general celebration of romantic love. But then by that time I had also realized that girls would hardly be interested in me. Walking up to the canteen with a boy who walks with a limp in his left leg was not something you would want to be seen doing.

So you’ve never actually celebrated Valentine’s Day?

Oh yes I have! I had a girlfriend, you see. I did celebrate Valentine’s Day in my 2nd, 3rd, 4th year of engineering.

Ah…college romance. What was your first Valentine’s Day like?

It was in 2nd year of engineering 14 Feb 2009. My then girlfriend (or so I thought) had just said “yes” to me after we went out for two movies (I still remember – these were Ghajini & Rab ne Bana di Jodi) on two consecutive days after the start of the 4th semester of engineering.

I was on top of the world, because now I was the most hated guy in my batch. Yes you’ve guessed it right – she was one of the hottest girls of my class. Obviously no one felt I was up to her standards because I was disabled. So I wanted to make extra efforts & prove it to her & the whole college that I’m the coolest dude around and that I deserved her.

I have wandered tirelessly around the gullies of Durgapur, day after day, looking for her special Valentine’s Day gift.

So, coming back to the V-Day story – I got an expensive soft toy, a T shirt, chocolates & a dress for her. All giftwrapped. She came to college at 8 in the morning. We had breakfast & tea. We bunked college (of course!) went for a movie at the most famous multiplex of Durgapur (did I tell you I went to college in Durgapur?), followed by lunch at a good restaurant. Time slipped away as we talked about nothing till we were hungry again. Then we went to Café Coffee Day…then just when she was about to leave, I gave her all the gifts.

But I haven’t yet told you about the most special gift yet, which I gave her right at the end. I had wandered tirelessly for a week around the gullies of Durgapur, searching for it.  

It was a nose ring.

It was the cheapest of all the gifts, but it was my deep desire to see her wear it, as I felt it will make her look really sexy. I had been visualizing her, fantasizing her wearing a nose ring of my choice.

That was special you know – a gift of my choice.

Frankly that was the only real Valentine’s Day gift from me to her. Other expensive gifts I gave her were meant only for making her feel good and a cut above all the other girls of my college. It was also to give her something to brag about, that would make up for my disability.

Have you ever tried a funny Valentine’s Day surprise?

She loved water.

Somehow the health benefits of drinking a lot of water had gotten to her head. She could drink water at any time and wouldn’t stop talking about how important it is for our body.

On our 2nd Valentine’s day, in addition to a “real” gift, I got her something special. A carefully & artistically packed gift – packed in multiple layers of wrapping paper which took her more than 3-4 minutes to open.

After opening it she found a bottle of mineral water from Bisleri.

After this whenever she’d get upset I’d get her a nicely packed Bisleri. I even got it for her birthday (apart from a regular gift, of course. ;) )

Have you ever received a Valentine’s Day gift? What was it like?

Yes yes I did receive my share of chocolates, t-shirts and college bags. ;)

But the best gift of all was when I asked her to dress up like a bride & get a photograph clicked & she got me a snap of her. I had kept it with me for a long…long time.

I could have kept it with me forever, but I didn’t.

It hurts.

“Matrimonial Businesses Promoting Casteism Will Soon Find Their Existence Questioned,” Sanjoy Sachdev, In My Exclusive Interview with Love Commandos

Mandeep had found Lata through a common friend in Facebook. She was a student, and he worked in technical support. After two months of online chatting, he called. One more month and there they were – meeting each other for the first time at a coffee shop in some town towards the north of the country. Within the next few months Lata had got her phone confiscated by her family. They had found out.

Lata’s family tried to lure her with the hope of getting married into a rich family, but she was adamant. Her boyfriend was the only one she was ever going to marry.

Determined to escape and create a life of their own, they called the Love Commandos.*

Meet the Commandos – a group of aging journalists and businessmen based in New Delhi, who provide protection and legal assistance to couples who dare to choose each other over the diktats of their families and clans. They operate a helpline for couples under threat and requiring assistance. On receiving a call the volunteer Commandos rescue the couples and provide them temporary shelter.

I was fortunate enough to find an opportunity to chat up with the Love Commandos leadership. Here are some excerpts:

Sanjay Sachdev, Chairman, Love CommandosSanjay Sachdev, Chairman, Love Commandos, Photo by Mandeep Gulia

How did Love Commandos start? What was the inspiration behind starting it?

