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Voice Vision's annual matchmaking meets brings together people with disabilities from across India

April 29, 2019

Ajit Rathore and Vishakha Shinde liked each other almost instantly when they met for the first time at a matrimonial meet for people with disabilities organized by the NGO Voice Vision in early 2017. Further meetings confirmed those feelings but Vishakha hesitated as they were of different castes.

"When I came for the Voice Vision matrimonial meet, I was very clear that I would not marry outside my caste. So, although I liked Ajit very much, I was reluctant as he was of a different caste, but Ajit didn't feel the same way and said that disability knows no religion and caste, remembers Vishakha.

Theirs is among the many happily ever after stories that Voice Vision founder Sushmeetha Bubna likes to recall when she talks about what led her to start such a matrimonial initiative seven years ago. While the matchmaking meet is open to people with and without disabilities, the primary aim is to enable disabled people to find partners for life.

As a visually impaired person, Sushmeetha felt there was a strong need for such a service. Born with cataract, she lost vision in one eye by the age of 12, and in the second by the time she was 24.

As a visually impaired person I have seen firsthand the attitudes people have. Like when my parents were looking for a life partner for me in my community matrimonial programs, most of the prospective grooms with disabilities came from the lower economic strata and there was no interest in matching interests. If you are a disabled person from a well to do family, the typical attitude is that if you give is money, we will marry your child and that was not acceptable to my family. The way I got treated made me realize the need for such a service. - Sushmeetha Bubna, Founder-Director, Voice Vision

Open to all

The annual matrimonial meet is open to people of all disability types. Sushmeetha was also clear about the ground rules of the meet. She decided not to call the prospective brides and grooms on stage to introduce themselves but to keep it informal. "I did not want it to be like a marketing service, she says.

Launched in 2013, it has grown dramatically in popularity and attracts people from all across India. "It has grown like wildfire, says Sushmeetha. "When we started in 2013, we would get about 30-40 participants every year and now it's well over 100, even if it's held on a working Saturday. People of different religions and disability types fly down from different cities to attend.

Not that Sushmeetha's role is limited to merely organizing the event. There are many challenges she has to deal with like family attitudes.

Take Vishakha and Ajit Rathore, who got married in 2018, although they met over a year earlier. Their families were resistant as they are of different castes. This was not an issue for Ajit but convincing the family took time. "I didn't care about caste. The fact was that we were both disabled and could look after each other, that's all that mattered but the families took time to understand.

It's the families themselves who act as the biggest roadblocks, says Sushmeetha. "Many parents are even resistant to the idea of their sons and daughters talking to a prospective partner on their own, away from the families. Parents often need much more counseling than the prospective bride and groom. Disability itself is such a small community, so why divide it further?

Hard to argue with that.

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