On 18 April, 26-year-old Benson, who was HIV positive and depressed over a failed love affair, died by suicide in Kollam district of Kerala. Benson’s uncle told the media that he was depressed because a woman he was in love with married another man, and they had not tried to arrange his marriage because of his medical condition.
Perhaps, they did not know that there is a marriage bureau precisely to find matches for HIV positive people, which has helped about 4,000 people find each other.
Positives do attract
The stigma HIV holds has prevented positive people from getting married or being in a relationship. In 2005, Anil Valiv, senior RTO officer from Maharashtra started India’s first ever HIV positive matrimony portal, Positive Saathi. While dealing with truck drivers, tractor drivers, rickshaw drivers and other taxi drivers, he realised that they need to be educated on HIV, and started group counselling.
“The marriage of HIV positive people was difficult due to stigma even from their own home. Also, there was no database of eligible females. Even my neighbour passed away due to AIDS and I didn’t know until his last breath”, Valiv says about the origin of Positive Saathi.
The matrimony site is free of cost and users can register on the website to find a suitable partner. Once they are married, they can delete their profile, he further said.
Akhil*, 31, from Greater Noida has been a member of this platform since 2018. He tested HIV positive in 2013 and has found his match through the platform. Talks are going on between both the families; they have to be convinced so that he can proceed.
“While other websites do provide provisions for HIV positive, due to the high amount of fees, they aren’t feasible”, says Akhil.
Positive Saathi conducts matrimonial get-togethers once or twice a year, which allows more people from different parts of the country to come and find a suitable match. Of course, in the last two years they weren’t able to conduct it due to the pandemic. Until now they have conducted over 25 get-togethers and have arranged over 2,000 marriages. He gives the example of Manish*, who works with an HIV awareness NGO in Delhi, getting hitched to a girl in Pune during one of the wedding get-togethers.
Patriot talked with Dr Vinod Raina, HIV specialist with over 20 years of experience to understand the medical requirements for an HIV positive person to get married.
“Once the patient is put on anti-HIV drugs, and if they are taking it regularly, they aren’t prone to secondary infections. If you are able to maintain a Cluster of Differentiation (CD4) count above 500 or higher, and the viral load should be zero, then the virus will not spread. Also, the medicines should not be stopped. If stopped, it can invite viral infections”, Dr Raina advises.
Should such couples have children? Dr Raina says, “If both the partners have a CD4 count above 500 and viral load is zero, they can lead a normal life. They can even conceive a child by practising safe sex. According to the studies, a child born to an HIV couple with zero viral load and CD4 count above 500 will be HIV negative. But they have to keep in mind that this has to be maintained along with the regular intake of medicines.”
Signs of love
A matrimonial service that caters specifically to deaf people is India Deaf Matrimonial (IDM), founded by Sandeep Agarwal in 2019. “The platform brings together deaf people from across the country to find suitable profiles that match their needs. This organisation is based in Mumbai and has helped 40 clients from Delhi to get married”, said Prateek Gupta, Manager, Security Analysis.
IDM assists clients to find a partner through online customer support via email. The company has a range of plans ranging from basic to premium. IDM has registered a total of 21,000 members from India and abroad over a span of two years. Currently, 102 couples are leading a successful married life through IDM.
One such couple is Varsha and Mishra. “IDM has helped and encouraged me in finding my life partner. Before joining IDM, I had searched a lot for a partner but found no matches”, they testify.
Love on the spectrum
Inclusive Matrimony was started by four mothers to help adults with special needs to have a family of their own. As part of a weekly parent forum called ‘Mitra for life’, these four mothers – Anu Vishwa, Chitra Subramanian, Meera Balaji and Vidula Bhat – had a dream to witness their children, who are on the spectrum, to have family life. They started this community which inspires other parents looking to engage their child with special needs in companionship.
The platform, which started as a small WhatsApp group, now has a Facebook page with over 500 followers. In three years, they have successfully arranged four marriages. They use Facebook messenger as a medium to connect with people.
“Viraj was diagnosed with Asperger’s when he was in 12th grade, Ayothakshi was diagnosed when she was six years old. While Viraj is quiet, Ayothakshi is cheerful and talkative. They have different temperaments, which balances out their relationship”, says Vidula, Viraj’s mother.
“During the pandemic, both of them had time to understand each other. Through phone calls and conversations, they hit it off. She has found a family she had longed for and found a mother she desired after the death of her mother in sixth grade”, says Dr Pallab Bandyopadhyay, Ayothakshi’s father.
Both the couples and parents took counselling sessions before making the big decision. The couple now lives independently in an accommodation opposite that of their parents.
Upper crust only
Do ID cards and marksheets matter after college? Yes, it does, if you are in search of a perfect partner with an exceptional educational background. Gurugram-based IIT IIM Shaadi is an exclusive matrimonial website for alumni of premier educational institutions.
The tagline says, ‘Alma Mater Matter’, which emphasises the union of people from prestigious institutions. The recent ad of the website starring Karan Johar was attacked by trolls for promoting elitism. The publicity was good for the brand. “Like any other thing which is trolled, it gave us a lot of visibility”, says Arushi Jain, Relationship Executive.
“For Karthika*, a BTech graduate from IIT Hyderabad and Ajith*, an MBA graduate from IIM Indore, finding a partner with a progressive outlook and equal intellect was extremely critical, and the chances of finding it on IIT IIM Shaadi was higher than any other platform”, reads the promo.
The site was founded in 2014 by Taksh Gupta who believes that alumni of prestigious institutions deserve companionship of matching intellect with similar expectations and experiences, as stated on the website. They have catered to the needs of qualified professionals across the world.
With over eight years of experience in the field, they claim to have helped in the union of more than 6,000 couples. Apart from the online platform, they also provide personalised service, where they find suitable partners based on the client’s criteria.
Divided, with love
A similar marriage bureau running in South Delhi’s Defence Colony, a prosperous residential area, caters to families of ‘elite’ classes in Delhi with their website segregating Sikh, Jain, Shia and Sunni Muslim communities, and selected Hindu sub-castes.
The list of Hindu communities is extensive: Aggarwals, Guptas, Marwaris, Maheshwaris, Khandelwals from the Vaishya community; Khatri and Arora from Punjabi and Sikh communities; Shwetambers, Digambers, Khandelwals, Terapanthis, Oswals from the Jain community. And under the vague ‘Cosmopolitan’ category, they bring together Brahmins, Rajputs and Kayasthas.
“Our personalised services will bring back the old-fashioned way of personalised matchmaking that will be purely based on compatibility, in a one-on-one setting”, they state on the website.
Couples listed as their clients mostly own a business or two in the capital and elsewhere. One such couple is Bishal Das and Charvi Diwan. While Das’s father Nabha Kishore Das is an Odisha-based political figure and the Health and Family Welfare Minister from the ruling Biju Dal Janta Party, Diwan is the owner of a high-end retail chain Diwan Saheb.
The bureau boasts of clients across the globe in countries such as UAE, Saudi Arabia and Germany. Besides, they have alumni of Amity University, Lovely Professional University, Sharda University and Goenka International to name a few.
* Names have been changed to protect identities
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