Sanjoy Sachdev, Chairman: We had gone to Tees Hazari courts in Delhi. It was a case of son of a friend of Mr. Sonu Rangi (Presently our Commando Co-ordinator), who was in jail on charge of Rape. The girl had deposed before the magistrate that she was in love with Sanjay (accused) and even refused to undergo medical examination. She had stated that the relation was with consent but the Delhi Police had under the pressure of the family of the girl put the boy behind the bars.

We argued the case and got him bailed out the same day. We were assisted by Advocates Mr. Vinit Jain and Mr. Sanjay Kumar. While on way back Mr. Sanjay Kumar, advocate Delhi high court suggested that we should do something to stop crimes in the name of honour, as we have been having Valentine peace Commandos (helpline for couples under pressure from families and needing assistance), for 15 days a year since 2001.

After reaching back we were discussing the proposal in our core team of activists when a call from a journalist Mr. Rajiv Tyagi (Then working with Mid Day Delhi edition)  came and who wanted to know our reaction on Khap dictats. We said that soon we would be converting our valentine day helpline to 24X7 helpline for lovers to combat and counter fundamentalist and orthodox dictats of Khaps and other such elements. It was while answering his queries that Mr. Harsh Malhotra (presently our Chief Co-ordinator) said finalized the name Love Commandos along with the helpline number.

It is worth mentioning that Mr, Malhotra has made a world record in Love by marrying his own wife six times.

Have you ever had any negative experience of your own related to any marriage against the advice of the family?

Sonu Rangi, Commando Co-ordinator: None in the members of the core team had any such experience. I’m proud to say that our parents never considered it necessary to obstruct our freedom of choosing our respective life-partners.

With the social pressures Indian rebel couples usually face, you must be receiving a considerable volume of calls. How are you handling it logistically?

The Mid Day Delhi story I just mentioned was reused by NDTV and Dainik Jagran on July 5th 2010, followed by many other TV channels and newspapers. As media coverage spread the message of the Love Commandos all across the country we started getting a huge volume of calls, starting with 7000 calls the very first day, as against our expectation of 100/200 calls a month! As you might have guessed – we didn’t have the logistical capacity to handle that kind of volumes in the beginning. Gradually we put together a network of attending the calls on same number on 12 lines by using call forward when busy to other numbers. It was getting too expensive for us. Now we have got CUG system from Reliance (As all numbers are in the 93 range), and thus been able to get operational costs (relatively) under control.

Two years into our operations we were also lucky to meet Vinay from who who offered us a free website which is still functioning as our official website The website has been instrumental in spreading our message not only in India but to the entire international community.

Love Commandos provides food, shelter, protection and legal assistance to runaway couples. Financial challenges must be there…

In this country you may find hundreds of people donating money in the name of religion but it is tough to find people doing the same to protect the freedom of the youth.

Harsh Malhotra, Chief Co-ordinator: We are under heavy debts. We have sold out our belongings to run the Mission because in this country you may find hundreds of thousands of people donating money in the name of religion but it is tough to find people doing the same to protect the freedom of the youth of this country. We are grateful to the Journalist community. Media people, film and documentary makers from India and abroad have all contributed financially to our cause and that’s how we could maintain our operations till date. Couples who feel strongly about our cause have also extended help from time to time. Most of the couples we’ve supported are still in the process of settling down and getting their lives in order. We hope they also come back and help us whenever they’re ready.  

We request the couples to bear the expenses of their lawful marriages, registration (if desired), legal applications (generally no fee is charged by our lawyers), official process for protection or rescue etc. But in many cases we end up supporting this process partially or fully, as the couples are often financially unprepared. Shelter, food, medical assistance, beddings and sometimes even clothes are totally free and are provided by us.

The couples manage cooking and cleaning of the shelters themselves, giving them an atmosphere of home away from home. They get both affection and scolding so that they can realise the difficulties of life in future.

What's your operating structure like?

Harsh Malhotra, Chief Co-ordinator: Our network of volunteers is our backbone. We have no formal structure, no records as we are missionaries, not clerks. Anyone willing to become a volunteer can fill in a simple form at or send an sms with his or her name and address to 09313784375.

When we get a call we search in our computer or manual records and call volunteers from the area. So far we have 11,00,000 plus intending volunteers all over the country but as we have no resources to get such a huge number of forms printed and posted there are no records.

