Mixed-religion couple says it’s the love that shines

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Shavalan and Sharlene Naiker
Shavalan and Sharlene Naiker

It’s not every day that one meets a married couple from different religious backgrounds. But Shavalan and Sharlene Naiker are managing to make their marriage work.

The fact that Shavalan is Hindu and Sharlene is a practising Catholic does not slow them down.

One would expect a clash of interests in their home, but only love, peace and happiness seem to prevail in Centurion, Gauteng. It probably has to do with the fact that the two have known each other since they were five years old and growing up in Durban.

The Naikers met in 1988 at Sharlene’s fifth birthday party.

They remained friends for decades until two years ago when they decided to take their friendship to the next level. A year later they said “I do” and became husband and wife.

Because of their different religions, Shavalan and Sharlene opted to meet each other halfway. They planned their wedding to embrace both the white and traditional Hindi wedding. A beautiful, colourful Hindu ceremony was held at one of Durban’s oldest temples, which was later followed by a white reception where the couple exchanged vows and sacred candles.

During the Hindu ceremony, Sharlene was dressed as a traditional South Indian bride and the couple wore rose and pearl garlands. Later that day (at the reception), the traditional Laxmi lamp was replaced with one that displayed a cross, which, according to Sharlene, was “one way we bridged the gap between our two religions”.

The Naikers celebrate religious holidays such as Easter or Diwali together. This year they celebrated Easter in Centurion and will celebrate Diwali at their home later this year too.

Shavalan adds that the support they have received from both their families “has certainly made things very easy for us”.

“I think all they want is for us to be happy and practise the values they have taught us.”

Sharlene says: “I have been a Catholic all my life and Shav was aware of this and really embraced my beliefs and even accompanied me to church on Sundays.

“When we decided to get married, we both knew that our different religious backgrounds would not be an issue due to the mutual respect we shared for each other’s religious beliefs.”

Although the couple embraces their religious differences and are willing to compromise to make their marriage work, they admit they were slightly worried during the courtship that their parents would not be comfortable with their relationship.

Shavalan says: “Worry did cross our minds, but we knew that our love and commitment to each other would be the winner at the end of the day. We are lucky that we have such open-minded parents who accepted our decision to compromise and honour both our religious beliefs.”

Sharlene adds that although she was worried about their different religious backgrounds, her parents were ecstatic when she told them that Shavalan had proposed.

“They have known Shav his entire life and knew his family and good upbringing. My dad didn’t think twice when Shav asked for my hand in marriage.”

Sharlene says there was no need for conversion because “we found that we could both compromise and still retain the symbolisms and rituals of both our religions.

“I don’t think mixed-religion couples need to choose. At the heart of every religion is love. We have managed to retain both our religious beliefs. In fact, it has made our love even stronger.”

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