Dear Auntie Agni,
I am a fourth-year medical student at a renowned medical university in Pakistan and I have fallen in love with my classmate. We have been dating for a year now and we both strongly feel for one another. However, our relationship faces a significant hurdle. My girlfriend is Hindu and we both come from different cultural and religious backgrounds.

We have finally come to the conclusion that we cannot have a future together, mainly because of the societal pressures and expectations that come with it. Despite this, we find ourselves unable to let go of each other and are always thinking of each other. I have suggested she talk to her parents about our relationship, or perhaps even get married in court. However, she is reluctant to betray her family, knowing that it could create a difficult situation for them in society.

Auntie, I am lost. We both want to spend our lives together, but it seems impossible. I do not want to lose the person I love and I am willing to do whatever it takes to make our relationship work.
Hopeless Lover

‘I am in love with a girl from a different faith’

Dear Hopeless Lover,
You are facing a challenging situation, given the cultural and religious differences between you and your girlfriend. While it is admirable that you are trying to think of solutions, it is important to consider the potential consequences of your actions.

In a conservative society like Pakistan, the societal forces working against your union will be colossal, from both communities. You are already thinking about the consequences, which shows you are mindful of the impact that your actions may have on your families and the broader community. Let’s just say, most people in your situation in Pakistan don’t succeed. Not sure if there are any statistics on inter-faith marriages here, but it wouldn’t surprise me if many couples in your situation leave the country to settle down in societies that are more tolerant.

You mentioned that your girlfriend is reluctant to betray her family, knowing that it could create a difficult situation for them. And it goes without saying (but should be said in Pakistan) that your girlfriend is well within her right to continue being a Hindu. Nobody should be forced to change their religion.

You may want to consider speaking with a trusted and, more importantly, open-minded elder who is willing to support you, or help mediate a conversation between your families. But we all know such people are far and few.

You could also move to another country with a more accepting culture, where you will be free to pursue your relationship. Given that the family will be a big hurdle to cross for both of you, even if you move abroad, are you both willing to put up with being ostracised by your loved ones and communities? Overcoming this challenge will be a test of your love.

However, a word about love here: please remember that love is not just about being together, but also about making sacrifices. So ask yourself, how far are you willing to go? And also think about children. We often don’t realise how much a product of our respective religions we are till children come along and the partner wants him or her to practise their own religion. It happens all the time, even in different sects of the same religion. In your case, we are talking completely different religions. So if you both decide to proceed with your marriage, I suggest you educate yourself about each other’s religions and manage expectations before you take any big steps.

P.S. Before anyone starts trolling me for this advice, I want to say that I stand by it and you are free to disagree. If Hopeless Lover wanted advice from a religious scholar, he wouldn’t have come here.

Disclaimer: If you or someone you know is in crisis and/or feeling suicidal, please go to your nearest emergency room and seek medical help immediately.

Auntie will not reply privately to any query. Please send concise queries to: auntieagni@gmail.com

Published in Dawn, EOS, March 26th, 2023

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