The first time I met her was back in March 2020, swiping on a dating app in the middle of a pandemic. The notification that said ‘it’s a match!’ was enough to give us both strength. Our awkward chats turned into late night calls. We were planning our one-hour date for days. I lied to my parents that I would be staying at my best friend’s place and we would maybe go for a drive. The truth was, I was meeting her.
She came down to my apartment and we hung out in her car. I still remember the rain heavily falling onto the glass shields, fogging our vision as we peeked around to notice if anyone was suspicious of us. We held hands in the dark, and dropped whenever someone passed by. We went around the area for drives and I showed her the memories of my childhood, the mango trees I stole from, my favourite street snacks and my middle school. We laughed at the passing monkeys and commented on the houses we liked and hoped one day we would see ourselves in—a pipe dream, but maybe we could pass for roommates.
Once the rain calmed down, we went up to the terrace of my apartment. On our way, we maintained a safe distance of ‘friendship.’ We sat on the empty terrace, lucky enough that none of the neighbors were out due to the weather. She sat close to me. We blushed and made small talk, awkwardly trying to get closer to each other. I looked at her and she kissed me. In that moment, I was scared. Scared of any neighbors watching who could tell my family or call the police. Scared of the shame I would face from my family for kissing a girl, and the burden of me being Hindu and her being Muslim also placed on our shoulders. I was scared of being dragged onto the road and getting beaten and spat on, and people looking at us as if we were sick and dirty. In India, our act of love is an act of crime. So we kept it a secret.
She looked at me with the same love and fear in her eyes.
I kissed her. I reminded myself that we protect each other. I kissed her with passion and anger and fear. We have been hiding for too long, and we will always probably be hiding from the world. But we will fight our battle with little weapons of hands held and hidden kisses.
If our love is enough to make them angry, it is strong enough to withstand anything that comes our way.
Harika Bommana is an international student from India studying at Hollins University, VA. She is double majoring in Communications and English.
Photography by: Rajesh Rajput