Editor's note: This column was published earlier this year.
Your eyes meet, heart stops, skin bumps ... These are probably the ways you felt when you first met your spouse. After that, you kissed, you dated, you fought, you made up, and finally, you got married.
My girlfriend Courtney just celebrated her 10th wedding anniversary. She once described her wedding day to me: after she and her husband exchanged vows, the entire congregation threw rose petals into the air.
"It was like people were setting free handfuls of butterflies," Courtney poetically recalled. "It was like the butterflies we felt for each other when we first met, that we'd feel for the rest of our lives."
Even though we know it happens, it's difficult to fathom that several men and women throughout the world don't have this privilege of dating, and subsequently choosing whom to marry. This is especially true for Indian culture. Arranged marriages are common in India, a highly stratified society divided along class lines known as castes. Cross-caste dating and marriage is generally frowned upon.
According to Unicef, 40 percent of the world's child marriages take place in India. Even though it's illegal under India's Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, it is still common practice in many parts of the country, especially in rural and poorer communities where families hope to improve their financial security.
However, in a ground-breaking case, a young woman has had her child marriage legally annulled in northern Rajasthan state.
Laxmi Sargara, 18, was wed to Rakesh when she was 1-year-old. He was 3. She grew up with her own family, only finding out she was married when her in-laws came to claim her earlier this month.
"I was unhappy about the marriage. I told my parents who did not agree with me, then I sought help," Laxmi told Agence France Presse news agency.
Laxmi sought help from a local non-governmental organization, the Sarathi Trust in Jodhpur city, which campaigns against forced and child marriages. Rakesh at first wanted to press ahead with the relationship, but was convinced by his wife's fierce opposition to agree that the marriage should be revoked.
Both Laxmi and Rakesh signed an affidavit on Tuesday declaring the marriage null and void in the presence of a notary public.
The annulment took place on the same day as the Akshaya Tritiya festival, a traditional date for mass child weddings.
This is the first procedure of its type. And it's an inspirational case. But it needs to be recognized that Laxmi and Rakesh are lucky; honor killings the murder of sons and daughters by parents who feel their choice of partner, or rejection of a partner, has disgraced the family are still prevalent in India (some statistics are as high as 1,000 per year).
In the past few years, there has been a spike in "love marriages" in northern India. This prompted a group of volunteers to set up a national hotline for couples in, or individuals not in, love. The Love Commandos - www.lovecommandos.org - began in 2010, at a time when a series of honor killings took place. The group comprised of lawyers, academics, activists, and students has come to the rescue of people that rebel.
A year into their "mission of love," the team's helpline was inundated with dozens, sometimes hundreds, of calls every day.
The organization's founder, Mr. Sanjoy Sachdey, has said in various interviews that the stories they initially focused on were the extremes of caste violence.
The flood of calls over the past year has shown the vast majority of relationship difficulties in India stem from the much more common tradition of parents approving their child's partner, such as Laxmi's situation.
"The problems cut across all barriers not just caste, but also religion, educational background, economic status," says Sanjoy on the site."The stories are different, but they are all about freedom of choice, which is supposed to be guaranteed in our constitution. Where do these parents derive their right to prevent that freedom?"
I agree: no matter the race, sexuality, religion, or culture, every woman and man should have the right to butterflies on their wedding day.