Disability’s date with cupid

Misconceptions about their lives have always haunted people with disability (PWD), and it’s hard for them to find a life partner

Published: 12th February 2017 10:10 PM  |   Last Updated: 13th February 2017 03:57 AM   |  A+A-

Express News Service

CHENNAI: U ntil January 2009, Visakan, a Chennai-based entrepreneur, never thought that an arranged marriage would work for him. Reason? “I am a polio survivor and I had inhibitions that an arranged marriage might not work for me. I thought it had to be a love marriage — to find a person who accepts me for what I am.”

But, after he met his life-partner Shalini through a matrimonial site, his life took a turn and he gushes, “I have had crushes in college. But, nothing worked out. I am glad it didn’t…I don’t think life would be as good as it is now with my wife.” He calls himself ‘lucky’ to have found a loving and caring partner…but, not every Person with disability (PwD) is as lucky as Visakan.

Illustration: Saai

Karthik, an alumnus of Vidya Sagar School, shares, “Challenges are aplenty for us. From finding the right person to getting accepted by both families…it’s a big process. I have faced few rejections — if the girl accepts, the family doesn’t. And if I want to marry a person with disability, both families question us asking ‘How will we manage alone?’” And, it does not end there. 

With accessibility still being a major issue in the city, meeting the person they love is, often, a painstaking task. “To meet, we have to look for a place that is accessible to both of us, and such places are limited in the city. Most times we have to talk virtually and sometimes it doesn’t work that way,” he adds.

Sreenija, a 23-year-old with cerebral palsy, narrates her first dating experience and shares that she had nightmares before meeting her ‘special someone’.

“Being a woman in a wheelchair isn’t easy and I was thinking ways in which the meet might go wrong — from being made fun to being rejected, I had several inhibitions,” she recalls. But, things turned out well and she says that it was one of the best talks she had. “We aren’t dating now, but we are good friends. Sometimes, it’s not about finding your ‘forever partner’ but also about a person who accepts you,” she says.

While several challenges loom around in finding a life partner, one major misconception that poses a challenge is ‘disability ending sex life’. “We are considered sexually unfit; hence we are considered unfit for marriage. That’s the biggest misconception and challenge. When it comes to arranged marriage parents are reluctant to marry their son/daughter to a disabled person,” says Dhana, a PwD, who found the ‘love of his life’ during a visit to his native town. “She is very understanding and supportive…I am lucky to have her as my companion.” 

For Visakan, his wife is a living example of a changing society, but we still have a long way to go, he opines. “I wish there are more open minded people like her. When she visited me before we got married, to see my daily activities, she didn’t have any hesitations. She immediately agreed to marry me! The society is slowly changing, I would like to think so,” he says.

But, he also points to people who preach but don’t practice. “There are many who talk about inclusivity. But, how many will agree to marry a person with disability? It needs to be put in practice. People 
should understand that we can take care of ourselves,” he avers.

While there are several PwDs who are trying to find love, Deepak, a person with cerebral palsy and Nagarathinam, a polio survivor, have broken stereotypes and proved that even they can lead a happy life. But, marriage was not an easy task for the couple. “Our parents initially did not agree for the wedding as both us are PwDs and they thought it will give us a lot of hardships,” recalls Deepak. “There are issues in every relationship and we need to overcome it and build a strong bond. Pointing to a disability is not an excuse.”

Breaking barriers, the happy couple says that ‘life is beautiful now’. “Our families have understood our individual capacities now and visit us often. It’s our hope that we head towards a future where there are no disparities,” adds Nagarathinam.


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