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Raghavi & Senthil - Spreading the joy of companionship to people with disabilities

In our final story in the Inclusive Couples series, we bring you Raghavi's love story. Growing up with a disability is a challenge especially in a country like India where the barriers in terms of access and attitudes are so many. Which is why Raghavi Shankar's story is so remarkable.

This HR consultant, who was left with a locomotor impairment after an attack of polio in childhood, went on to do her MBA, is pursuing a Ph.D and has started an organisation that is working to create awareness about the disabled population in India and fight for their rights.

No wonder husband Senthil Kumar admires her grit and determination and calls her an inspiration.

"I love her for the way she is!!", he says."Come what may, she bounces back in a calm and composed way with abundant self-confidence."

"She drives and motivates the family and indeed guides me as well as our sons, the way forward. She is a repository of love and I should say, she is mad about me!" - Senthil Kumar, Co-founder, Headway Foundation

Raghavi and Senthil are childhood friends, who were part of the same group in school. They stayed close even after they went their separate ways in college. "I started working and that's when parents typically start looking for a spouse and think about settling their daughters", says Raghavi. "I was not deeply into it, but I was bothered though about finding a partner. That's when Senthil proposed to me. I was 24 years old then. He was firm and that made me firm".

There were some reservations voiced by some of his extended family members, but the couple were certain. When Raghavi became pregnant with their first child, all remaining doubts reservations melted away.

"My point of view its about companionship - this is a companion who is going to share everything with you. This exists in all marriages and the same should prevail in inclusive marriages as well" - Raghavi Shankar, Founder, Headway Foundation

Raghavi says that there are many gaps the disabled face when it came to relationships. There is stigma as well. "To an extent today's generation is open to bringing about change, but their families are not giving them the freedom to choose. There are questions like - 'How will you cope', 'Will you be able to have children', etc., from elders". The disabled have an expectation that someone will come and marry them, but they are not able to voice it out".

This is among the many issues that her organisation, Headway Foundation, is working to address. Recently it held an event in Chennai that brought together couples in inclusive marriages.

"When a disabled-non-disabled marriage takes place, many people think its strange. But when actually see such a couple, it breaks their viewpoints." - Raghavi Shankar

Her husband is equally firm that inclusive marriages are important and sensitive.

"Marrying out of sympathy or pity won't last long. I have never in my life seen my wife that way and she also doesn't like it. We are bringing awareness about this through our NGO, The Headway Foundation." - Senthil Kumar

Read the other stories in our Inclusive Couples series:

Swarnalatha & Guruprasad - Sudden disability led them to find strength in positive thinking

Krishna & Stanzen - Love prevails over prejudices towards disability

Visakan & Shalini - A true partnership of equals

Nafisa & Parvez - Companionship conquers barriers of religion & disability

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