Swarnalatha & Guruprasad - Sudden disability led them to find strength in positive thinking
Swarnalatha J broke every rule in the dating game when it came to her husband Guruprasad T.S. They lived in the same neighbourhood in Bengaluru and met during shared rides in the company cab.
"We had met two-three times and I liked him. The fourth time that we were going to meet was just a few days before Valentine's Day", remembers Swarnalatha. When they met at the pick up point, she asked Guruprasad if his parents were looking for a suitable alliance for him.
"He said no and I asked him what kind of girl he would like to marry. He said someone who was educated and good-looking at which point I asked him, 'Don't you think I have these qualities?'", laughs Swarnalatha, "I told him that if you haven't found anyone yet, think of me".
It is this bold and courageous nature that sets Swarnalatha apart from most others. And these very same qualities have enabled this remarkable woman to smile in the face of the debilitating effects of multiple sclerosis.
Swarnalatha was diagnosed with MS shortly after the birth of her first child
In 2009, a few years after their first child Gagan was born, Swarnalatha was diagnosed with MS. MS is a disease in which the insulating covers of the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord are damaged.This affects the ability of the nervous system to communicate, leading to many symptoms - physical and mental.
Swarnalatha had defied her family to marry Guruprasad and in this darkest moment, she found herself alone, except for her husband. "I was paralysed neck down and had no one else for moral support. My sisters could not be with me openly as my mother had broken all ties". Even today her family remains cut off despite knowing about her condition.
They went on to have a second child, a brave decision given her condition, something that was made possible thanks to the support she received from Guruprasad.
"He has been there to take care of the kids, his parents and recently even submitted his Ph.D. He has been a wonderful husband. I always loved him but that feeling has become even stronger over the years. He is my greatest supporter, motivator and inspiration" - Swarnalatha J
Given the nature of MS, Swarnalatha is often hospitalised for months but she says that her husband and children have never made her feel like she is disabled. "I am open about what I can and cannot do. I cannot be like other wives but we have raised the kids to be very different. My son is a sports champ and good at studies. Even when I am in hospital, I help them out with their studies. I feel that they have become more compassionate towards others."
To their friends Swarnalatha and Guruprasad are a model couple given the grace with which they go through the hard times.
"She is my greatest source of encouragement", says Guruprasad. He admits that the debilitating effects of MS were initially a shock.
"We were both depressed for a while but finally we thought this would not help us. We had to support each other and grow. That was the point when I had to push her to come out of her depression and tell her that if you are not able to walk, you can use a walking stick, and I will get you a fashionable one that will suit your style" - Guruprasad T S
Guruprasad says he often gets pitying looks and comments but he ignores that. "In our house its all about fun and we crack jokes. I tell them its nothing to feel bad about. Its a lifestyle thing. Just like people go to a health farm, she needs to go to the hospital every six months."
Today as founders and core trustees of the NGO Swarga Foundation based in Coimbatore, Swarnalatha and Guruprasad are enabling and empowering countless others with disabilities.
Read the other stories in our Inclusive Couples series: