I read this morning about a matrimonial event in Mumbai, meant to help people with disabilities find prospective spouses.
I thought the whole idea was pretty badass. Matrimonial meets are so common in Indian communities worldwide, so why shouldn’t they target the disabled. One of the organizers remarked that lots of working professionals showed up, “even doctors.”
So much to unpack here. For one, the usual benchmarks tend to follow people into every sub community, don’t they? People in white collar professions are more highly valued ; I am sure the level of disability will matter greatly as individuals mull over one another’s ‘biodata;’ will we ever hear how much caste factors into some of the applicants’ expectations, especially if they have parents orchestrating the whole thing; and surely the focus here is on the physically (not intellectually) disabled.
On the other hand, why hold the disability community to more rarefied standards than the wider society is prepared to uphold. We must acknowledge how openly such barriers continue to restrict social mobility, and opportunities to date and marry in our desi spheres. We already know how people are prized and pitied if they marry someone disabled; how stories abound of disabilities being discovered after nuptials have been celebrated, and families insist on dissolution because of the betrayal of lack of disclosure; how, since women are often still expected to take on being shackled to stoves, child rearing, and in-law servitude, a woman’s disability can get in the way of such enshrined and banal family dreams.
Let’s even talk about how, unless an Indian woman is privileged to be born into wealth, it is rare that self care can be a priority. So we see so many not-that-old women become disabled in their 40s and 50s, well before the age when natural decrepitude can even be invoked as a reason to be so debilitated. I am saddened by how, if a relatively young auntie is in a wheelchair in any international airport, it is usually an Indian woman. And the cycle continues—her daughter-in-law, usually still in the thick of raising young children, has to take on the mother-in-law’s care way too soon, and another generation’s youthful zest is sacrificed to the collective tendency to place too much on the shoulders of women in the name of family wellbeing.
In the face of all these forces, I cannot help but wish such endeavors (tailored specifically to the disability community) resounding success. Sometimes we cannot stage the massive sea changes needed to transform the entire society, but we can advocate for people who, however others view them, are aware of how much they have to offer. Our desi culture is so structured with regard to being in (straight) marriages, and rites of passage related to being in couple dynamics. Being outside of that is surely at times a hugely lonely and stigmatizing experience. Why should people not find one another, and take refuge from a world that can be so appalling to the disabled.
And in this most intimate of relationships, let there be no room for pity, scorn, and constant allusions to what your partner gave up in order to settle for you. Just mutual delight.