From Shaadi.com to Tinder -- whether you are a traditionalist or a hipster -- the internet offers most of us a lot of choices as far as meeting someone special is concerned. Unfortunately, that's not all you need. Those who venture into the world of online matchmaking will tell that for every happily ever after, there are a dozen disastrous dates and creeps one has to encounter. If it's this hard for those of us who are able-bodied and active, imagine what it's like for those of us who are differently abled.
According to United Nations, 80 million people in India live with disability. Only 5 percent ever find their special someone. A lot of this has to do with social stigma. The idea that those with disability can have an active life, much like anyone else, is one that's still new to India.
Keeping this in mind, a new start-up called Wanted Umbrella has come up with a project called, The Matrimony Project, to cater exclusively to physically challenged people who would like to share their lives with someone. Kalyani Khona, the founder of Wanted Umbrella, says, "Most of the time, people who are differently abled just feel lucky that they have survived with a disability and have been able to make a living for themselves. They feel that they have achieved enough." They are also extremely vulnerable and scared to put themselves out there to find someone to love, according to Khona.
This is where The Matrimony Project comes in: it acts as a responsible version of Tinder for the differently abled. Khona knows that it isn't as simple as setting two strangers up on a date. When you are arranging a date between two differently abled people, with the prospect of marriage, a lot has to be kept in mind. "I always ask for their residence proofs and even their employment certificates," she says. "Many people marry differently abled people because they get government grant of Rs 50,000, so you have to be extra careful." adds Khona.
Unlike Shaadi.com, one can't rely on computers to come up with automated matches. At The Matrimony Project, registrations are more personal (via email) and membership forms have to be requested. After several interviews, clients are provided with a shortlist of other project participants who might be suitable for them. These matches are hand-picked by Khona herself. "We mostly go through the basic filters first," says Khona. "We try and find people in the same city because travelling is a problem. But if they do like someone from other city [and] one of the party agrees to travel and we arrange for a meeting."
Khona's clients range from those grappling with physical challenges to those suffering from health and skin disorders. "I once got a call from a man who had lost his leg recently and his wife left him for that reason," said Khonda. "He was unsure whether he would ever find anyone who would love him again."
The Matrimony Project has had around 300 applicants so far. Some members are on their third and fourth meetings. Khona confesses that running this project is still a trial and error method. "Initially, I had thought that someone will not want to be with another person who has the same kind of disability," she said. "But over the past eight months, I have learned that people mostly choose someone with similar disability because it is convenient for them and their parents to deal with it. For example, a visually impaired person often chooses another visually impaired."
Hearteningly, to Khona's experience, parents of differently-abled people tend to be very open-minded."You will be surprised to know that except for say just one percent, no one really cares about caste, religion or creed. Our basic filters are education, profession and disability type and the parents are mostly just happy to find someone special for their children."
Here is a link to The Matrimony Project
Updated Date: Feb 15, 2015 19:38:06 IST