#LovePossible – Partnership of equals - Visakan & Shalini
Ahead of Valentine's Day, in our series #LovePossible, we bring you the story of Chennai couple Visakan Rajendiran and Shalini Visakan.
Visakan Rajendiran was three months old when a polio attack affected his mobility partially in one leg and the left hand. He refused to let that come in the way of leading an independent life. A businessman based in Chennai, he drives a car and lives his life, just like anyone else.
He adopted the same attitude when it came to choosing a life partner as well.
People have asked me things like 'Am I fit for marriage'. No one understands what disability means. 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. - Visakan Rajendiran, Chennai businessman
When Visakan met Shalini through an online matrimonial service, he was upfront about his disability. A few phone conversations later, 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", recalls Visakan.
For Shalini, the biggest attraction was Visakan's attitude. "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 realized how she has to help me and she was comfortable with that", says Visakan. "She went back and told her mother she wanted to get married to me".
Visakan believes that the biggest barrier people with disabilities face when it comes to relationships is their own attitudes.
"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 sympathize 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", he says firmly.
Shalini says that in Visakan, she has found the kind of support she never felt even with her own family. Her advice is to not let someone's disability be the deciding factor.
"Talk to the person and then decide. Just because someone in on a wheelchair does not mean they are dependent. I wanted to become a fashion designer and my parents never encouraged that. But my husband supported me, even when my in-laws were not very enthusiastic about the idea", says Shalini.
The biggest stereotype Visakan wants to shatter is 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. It's not like you are sacrificing something".
Read the other stories in our #LovePossible series