Our experience has been that each and every volunteer had rushed at the cost of his or her life to save couples and that signifies victory of Mission Love for me. We feel that the youth needed a voice and we have become the instrument for that.

Love Commandos provides assistance to couples marrying against their families’ preferences. I understand that a large part of these couples were not accepted by their families because of being intercaste. Are there any other types of social rejection of couples that you’ve seen in your work with Love Commandos? How is each type of challenge/risk different (intercastevs inter religion vs any other type)?

Sunil Sagar, Commando Trainer: General problem is of inter caste and inter religion. However some gotra, near relative, distant relative, financial position, educational status, total opposition to martial freedom from families have also been causes and it has always been more difficult to handle such situations.

Have you ever faced opposition to your operations from clans/police/other bodies?

Govinda Expert Commando: Yes it’s very common. We have heard that many clans have announced rewards on the heads of Mr. Sachdev and Mr. Malhotra totalling to over 10 Lakh. However we never care about such unlawful opposition and continue to fight for justice to Lovers. What we do is to support the law, not to oppose it, and we’re thankful to Central Delhi District Police for always helping us do so. We are also thankful to NCW in many cases.

I’ve read mostly about relatively less educated couples from the so-called lower strata of the society seeking help from Love Commandos. Are there similar cases you’ve handled with couples from educated, so-called better off backgrounds too?

We’ve even had MBAs, doctors and sports personalities of national fame deprived of marital choice and asking for our help.

Harsh Malhotra Chief Co-ordinator: You would be surprised to know how many. We had engineers, doctors, advocates, professors, policemen, government officials, bank officials, MBAs and BCAs, MSW, sports personalities of national fame, people with families of political background, people with families of judicial background, rich people  – all come to us for help on facing opposition to martial choice. Many of these cases have been reported also. We can’t talk about specific cases as we honour the privacy of the couples.

Love Commandos has completed almost three years in operation now. Have you noticed any shift in the way people think about marital choice?

Sanjoy Sachdev, Chairman: India is changing. So far as marital choice is concerned, it’s clear that the youth want a casteless society. But Rome was not built in a day and there’s a long way to go before we start seeing any real change.

In the Indian popular culture – starting from Bollywood to music to literature – we’ve glorified love and freedom of marriage for ages. Yet when it comes to real life the general attitude towards these issues seems to have remained largely unchanged over decades, across social and economic strata. Why do you think the regressive outlook towards marital freedom is refusing to let go of its stronghold in the Indian society?

Children are considered property and female children more so.

Harsh Malhotra, Chief Co-ordinator: Children are considered property and female children more so. But I’m convinced that the youth of India is rising and Love Commandos is proud to lead the change they want.

Today we’ve online-ized the whole process of choosing one’s life partner and then matrimonial websites give you options to choose castes for potential partners. On the other hand Bollywood movies glorify so-called traditional outlook of life and marriage and K-series TV serials exalting arranged marriages gain wild popularity. Do you think intolerance towards sexual/personal freedom is making a comeback as “cool” in today’s Indian society?

There will come a day when you will find such promoters of casteism finding it hard to support their existence.

Sanjoy Sachdev, Chairman: Films and serials are a face of the society and all stories are taken from goings on in real life. I’d say that’s the reason all hit films tell love stories. As far as the matrimonial industry is concerned – they are profit-making entities and have no option but to sell what customers demand. But the youth believes in love and I’m sure given a choice most would desist from such sites or advertisements. I’ll go on to say that there will come a day when you will find such promoters of casteism finding it hard to support their existence. Sexual and personal freedom is guaranteed by our great constitution and by Hon’ble Supreme Court, and it has to be honoured.

When a boy can choose the leaders of the country at 18 by casting his vote why can’t he marry at the same age?

However our laws are still male dominated. Like the one which says that the minimum age for marriage for a boy is 21 as against 18 for a girl. In my opinion it should be 18 for both. When a boy can choose the leaders of the country at 18 by casting his vote why can’t he marry at the same age? Indian Majority Act says a boy of 18 is major but Child Marriage Act says that till 21 he is a child whereas a girl of 18 is major.

I would urge the youth to come out on the streets against such discrimination.

What are your thoughts on how we should go about stopping honour killings at the grassroots level?

Sonu Rangi, Commando Co-ordinator: Only awareness can do so, not administrative measures alone.

What are your thoughts on how we can create a culture more tolerant of personal choice in marriage across social and economic strata in India?

