Looking at Persisting Stereotypes on Love and Disability
The desire for a companion is something that most of us experience at one or the other point in life. Trust me, folks with disabilities are no exception. Neither are we divine as they call us. There is so much more to our personalities which goes beyond our disability. It is needless to say that we experience the same human emotions as others and romance, love and longing for a companion are very much a part of these.
I mean, there should be no reason to turn heads after watching a blind couple or somebody on a wheelchair, on a date. Why is that so intriguing? Let’s get candid! Who doesn’t crave for those romantic dates and vacations, those gifts, the feeling of being special to someone, or those cozy and intimate moments! None of us deserve to remain devoid of such experiences!
Our popular culture, particularly, Bollywood movies are guilty of treating people with disabilities as mere subjects of comic relief, sympathy and even worse and have only reinforced existing stereotypes. However, we also have movies which must be lauded for their sensitive and dignified depiction of disable people as those who are capable of loving and being loved. Some shining examples for this are movies like Sparsh, Barfi, Fanaa, Guzaarish, and Sadma. We may also take into consideration a movie like Margarita with a Straw which attempts to explore the aspects of sexuality and privacy.
Understanding Disability, Romance and Barriers
The existing social perception and stigmas around disability play a significant role in shaping our own thoughts and personalities as well and often end up creating glass ceilings. I explicitly remember, how during my teenage days and early twenties, just like the other girls of my age, I too got attracted towards boys. However, I found myself suppressing my feelings owing to the thought that, who would be interested in dating a girl with disability? Overthinking and being nervous about how boys will perceive me after looking at my impairment became a constant for me. After a lot of contemplation over the years, I have realized that somewhere It was me, who was at fault. I must admit that all those years, I was battling to accept my reality and seeking a quintessential prince charming. Just another side effect of relying excessively on Bollywood movies! I did not want to explore the idea of dating someone with a disability, which is not the case anymore. I still might be looking for a prince charming, but thankfully so, my definition of one has altered.
Having said this, in most cases, external and internal barriers go hand in hand and the onus doesn’t just lie on one of these. Couples with disabilities more often than not, lack various elements of normalcy in their relationships. This, to a great extent, could be attributed to the social apathy exhibited towards the disabled. This reminds me of a casual conversation, I once had with a blind friend of mine who is married to a blind man. She was discussing about planning a vacation with her husband on their anniversary, and how finding travel agents who are willing to cater to couples with disabilities is a humungous task. As a result, they don’t travel very often and even if they do, it’s with their sighted friends or family members. Your privacy in such cases, simply goes out of the window. The obvious reason is that there are very few people who wish to take responsibility and go the extra mile to make specific arrangements.
We do face limitations, but we can carve out our own ways to ensure that we embrace our relationships with our partners in the most beautiful ways. It’s just, that we expect society to be mindful and considerate of the requirements we may have in our journey to experience everything normal that one may wish for. When we speak of assimilation in the mainstream, are we only referring to education and financial independence? Shouldn’t the discourse around aid and assistance and accessible public spaces encompass and lay equal emphasis on restaurants, cafes, spas, salons, hotels, tourist destinations, etc? Why not consider it imperative to broaden the ambit of empowerment and move ahead with a holistic approach? These questions are indeed worth pondering upon. Let us all come together to share our thoughts to build a meaningful conversation around this.
About the author:
Pratishtha Gogia was born and brought up in New Delhi and graduated in History from Miranda House, University of Delhi. She is a Post-graduate in Modern Indian History from Faculty of Arts, University of Delhi. She acquired her visual impairment in her late teens and eventually lost her vision by the age of 26. She is keen to write on different social issues based on her personal observations and experiences particularly from the lense of feminism and disability.