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Swarga Foundation’s 2020 calendar theme celebrates couples who prove disability no barrier to love

Every year Coimbatore-based NGO Swarga Foundation brings out an 'I'm Special' calendar that celebrates aspects of disability and people with disability. The 2020 calendar theme is about couples from across India who prove everyday that disability is not a barrier to finding true love.

Candid moments capturing moments of bonding and laughter in the midst of daily routine mark the I'm Special 2020 - Love & Beyond annual calendar theme brought out by Coimbatore-based NGO Swarga Foundation

The 2020 calendar brings everyday snapshots from the lives of couples from different parts of India who show that it is possible to have a fulfilling married life even when one of the partners or both have a disability.

The idea of making Love and Beyond the central theme of the 2020 calendar, says Swarnalatha J, Co-founder, Swarga Foundation occurred to her because of the kind of questions many disabled youngsters would put forward during counseling sessions. As someone who was disabled after marriage and has a happy, fulfilling personal life with husband Dr Guruprasad T S, she decided to address some of the stereotypes regarding disability and sexual relationships and marriage.

"A lot of people, especially unmarried youngsters with disabilities want to know if they can have a physical relationship with their partners, whether they will be able to have children", says Swarnalatha, who was diagnosed with Progressive Multiple Sclerosis after marriage. "I tell them about my own life, how I was not disabled when I got married and that even after my diagnosis, I had a child, so it is possible to have a fulfilling married life".

There's also a large baggage of stigma that disabled people seeking relationships have to deal with, something Swarnalatha has faced as well. "Many people have criticised me for having a physical relationship with my husband after I was disabled and for having a child. The theme for the calendar 'Love and Beyond' answers those people who say such things".

The couples chosen for the 2020 theme come from the states of Amritsar, Delhi, Bengaluru and Chennai. Financial constraints, says Swarnalatha, came in the way of traveling to more cities and showcasing more people. An attempt has been made to represent different back stories and disability types.

We have chosen couples, some where partners are disabled by birth, some before marriage, and some after marriage. These are people with different types of disabilities. Some are visually impaired, some have mobility challenges and we have chosen couples where the men and women with disabilities. There are women like me who were disabled after marriage as well. - Swarnalatha J, Co-founder, Swarga Foundation

The video and images for the calendar were shot by Anand Daga and the experience was a lot of fun says Nishi Saksena, who has been featured along with husband Shishir Bhatnagar. A nautical engineer, Shishir suffered a spinal cord injury in a freak swimming pool mishap after marriage.

"Their photographer came to our home and shot with us here and in the housing society", recalls Nishi, who is a professional baker. "I believe the calendar will address the inhibitions that exist regarding dating and relationships when it comes to people with disabilities. When they see the stories of people in different situations and with different disabilities who have found partners to connect with, I am sure they will feel encouraged".

Deepak Sharma, Digital Marketing Manager with global online travel company Cleartrip believes the calendar is a good way to show how different people with disabilities define their relationships. Deepak and his wife Prerna Nautiyal, who are featured in the calendar, are based in Bengaluru. Both are disabled and got married after eight years of dating.

"It's not the disability that is the common or connecting factor but the individual thoughts", says Deepak. "Prerna and I met through a common friend, became good friends ourselves and eventually realized we wanted to be together. I think the important message of the 'I'm Special Calendar 2020 - Love and Beyond' is that it is not the situation that defines love but how people feel about each other. Prerna and I still hang out like friends".

Catch Deepak and Prerna and the other couples in their happy moments in this video on the I'm Special 2020 Calendar.

Email swargafoundation@gmail.com to book your calendar.

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