Five years ago, Vijay Kumar Junja (30), a restaurant owner from Bijapur, Karnataka, was diagnosed with mouth cancer. Fortunately, his cancer was detected early, and he was operated upon. But the surgery left a scar near his mouth, and, in a sense, drove a wedge through his heart — many women whoinitially expressed interest in marrying him backed out after they saw him. His family has been trying in vain to find a match for him, but, because of his medical history and the scar, invariably hits a wall.
A few weeks ago, that wall lowered a bit. Mr. Junja’s oncologist called him suggesting he join an online matchmaking platform for patients. “It felt like light in a dark tunnel,” said Mr. Junja, who now believes he can start over with the profiles he has received.
Divine Relations, as the website is called, hopes to help those who are rejects in conventional matchmaking circles: those with chronic or critical illnesses, or health issues like diabetes, hypertension or even with physical disabilities. Vivek Sharma started the website in November 2016 along with Sushil Dugar, a member of the senior management in an IT-enabled company. His passion to help people led him in getting involved in charitable activities. Mr. Sharma, on the other hand, has worked in pharmaceutical companies across the country for over a decade. While working in the area of critical diseases he came across many young sufferers, and wondered how they would live the rest of their lives alone, and whether anyone would marry them. Doctors he worked with confirmed his fears that these patients find it very difficult to find a match.
Mr. Sharma and Mr. Dugar set about searching for a platform that would enable this population get life partners. Since none existed, they decided to start one. “People who suffer from chronic and critical illnesses have a different way of looking at the world and have accepted the challenges life has thrown at them. To me, these are not ordinary people; they are divine, hence the name, Divine Relations,” said Mr. Sharma.
In 2013, the partners started the Mickey Amogh Foundation to support underprivileged women and children in education, healthcare and skill Development. They then turned their attention to starting the free-to-use portal, which is available online as well as on Android phones. Initially, the platform does not reveal a prospective bride or groom’s full profile; it only shows age, place, and the disease the person suffers or has suffered from. The complete details are available only when someone accepts an invitation.
In order to register, people have to fill in their identity number (Aadhar or passport number), so as to differentiate it from other dating apps. “It is meant for a serious and genuine cause. The registration form also asks for disease type and stage,” said Mr. Sharma. Till date, 42 people have registered. The founders have ploughed their savings into the website, even as they continue to hold their day jobs.
Their biggest challenge is spreading awareness about the platform. So far, they have only used the social media for this purpose. Mr. Sharma,
who knows doctors well, also uses word of mouth to publicise the website. To them, the 42 registrations are significant, and they aim to touch 10,000 lives within a decade.
Doctors, on their part, are appreciative of the initiative. “Marriages for patients were always been a problem but nobody took it seriously. I’m glad Vivek and his team have understood the challenge. I admire their compassion towards the patient community,” said Dr. Hemal Shah, Consultant Nephrologist and Transplant Physician, Saifee Hospital, Mumbai.
The partners, though, believe all they are doing is improve the lives of those the website reaches out to. “We wish to bring colour to the lives of people who otherwise lead a monotonous existence and have no one to share their life with,” said Mr. Dugar.
Sonali Sen (28, name changed), a manager at a multinational company in Mumbai, bears this out. For the past two years, she has been on dialysis, after being diagnosed with chronic kidney disease. Her family was in the process of looking for a match for her when her disease surfaced, and ever since, proposals have stopped coming, or those that do come forth back off after knowing her condition.
“I told myself that whatever God has done, I have no control over; probably, I’ll have to live the rest of my life without a life partner.” A close friend told her about Divine Relations, and she enrolled without further delay. She has received a few proposals, including one from a non-resident Indian. “I’m hoping it will work for me and many others like me.”