As the popular saying goes, “Love is Blind”. But what happens when two visually impaired people fall in love?
“You get a very different kind of love; a love that’s not about physical beauty; it’s love beyond appearances,” says award-winning Indian photographer Niraj Gera.
In a recent photo series called Sacred Love, he tells the story of a blind couple in 13 photographs.
“I was shopping in Connaught Place [in Delhi] one day last July when I saw a beautiful couple. They were walking, holding hands, they were smiling and talking,” Mr Gera told the BBC.
The couple were being helped by a man as they walked towards the Connaught Place Metro station.
Mr Gera says he was intrigued: “I was seeing a blind couple for the first time.”
So he went up to them and offered to walk them to the station.
“On the way, we started chatting and I asked them if they were a couple and they said yes. So I asked them if they would like to share their story? And they said yes,” he says.
Sacred Love tells the story of Deepak Yadav and Arti Chaurasia, both 21, who met on Facebook.
Deepak says both their smartphones have an “accessibility app” that helps blind people navigate their devices. “Once you switch on the Talkback facility in the app, you get spoken feedback,” he says.
One day in June 2018, Deepak says Arti’s name popped up as a “suggestion” in his notifications.
“I thought we had a lot in common so I sent her a friend request,” he told the BBC.
Arti took two whole weeks to respond. “I didn’t know him so I was wondering who he was?” she said. But then she added him.
Soon they began exchanging messages, then they started exchanging stories and finally, they exchanged phone numbers.
“We spoke on the phone for the first time on 31 July,” says Deepak. “That call lasted 90 minutes,” adds Arti.
They started talking regularly, and one day, Arti asked him if he had a girlfriend. “He said, no, the slot is vacant,” she says laughing.
It didn’t take long for her to confess her love to him. It happened on 10 August.
“We were talking on the phone. I was sitting with a friend and she dared me to say ‘I love you’. So I did,” says Arti.
Deepak says he was stunned into silence for a minute. “I thought this was my line. How can she say it? I was silent for a few moments and then I said it back to her.”
Two months later, Deepak went to her hostel and the couple met for the first time.
Since then, Deepak and Arti have been meeting often, and they say their bond has grown stronger.
Deepak says so far he has managed to keep their love story secret from his family, who he describes as “rather conservative”.
“My father says stay away from love and romance now, there’ll be plenty of time for all that later. Concentrate on your studies and making a career now,” he says.
Arti says most of her family know about her relationship with Deepak, although her father doesn’t.
I ask them what would happen if their parents see the BBC report and find out about their relationship.
“We are hoping they would,” says Deepak.
“If they see that the press is appreciating our relationship, they would also think positively about us,” adds Arti.
The couple are now looking for jobs to secure their future together.
“We’ll get engaged as soon as one of us finds a job,” says Arti. “But I sometimes worry if we’ll get old by the time we find a job and settle down in marriage.”
Photographs: Niraj Gera