The hall mills with young people, talking in sign language. They are here in the hope of finding a life partner. Their parents help them fill up forms in the registration counter.
Over 100 participants from Palakkad, Hosur, Varekkum, Bangalore, Madurai, Chennai, Kanchipuram, Salem, Namakkal and Eerode, are present. A prayer kick starts the event and K. Murali, who heads Deaf Leaders, screens a documentary that shows the ill effects of drinking, smoking and greed in marital life.
Participants walk up to the stage and read out the details from the forms. Phone numbers and addresses are exchanged. The parents of the boys and girls families interact. And by the end of the six-hour long process, around 15 girls and 40 boys have received marriage proposals.
“Normal alliance itself is a very troublesome affair,” says Mani. “Many people thanked us for the opportunity. They did not even know that such a thing could happen. They are very happy. For those, who did not meet anyone suitable, we will keep their bio-data and continue looking for for a suitable match.”
Deaf Leaders has also been training the speech and hearing impaired in Tamil, English and sign language, and assist the extremely poor families by finding sponsors for them.
This is not the first time that the Deaf Leaders is organising a Swayamvaram, says Murali.
“We conducted an online matrimonial process for them . And we received entries from across Tamil Nadu. Our next plan is to conduct another one on a massive scale, in Chennai, and throw it open to entries form across the country.”
The swayamvara saw over 100 speech and hearing impaired participants. And they, along with their parents, shared their expectations, anxieties and dreams of a life partner.
The search for a partner
“I have been asking my mother to find me a good bride but she never shows any interest,” complains 37-year-old Venkatesan. He works at a tea kadai and dreams of a girl who will understand him and share his life. But Shantha, his 65-year-old mother, has given up hope that he will find her. Because, Venkatesan is deaf and dumb and physically handicapped. “Who will accept my son’s disability?” she asks.
There are many parents such as Shantha who share the same worry. Says Murali, the head of Deaf Leaders, “We come across many who find themselves inferior and shun marriage. We try to counsel and convince them they too will find a partner, one day.”
There are also many divorce case, now among the deaf and dumb couples, says Murali. “Financial troubles or loss of a job are the main reasons.” For instance, Praveen, who works at a computer centre in Perur can’t hear at all. His wife is only partially hearing impaired. Praveen says his wife initially treated him with love. “But gradually, she started showing disinterest in the relationship. Since she was only half deaf, she lost interest in me and preferred husband with normal speech abilities,” he says.
According to M. Mani the PRO of Deaf Leaders, the hearing and speech impaired are often shy and reserved.
“They are anxious of how they will be treated. Women tend to be easily intimidated as they live in the fear of getting hurt.”
Subhadra, a 23-year-old, is extremely reserved. She wants a man who does not drink or smoke, says her mother. “For us, it is definitely a matter of great concern. We will not always be there by her side. More than money and affection, we need a trustworthy man. We live in anxiety of about who will look after them after we die.”