Harsh Malhotra, Chief Co-ordinator: The onus lies on the youth. The youth has to be committed to protecting their own freedom and if they’re in love they should say so with pride. They should never succumb to the pressure and emotional atyachar of parents, families or so called society and should work for a new social order which exalts love, not vilify it.

What is your vision for Love Commandos?

Sanjoy Sachdev, Chairman: We are a voice for the youth as is mentioned in our theme song. We’ll continue to support and protect the freedom of the youth.  We believe that love shall conquer the world one day.

What message would you like to leave for the Love in India readers?

Prem Ka Vikas Ho, Premi Premikaon Main Vishwas Ho, Prem Virodhion Ka Naash Ho, Garv Se Kaho Hum Premi Hain


Pyar Karna Paap Nahin Hai Aur Virodhi Hamara Baap Nahin Hai


Jo Premion Ke Saath Chale Ga Woh Vishva Paar Raaj Karga


Naya Sawera Ayega Premi Samaj Layega


Dunia Bhar Ke Premi Premikao Ek Ho

Lovers Unity Zindabad

*Names and other particulars changed.

“Sex Has Got Nothing to Do with Love or Marriage”, Tamal Pal

In Converstation with Love in India’s Featured Facebook Fan

Today I’m glad to bring you the promised feature on the 50th lucky fan of Love in India Facebook page, Tamal Pal.

A Computer Science engineer from Jadavpur University (Kolkata), and an MBA from XLRI Jamshedpur, Tamal works as an automotive marketing manager with one of India’s biggest manufacturing companies.

Love in India feature Tamal PalCopyright @Tamal Pal

When he’s not working, Tamal believes in enjoying life to the fullest, through engaging in (really really) varied hobbies and activities. A trained vocalist, Tamal’s eclectic tastes span everything from Stephen Hawking to SRK movies, and from Tagore’s music to fantasy cricket. In his own words, “I hate being stuck in the same thing for too long. I feel suffocated if there’s nothing new to learn, no new challenge to overcome every day. Even when it comes to career, I’ve changed my path whenever I felt like doing something different, and I’ll continue to do so in future.”

Excerpts of my chat with Tamal on love, marriage, life and his own story….

On love…

Pyaar dosti hai. Love is friendship…..

This may sound oh so stupid/corny/filmy, but after being in a string of relationships (yes, there have been quite a few) for the last 8 years, I have come to believe that friendship is the only true and sustainable basis of any relationship. Love is, at the end of the day, understanding someone, appreciating them for who they are, and craving to be with them because you just feel so comfortable in their presence.

That mad rush which you feel in your head when thinking about someone – at least for me, it’s just a sophisticated variant of physical attraction.

It’s of course natural to feel it for someone you love. In fact, I feel no romantic relationship can blossom if that madness is not there to start with. But just six months into a relationship, what remains is the understanding & the comfort that you share with your partner. If it’s worth it, you’ll stay together. If it’s not, you’ll start feeling uncomfortable subconsciously, leading to incessant silly fights, and ultimately break up wondering where it went wrong. It’s that simple, really!

On finding love…

You don’t find love, love finds you.

In today’s peer-pressure driven, competetion-obsessed society, even having a relationship has become a parameter for competition! Many “get themselves” a boyfriend/girlfriend, because they are supposed to have one, just like other essentials like a college degree, a job or a mobile phone.

I myself have got into relationships (yes, more than once) just because I was desperate not to stay alone after a breakup.

Gotta say, it doesn’t work that way. You can have an arranged marriage through a conscious decision and dedicated efforts.

Par pyaar koi karta nahi hai. Pyar bas ho jata hai. (You can’t “find” love, you fall in love.)

You’ll find it when & where you least expect it. And when it’s love, you just know…..

On essential traits of successful relationships…

There are relationships which are meant to be, and then there are the rest. If it’s not meant to be, I don’t think there’s anything in the world you can do to make it work. When it comes to spending your every waking moment with someone, it’s impossible-and more importantly a disservice to yourself-to try and be something different from what you are, naturally.

And if it’s meant to be, you just know it.

You trust them as much as yourself without even wondering if you should. When you are with them, you feel as relaxed & comfortable as you’d have been if you were alone.

You start caring for them and feel concern almost like your mother would feel for you.

Things like going out on a date, exchanging gifts, pampering each other with sweet words – yes, they make the moments special. But I would say they’re just the surface. A few moments don’t make a relationship. Your feelings and actions, day in and day out, do.

