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Times of India
20 July 2008
Pune, India
By Mansi Tewari

Two months ago, Sanvedana, a support group for epilepsy patients, had arranged a marriage meet. Now, in a heartening success to the event, three couples are getting married, and talks are on between several families about possible alliances. Yashoda Wakankar, a epilepsy patient and Radhika Deshpande, a parent of a child suffering from epilepsy, got together four years ago to form the group. Since most of its members were in the age group between 18 to 35, the issue of marriage began to crop up in the counselling sessions. That is how, Sanvedana came to start the marriage bureau.

Yashoda explains, “Initially, 125 people registered for the meet. But fearing the stigma, most did not turn up. Eventually, 28 prospective brides and 21 prospective grooms attended the meet.

“Caste was a major issue among the participants,” Yashodha adds. Another issue she noticed was that even though boys were earning more than the girls, they were not ready to marry someone less qualified than them. Most girls hoped to marry someone who did not have epilepsy and explaining to them that it was not a practical approach was also very difficult.

Questions were also raised whether two people suffering from epilepsy should marry, and doctors present in the meet clarified that anyone who is physically and mentally fit can get married. All families at the meet were also advised to confirm their decision only after meeting each others’ neurologist.

However, Yashoda says the unfortunate part of the meet was that once the families met, they did not get in touch with the group and most of the time they were left clueless.

It was the effort and vision of one of the parent, Mohan Phatak who took the initiative and started the Sanvedana foundation marriage bureau in February 2007. When asked what prompted him to start the bureau, Phatak says, “These days, there are more nuclear families unlike old times when some relative could suggest a match. It was then I decided to start the bureau.”

Elaborating further, Yashoda says, “I heard of a lot of divorce cases being filed due to epilepsy. I wanted to do something about it. The law of getting a divorce on the grounds of either spouse having epilepsy was canceled in 2001 and most of them are not aware of this.”

“Some marriage bureaus ask you to hide the fact. In fact, even parents hope to get a normal partner for their children. But parents must learn and accept the facts,” adds Radhika.

The marriage meet underlined the utility of such support groups. “A lot of factors play the role in recovery, and positive thinking is one of them. Such support groups can only motivate people to live a quality life,” says psychologist Shirisha Sathe.

“People with epilepsy are stigmatised. For example, the law cannot bar anyone from getting a driving license if the person has not had a seizure for a longer period of time. Even then divorces are happening,” Yashoda. Now, the scenario has changed. Research is being done and the side effects of the medicines have also reduced to a great extent. “Prolonged treatment reduces the chances of seizures. Today, 80% patients can fully recover,” she concludes.

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