Two New York City girls found their soulmates in each other and are inspiring hundreds with their story of shattering inter-faith barriers.
Other parts of the world, much like the United States, are plagued by the various "isms" that divide us. Whether it's our gender, religion, class, nationality, or sexuality, it is almost as if who we are must determine the way we live our lives and who is allowed to be in them. Once in a while, however, people come along to show you that it doesn't have to be that way. That we can honor our differences while appreciating all our similarities. When Anjali Chakra and Sundas Malik, both living in New York City, celebrated their first anniversary together with a photo shoot, they brought us all a little closer together.
Anjali is a Hindu woman from India whereas Sundas is a Muslim woman from Pakistan. For decades now, the two South Asian countries have been embroiled in deep conflict - religion being one of the main reasons why. Muslims and Hindus, also for decades now, have been at odds with each other, with many brutal acts of violence dividing the two religious groups. Despite all this, Anjali and Sundas managed to find each other and do the impossible - fall in love. Breaking boundaries, they modeled for a beautiful photoshoot by Sarowar Ahmed to prove that love is love is love.
The photoshoot was motivated primarily by the fact that they never saw anyone like them in mainstream media experiencing the same things they were. In Bollywood, for instance, all love stories are cis-heteronormative and rarely do we say non-hetero storylines that aren't rooted in anti-LGBTQ+ sentiment. "I grew up witnessing and watching different kinds of love, some in my family and some in Bollywood," Sundas stated. "After I got a little older and realized what my sexuality was, I never saw a representation of people who looked like me. I’m so glad I have the opportunity to be that with the love of my life."
Even though they just wanted to represent the intersections between gender, sexuality, and culture, their unique relationship was placed on a political pedestal. Sundas added, "When Anjali and I went viral, our relationship was politicized beyond our imagination. The Hindu-Muslim, Pakistani-Indian dynamic of our relationship was brought up in most conversations about us. Although the overwhelming response was great, we never really thought the bond we share with each other would be a ‘mending’ barrier between two religions and cultures always in conflict." But oh, how brilliantly wrong they were.
In their photos, they are both decked up in traditional South Asian attire known as lehengas. One of the beautiful girls is wearing a mustard yellow crop top, a red floor-length skirt, and a red dupatta (otherwise known as a shawl). The other is dressed in a mustard yellow crop top and floor-length skirt, topping the outfit off with a white dupatta. As far as traditional photoshoots go, this one was pretty mild. Their story, just like their photos, is beautiful and groundbreaking on so many different levels. Perhaps their relationship is an inspiration to many others, showing them what is possible if one chooses to overlook these arbitrary "isms" that have sadly begun to rule our daily lives and love fully, without inhibition instead.