'We're gobsmacked by the support'

Updated: Jul 14, 2019, 08:43 IST | Ekta Mohta | Mumbai

We trace the Marathi mulgi and her bride, whose photo went viral last week, to Virginia-the state for 'all' lovers

Mekhala Chaubal and Tatum Taylor. Pic Courtesy/Erica Camille
Mekhala Chaubal and Tatum Taylor. Pic Courtesy/Erica Camille

When Mekhala Chaubal walked down the aisle last year, she did her bit for Marathi abhimaan. In a marigold-yellow Paithani nauvari, a nose ring, and a string of white pearls cinched around her forehead, she tied the knot with Tatum Taylor, her partner of 10 years, and now wife. "I'm very proud of my Marathi heritage," she says. "My decision to wear a Paithani nauvari was influenced by that, because it's the symbol of fierce and empowered women across the ages in Maharashtrian culture. And, wearing it on my wedding day made me feel like a part of that history."

It's the middle of the night in Mumbai, when we speak to them. They are in Toronto, two nerds, home after a long day at work (Chaubal is a lawyer; Taylor works at an architectural firm). In their 10 years together, they have gone through their share of twists and turns in the pursuit of love. They met at Randolph College in Virginia, US, while studying creative writing. "The way the writing classes were set up, you workshopped each other's pieces," recalls Chaubal. "Every week, someone submitted poetry or fiction, and everybody went around in a circle and critiqued the pieces. Some of our first conversations were on paper. Now that I think back, I think we fell in love with our most honest selves, because we fell in love with the poet and the writer." Taylor says, "I always felt like they were love notes. We were just friends the first two years. By the time we realised we liked each other, we'd already fallen in love."

Mekhala Chaubal and Tatum taylor

But Chaubal, who grew up in the Middle East, moved to Toronto after finishing college, and they grew closer, while living apart. "Google Chat and Skype were our best friends," says Chaubal. "The first four years of our relationship—in true writer style—was a lot of communication. I think that's when we realised how important the other person was and how much we actually wanted to be together." Taylor says, "We needed to figure out how to be in the same space." Which they did. Taylor moved to Toronto, and after six more years, they put a ring on it.

Mekhala Chaubal and Tatum taylor

When we ask them about their parents, Chaubal refers to some notes she has made and says carefully, "The way I characterise this is, when a person comes out to their family, it's also a process for the family to come out to the world as allies. To stand up to the world [and say] that we will stand up for our kid. It was an evolving process towards acceptance, and it took compassion and understanding. It was interesting for them to understand the reality of having a queer child." On introducing Taylor to them, she says, "It just came up organically at some point. At a marriageable age is a good way to put it."

Mekhala Chaubal and Tatum taylor

Taylor says, "When we first got together, I don't think we were that focused on the wider social context. But, the nature of supporting same-sex marriage has really evolved along with our relationship. It's interesting how the timing has worked out, because in the States, it happened on a state-by-state basis. And we actually celebrated in 2014, when same-sex marriage was legalised in Virginia." Chaubal says, "Virginia's motto is: Virginia is for lovers. When that happened, we thought, 'Finally, Virginia is for all lovers, and not just heterosexual lovers.' It was [important because it was] the spot on earth where we met." Taylor adds, "That's where we thought we might get married some day, and that ended up being the case."

In October 2018, against the Blue Ridge Mountains, among close friends and family, and their professor as the officiant, they got married. "Our wedding day was the biggest day of our lives," says Chaubal. "What we didn't realise was that it would make the news. Our wedding photos, in the last week or so, have gotten a fair bit of coverage. I think we're completely gobsmacked." Taylor interjects, "We're very private, normal people." Chaubal adds, "Pretty boring, actually."

Mekhala Chaubal and Tatum taylor
Of their 10-year-long courtship, Taylor says, “It was like love at first sight, but we didn’t realise it at first sight.” Wedding PIC courtesy/Erica Camille

Their wedding photos, a white wedding and a Maharashtrian ceremony, have gone viral on a small corner of the Internet. And, as Chaubal says, "Ninety-nine per cent of the comments have been so positive. It's shocking to see the support, encouragement and love out there for two people. I don't generalise queer people at all, but I spend a lot of time thinking about queerness, what that means, and my place in the world. Our wedding day definitely felt like a victory, and we're thrilled that it resonated with so many people in India. When homosexuality was finally decriminalised [in India] last year, that was a huge moment. I remember being really excited with my queer Indian friends here. We were like, 'Should we dare to hope that this is the moment when it's actually on the cards?' Ever since then, it just seems like a tidal wave of positivity, discourse and debate. It's all very cool."

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