Anjali Chakra and Sundas Malik from New York recently celebrated their one-year anniversary. To mark the occasion, Anjali, a Hindu woman from India, and Sundas, a Muslim artist from Pakistan, enlisted the help of photographer Sarowar Ahmed. Together, they created a stunning photo shoot that transcended borders and brought together divided nations. Captioned ‘a New York love story’, the shoot has since gone viral, and has been praised by half a million people so far.
The photos show Anjali and Sundas in exquisite traditional gowns in Bryant Park in Midtown Manhattan, and under an umbrella on a rainy day in Chelsea. We spoke to Anjali and Sundas about the shoot going viral and the positive reaction that it has elicited. ‘It’s been so widespread!,’ they told Metro.co.uk. ‘People from all over the world have been reaching out to us to say that they were touched by our story and our photos, and that’s so heartwarming. ‘It made us realise that when a whole group of people don’t get representation in the media, simply existing openly as a member of that group makes a difference. ‘We feel good about all the young LGBTQIA girls, non-binary people, and boys looking at our photos, feeling seen and not alone.’ The couple revealed that getting dolled up wasn’t just in honour of their anniversary, but also because Sundas was meeting Anjali’ extended family for the first time. She said finding the perfect outfits was important in feeling comfortable ahead of the event.
All the love and support has also been overwhelming for the couple, and they’re still taking it all in. ‘It was amazing to see how quickly our photos spread, and we took the time to talk things through with each other and ground ourselves with close friends and family before responding to anything publicly,’ said Anjali. With great virality also comes great trolling and for these two, that has meant homophobic abuse. But Anjali and Sundas are not paying any mind to it. ‘We realise that those words are coming from people who likely don’t understand or have exposure to LGBTQIA issues,’ they said. ‘We want to acknowledge that the homophobia in the comments is indicative of the unsafe and often violent environments so many of our LGBTQIA siblings live in. ‘We hope that this representation starts conversations that are a step towards a safer future.’
The couple, who live in New York, are thankful for living in an environment where queerness is accepted. They understand that not everyone else has the privilege. They thanked other Twitter users for coming to their defence against the abuse. ‘This experience has made us even more grateful that we have the kind of support and protection that makes it possible for us to talk about our relationship so openly,’ they said. ‘We have also seen some really kind people jumping to our defence in mature and considerate ways, which is the kind of discourse we love to see!’
Other same-sex Indian couples have been getting a lot of love recently, including the two male grooms who had a traditional Hindu wedding. Also being celebrated are Menaka Guruswamy and Arundhati Katju, the two lawyers who fought against Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which punishes LGBTQ+ relations.