On marriage (and the love vs arranged marriage debate)…

Marriage is the decision to stay together with someone for the rest of your life. Marriage is the basic unit of society. To me, it’s a much more conscious decision than love. You have to think long & hard about who you are compatible enough to stay together with & raise a family. Quite often, it has got nothing to do with your feelings for that person. You can easily be madly in love with someone whose nature is completely incompatible with you, in which case you’ll never be happy in a marriage with them.

That brings me to the question of why so many arranged marriages work so perfectly. If your parents have put in so much efforts and thoughts into choosing someone for their child (you), they’re very likely to be from the same social background as you, with similar experiences and likes & dislikes as you. Hence although you may not know them at all, you probably don’t find it so difficult adapting to them, and end up living quite a happy life.

That said, I personally would never agree to an arranged marriage.

I don’t think anyone can do a better job of deciding who I’ll be ok staying with, than me!

It’s quite natural to be more comfortable spending your life with someone you’ve already been in a relationship with. I think getting to know someone as a person is much easier in the context of a relationship, than an always-already marriage, because the compulsion of liking each other is not there in case of the former. You can interact freely, express yourself, understand the other person closely, and then think about marriage if you feel that compatibility. Marrying someone unknown & then starting the process of knowing each other from scratch is just too painful compared to this!

On premarital sex…

To me, sex or any form of physical intimacy is completely separate from love or marriage.

Sex is just about enjoying the excitement of the moment. It has got nothing to do with love or marriage – you can very well get excited by an absolutely unknown woman.

Hence there’s no point in forming linkages between these, Yes, sex is more enjoyable with your partner, because the presence of emotions & the knowledge of their likes & dislikes makes the act much smoother. Yes, sex after marriage has got its own charms because you can express yourself much more freely with someone you’re habituated to. But using marriage as a boundary condition for having sex is just stupid, because the two have got zero correlation.

As an extension of this logic I would even go on to say that while in a marriage, you can very well enjoy yourself physically with other people while still remaining committed to your spouse. It’s not rocket science really, provided the trust between the couple remains intact. If they can remain truthful to each other while also being serious about their marriage, then why not? Swinging is not a very rare phenomenon, & many couples are happily married despite enjoying regular sex outside their marriage. After all its just sex – nothing compared to the emotional fulfilment a true relationship brings you.

Tamal’s story…

The most significant story of my life is that of my last girlfriend.

Love in India feature Tamal Pal 1Copyright @Tamal Pal

We know each other for more than three years and were in a relationship for more than two and a half years. We broke up very recently.

Let me tell you a bit about how we met.
After knowing her for 3 months, I knew I had feelings for her. But I decided not to tell her because she was in a complicated relationship with a married guy. She loved him, but he never made his stance clear. Even after filing for divorce, he finally reconciled with his wife. At this time, my ex-girlfriend was so emotionally confused that I decided not to make the situation more complicated by letting her know about my feelings. I came to know later that she’d already guessed, but at the time, she also chose to remain just my friend.

We would have remained so unless we had gone for our MBAs. I was to leave Kolkata earlier than her. Just a few days before I left, we had a fight. I was mad because I felt that the management school she had chosen to join was far below her standard, & that she was ruining her career. The next day, I expected her to be very angry, but she behaved perfectly normally with me. Then, on the day I was to leave Kolkata, she called me up & professed her love. She said that my impending departure had made her realise that she was going to lose her closest friend, the only person who would care for her so much as to rebuke her for her bad decision. Thinking about this made her realise that she had also started falling in love with me, 6 months after she had first realised that I had feelings for her.

The first thing that comes to my mind when I think about her now is that she loved me for who I was & had accepted all my shortcomings with endearing compassion. She was and still is one of my closest friends. None of us have ever been as open to anyone as we have been to each other.

She happened to understand me more completely than I can describe.

Our bond stemmed from the fact that we complemented each other. She was spontaneous whereas I am typically more thoughtful. We balanced each other perfectly. Even physical intimacy was easy & spontaneous with her. She has been the only woman with who I have felt so relaxed & comfortable during intimate moments….

Tamal’s bold and entirely original views make me take a step back and think, what is love? What is its place in our lives, in our marriages? How importance is intimacy, in case of relationships, or marriage?

What do you think? Let me know.

Like Tamal, do you want to feature on Love in India and share your stories and views with the community? Email me at