For the second edition of our Dil Vil Pyaar Vyaar campaign, we collaborated with Love Matters to publish a series of four accounts written by women with disabilities on living and loving. The essays were written by two of our I Can Lead fellows, and two members of our team.
This campaign was born out of the need for women with disabilities to see themselves represented in the media as exploring their romantic and sexual selves. In mainstream movies and other formats, people with disabilities are all too often relegated to inspirational tropes or seen as grieving their condition. Their stories too are told and enacted by able-bodied people who have no lived experience of disability to draw from. Launched on February 14, 2020, Dil Vil Pyaar Vyaar aims to shift the gaze and look at love through the eyes of disabled women and their experiences.
“[Overnight], the world had changed. We no longer knew what worked for us as individuals, let alone what worked for us as a couple.”
Nidhi Goyal’s love story begins with her starting to date her then-friend (and now-partner) at the start of 2020. While long-distance dating itself is hard, the restrictions posed by the COVID-19 lockdown were amplified for Nidhi and her partner by the vast inaccessibility of the digital world, given their visual impairments. A candid account of navigating a new romance and creating intimacy while living with disabilities in the wake of COVID-19, you can read it here.
“The relationship wasn’t perfect! But I’m not here to talk about its masala movie elements. I’m here to talk about how this flawed-yet-unique relationship changed something in me that I didn’t know needed to be changed.”
Up next is a story from Sweta Mantrii, an MBA-turned-writer (not the run-of-the-mill kinds, we guarantee), a stand-up comedienne and disability rights activist, who swiped right on a man as a social experiment, hoping to roast him for being a self-described feminist. However, what began with the expected cliches slowly turned into an empathetic dialogue that formed the basis for a short-lived but healthy relationship. Read this tender story of how Sweta began to accept love for the disability that is part of her, here.
“His disability is a little milder than mine, which attracted me to him, as I felt he wouldn’t look down on me, and that we would also be able to support each other.”
Dr. Deepa Venkatesh is a practicing dentist from Madikeri and was a I Can Lead fellow with us in 2020. In her story, she describes her meet-cute by referencing a heady Tamil love song lyric that roughly translates to: ‘all that I see around me looks like love!’ Despite their obvious interest in one another’s daily Whatsapp status updates and a 250-km commute by her to meet him in person for the first time, fate and social conditioning seems to have written them off as star-crossed lovers. Read this all-too-relatable story here.
“Over the years of being together, we have had to carefully build a love language of Volini, hot packs, yummy home cooked dinners, walks in parks and asking the difficult questions like: Have you taken your meds?”
Srinidhi Raghavan has lived with fibromyalgia and the pain that comes with it for over 5 years now. Overlapping the experience is that of her relationship with S, with whom she has now built a unique love language. Read this touching story that talks about how navigating romance with disability comes with its own flavour of tenderness here.
As part of the campaign we also hope to bring these narratives forth with a systemic analysis that is done through public conversations. On Feb 26th we had a tweet chat with Love Matters on love, disabled women and our inner lives. You can check it out here.
We wrapped up the campaign by going live with Nidhi and Sweta, who shared the dilemma of being disabled feminists who found healing in the loving validation from the men in their lives. Make sure to clear out your schedule and kick-back with snacks to enjoy this hour-long vulnerable but good-humored discussion (they are both stand-up comediennes!) about romance, using your lived experience for content, and battling the stigma surrounding disability, one healthy relationship at a time. Watch it here.
You can also read the pieces from our campaign from February 2020.