Visakan & Shalini - A true partnership of equals
In our series on Inclusive Couples, we bring you a story from Chennai.
Visakan Rajendiran refuses to be defined by his disability. An attack of polio when he was three months old affected his mobility from the leg down and his left hand partially. But this 35-year-old Chennai businessman is independent, drives a car and lives his life like everyone else.
So when it came to choosing a life partner, Visakan was determined not to let his disability be a deciding factor either.
'People have asked me things like 'Am I fit for marriage'. No one understands what disability means", says Visakan. "They think that you are affected in every way, but I never let those comments affect me. I am arrogant like that. I believe that I am equal to any able-bodied person and I deserve the best. I wanted a girl who was educated and good looking and did not want to compromise".
When he met his wife Shalini through an online matrimonial service, he was upfront about his disability. After a few phone conversations, Shalini came to Chennai to meet him.
"I liked her because she did not show a trace of pity or sympathy and was very open minded. She did not treat me like I was disabled" - Visakan Rajendiran
For Shalini, the biggest attraction was his attitude.
"He did not ask me for pity or appeal to my sympathy. He is very independent and never asks for help if he can manage by himself. I liked his boldness and the fact that he was very open to my views".
Shalini stayed with Visakan and his family a few days with a family friend to better understand what living with his disability would mean. "She realised how she has to help me and she was comfortable with that", says Visakan. "She went back and told her mother she was sure and that's how we got married".
Visakan says the biggest barrier the disabled face when it comes to relationships is their own attitude.
"We should not feel that we are disabled. Yes, the disability is there, but then there are many people whose disabilities are not visible. If we sympathise with ourselves, how can we expect someone else to look at us as equals? Once we go out and act normal, everyone else will be normal." - Visakan Rajendiran
Shalini says that in Visakan, she has found the kind of support she never felt even with her own family.
"Talk to the person and then decide. Just because someone in on a wheelchair does not mean they are dependant. I wanted to become a fashion designer and my parents never encouraged that. But my husband supported me and sent me for the course, even though my in-laws were not supportive." - Shalini Rajendiran
Above all, Visakan wants to break the stereotype that marrying a disabled person is an act of charity."People who marry a disabled person think they are doing some charity work. I want to end that belief. Its not like you are sacrificing something".
Read the other stories in our Inclusive Couples series: