CHENNAI: He was a final year medical student. She had just completed her class 10. Both of them met during a train journey from Tirunelveli to Tiruchy. It was love at first sight. This would have been a strong love story in any other part of the world. But not in India where caste discrimination rules with its ugly face even in the 21st century.
Inter-caste marriages, a rarity in the marriage market even now, was frowned upon when Dr Manickavasagam (66), a dalit, got married in 1974 to his wife, Lakshmi (58), a brahmin.
Five years earlier, they had boarded the same train which led to a track of its own. On Sunday, the Doctors’ Association for Social Equality honoured couples who had inter-caste and inter-religious marriages and abhorred casteist practices. The doctor and his family took home most of the honours.
“We courted for five years. She went on to do a degree in home science at Queen Mary’s College, Chennai, after schooling in Tiruchy. We used to keep in touch through letters,” recollected Dr Manickavasagam.
The paediatrician is from a dalit village near Valliyur, Tirunelveli district. His wife is from Kodaganallur, a village on the banks of Tamarabarani river.
Like in any inter-caste marriage, there was resistance when both of them decided to get married. “My relatives told my father that the ‘gotra’ will end if the only daughter is married to a non-brahmin,” Lakshmi said.
The doctor faced his share of resistance as his family was keen on a huge dowry, courtesy an educated son. Finally, the will of the lovers prevailed as the parents yielded to their wishes and got them married.
Their marriage set a precedent of sorts. “Our marriage was the talk of the town then. People from nearby villages in Valliyur were astonished when a group of brahmins spent the whole day in a dalit village,” the doctor told Express.
The couple moved to Chennai and have been living at Neelankarai since. Both the couple’s sons are doctors. One is a paediatrician and the other, an ophthalmologist. Both of them are married and live as a joint family with their parents. “Since we had a love marriage, we gave full freedom to our sons. But they were incapable of capitalising on that freedom. They didn’t fall in love at all,” Manickavasagam chuckled.
A relative of Lakshmi offered their daughter to the couple’s eldest son.
The younger son’s in-laws are a mirror image of his parents. His father-in-law is a brahmin and mom-in-law a dalit.