Marriage, autism and doubts

As I sat in the plush chair in a salon in Bombay a few days ago, I nearly started crying. No, the heat of the blow dryer wasn’t too much, neither did the searing hot iron burn my scalp.

I was getting my hair done to attend a wedding function that night…and an idle mind can lead to many things. This post might surprise many, including my mother, who probably has no idea I think this way [Edit: I just showed my Mom the post before hitting publish and she surprised me telling me she knew I thought this way]. Writing is cathartic though, and here I am, to share my experience with others who may be in the same boat.

I’m, annoyingly enough, at that age where people are asking about when I’m getting married (in desi years, I believe I’m near the end of my shelf life hahaha). Luckily, my parents aren’t too fussed about me tying the knot any time soon, so my Mom has been deflecting all attempts from well-meaning relatives to get me to see a boy. “No, she’s too busy with her career, not now,” my Mom says (I LOVE YOU MOM, YOU KNOW THAT?).

Anyway, as much as deflections are being made…I do think about the future. Who wouldn’t? Sure, I’d like to get married someday, with someone whom I love and who loves me (therefore putting a spanner into a traditional “arranged marriage” concept for me). But there is a condition to it: he has to love and accept my brother too.

I’ve gone through enough recently and seen others go through the same…a situation where one is rejected (as a potential wife/daughter-in-law) due to the existence of a child with special needs in the family. So now I’ve kind of brainwashed myself to believe that, in general, most people are narrow-minded and as a result of this, it’s highly unlikely I will ever find a man whom I can love and who will accept my brother, not just as a part of the family, but as someone whom I will be taking care of eventually. I think it’s a defense mechanism I’m employing, to avoid being hurt again.

Apart from this, another thought entered my head as the stylist tonged my hair and curled my ends: what if I do find a man like this and end up getting married? Can you imagine the logistics?

My brother is not a high-functioning autistic. He cannot speak, he only babbles. We still have to give him a shower and clean him once he uses the toilet. While he has progressed a lot through the years, he is still in need of 24/7 vigilance. Anyway, weddings are noisy and long affairs…how on earth is he going to attend ceremonies like the sangeet for example (an event where people basically dance, eat and drink in celebration)? Will he be able to handle the noise? What about the people? The crowds? If he’s even able to attend, what about my Mom? Can she really enjoy herself? What about looking after my brother? Will she be able to participate in the festivities?

All these thoughts kept repeating for each of the traditional ceremonies I’d expect to have if I was getting married. Before you say: don’t have these ceremonies, let me tell you, I’m a bit traditional at heart. If I ever get married (note my defense mechanism of “if” – it’s never “when”), I want the whole shebang. It doesn’t have to be necessarily big in terms of number of people there, but big in terms of absolute fun.

I’m so paranoid, innit? If…if…if.

At this point…I open my eyes, see my hair falling down over perfect curls on my shoulder, blink my eyes to dry the tears away… and move on. I allowed myself my 10 minutes of wallowing, now I was done and ready to enjoy the night with full-blown enthusiasm (I did, in 3.8-inch postbox red heels at that). As the song goes…the future’s not ours to see.

 

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Getting married when a sibling has autism

I think, until less than a year back, I wasn’t sure (because of many reasons) whether I would ever get married.

Karan’s autism is such that it is unlikely he will ever lead what is considered a full, normal life and will need to be cared for, for the rest of his life. My mother and I are not interested or will even consider sending him to a residential care centre; it’s completely out of the question. Karan stays with family. So when it becomes impossible for my mother to take care of him, it is up to me – as his one and only sibling – to be his parent. I admit, even though right now I’m not his regular caregiver, I feel like I have my first child already.

It’s not a responsibility I grudge. I’d considered a long time ago whether I would marry because that would mean finding a man who was comfortable and accepting of Karan. I had heard enough horror stories about this: a woman my family knew had a tough time finding suitors because every time the nugget of information came up that her sibling had special needs, the parents of the man swooshed in and shook their heads. No doubt the prospective suitors were conspirators in their refusal too, but I think some men can be amenable to the situation while older generations who are comfortably ensconced in their disgusting belief that “special needs” is a dirty phrase step in.

Here’s the thing: I understand fully well the implications of marrying into a family that has special needs. But then again, I could reject you for having cancer in your family, you for having heart problems floating in the fringes, you for arthritis and you because of diabetes. When it comes to rejecting a proposal, there are a million reasons to say no.

And yes, if a man cannot accept my brother, it’s a deal-breaker. I’d rather live alone caring for Karan than live with someone who spurns him, thank you very much.