This week, two Bollywood stars got married. One wedding saw around-the-clock coverage by film journalists and bloggers, but the other hardly elicited any interest on social media. But this wasn’t the only difference between the two.
First, the so-called “wedding of the year:” Shahid Kapoor’s decision to go for an arranged marriage came as a surprise to many.
Why would the 34-year-old Bollywood actor—well-known for being a casanova, having dated top actresses like Kareena Kapoor—have an arranged marriage with a college student 13 years younger than him?
Perhaps his family wanted him to marry within their own caste and religion? That theory doesn’t add up, because his wife Mira Rajput is not the same caste as he is. Both are Punjabi Hindus, but Shahid is a Khatri and Mira a Kshatriya.
In India, it is usually conservative families who prefer arranged marriages. But Shahid’s parents appear more progressive than most Indians. After all, Shahid was born to a Muslim mother and a Hindu father. His father, Pankaj Kapur, married fellow actor Neelima Azeem in 1975 and divorced her in 1984. He then married another actor, Supriya Pathak.
The real reason Pankaj Kapur had to go find a wife for his son is because of the deep involvement of both father and son with the Radha Soami Satsang Beas (RSSB), a spiritual and mystical organisation that is all the rage among urban elites looking for spirituality.
News of Shahid’s father looking for a match for his son started doing the rounds a couple of years ago—but Shahid strongly denied it.
“I can promise you that my father is not looking for any girl for me. He will never take the pressure on himself, because I am quite finicky. And I like making my own choices,” he said in a 2013 interview. “I will not marry a girl of father’s choice, because he doesn’t have to stay with the girl, I have to stay. And he knows this thing,” he had said.
But apparently things did not unfold that way.
The RSSB—which stresses on spirituality—allows members from any religion to join the organisation. ”The philosophy teaches a personal path of spiritual development which includes a vegetarian diet, abstinence from intoxicants, a moral way of life and the practice of daily meditation,” its website says. ”There are no rituals, ceremonies, hierarchies or mandatory contributions, nor are there compulsory gatherings.”
No meat, no alcohol, daily meditation for two and a half hours, regular satsang gatherings and belief in miracles, karma and reincarnation give RSSB followers a unique lifestyle. It is difficult for believers to be in a relationship with a person who is not a follower of the RSSB cult. The RSSB also makes you take the vow that you will “live a moral and ethical life based on high principles, including no sexual relations outside legal marriage.”
Led by his father, Shahid has been on a spiritual quest for years. His father gave him a book that made him give up eating meat. When he was dating Kareena Kapoor, he made her turn vegetarian, too. When a TV show host asked him in 2009 about the RSSB, Shahid said he was taken off guard by the question, as he never talks about the RSSB, but said that it was a “spiritual path” and not a religion.
The RSSB has a sprawling campus in south Delhi’s Chhatarpur area, but its headquarters are in Beas, Punjab.
There was a second Bollywood wedding this week. It was what we call a love marriage in this country, as opposed to an arranged marriage. Like Shahid, Minissha Lamba chose an unconventional, non-Bollywood spouse, but the similarity ends there.
Kapoor had a grand wedding with a religious ceremony, where the couple exchanged vows according to the traditions of the sect they and their parents ardently follow. Minissha had a quiet court wedding with a family lunch, though she said she will plan a big party when the weather gets better.
Her husband Ryan Tham runs a nightclub in Mumbai’s Juhu area, called Trilogy. He is Indian-Chinese, she’s a Sikh from Delhi. (Indian-Chinese people are mostly Christians.) She didn’t need to go and hunt for someone who’d accompany her to the satsang. “We met at his nightclub. He ignored me a couple of times,” Lamba told the Indian Express. “It was after a few weeks that we got talking at a friend’s place.”
“I don’t know about love at first sight, but it was definitely liking at first sight. After I dated him for a few months, I knew he was the one. There were no two ways,” she added.