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How we met: ‘She told her parents she was in love – and all hell broke loose’

Prakash Shankar and Mythily Rallapalli, both in their early 50s, met at medical school in Bhopal. From different castes, they were forced to run away to get married

In 1989, Mythily Rallapalli and Prakash Shankar were both studying medicine at the Gandhi Medical College in Bhopal, but their paths rarely crossed. That year, they went to a national meeting for medical schools. Prakash was there to play badminton and Mythily to display her rangoli art work. “I spotted her cheering me on and later asked if we could go for an ice-cream,” he says. They soon became good friends, and Prakash admits he found excuses to seek her help in the library. “I was the more serious, studious one, he was always out on his motorbike with his friends, making jokes,” she says. By the fourth year of their studies they were inseparable.

When they completed the course in 1992, Mythily went back to her home town of Visakhapatnam, many hours away from Bhopal. Prakash, who lived locally, realised how much he would miss her. “I went to the station to say goodbye and felt this huge sense of loss,” he says. The separation made them realise they wanted more than friendship, but they knew it wasn’t going to be easy. In India many conservative families prefer their children to marry within their caste, and this was the case for both their parents. “Mythily comes from a conservative Brahmin sect, whereas I’m from a traditional warrior clan and we have a very different way of life. She told her parents she was in love and all hell broke loose,” says Prakash.

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