Life & Style

Where are second marriages in India made?

Kathakoli Dasgupta and Dave Hogg met through a running group   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

Minaxi Ravishankar Pandya, 63, and Ramesh Chandulal Shah, 61, are celebrating three months of being married. “Maine usko guru maan liya hai, to achha chalta hai (I have accepted her as my guru, so it’s good going),” jokes Shah. The couple now lives with his son and daughter-in-law in Vadodara. “We are really enjoying this: we sit together, go out together, sing together. She has a wonderful nature, and she’s a great cook,” he says.

Turning to a pro

Having lost his wife three years ago, the loneliness had begun to get to Shah. Also, he thought it would be nice to have a partner who would cook. For Pandya, a retired school teacher who does not have children and whose husband died five years ago, it was companionship she missed. “I wanted someone who was retired with a pension,” she says.

Minaxi Ravishankar Pandya and Ramesh Chandulal Shah met through a marriage bureau for seniors

Minaxi Ravishankar Pandya and Ramesh Chandulal Shah met through a marriage bureau for seniors   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

Both had registered with the Anubandh Foundation in Ahmedabad that “helps senior citizens for remarriage/live-in relationship across the world”, as founder Natubhai Patel’s calling card proclaims. The most common way of dissemination of information on prospective brides and grooms, says Patel, is through WhatsApp, but as Shah says, “At this age, you don’t look at a photo and decide to get married.” Instead, the couple spent four months on phone conversations for about five hours daily, and met a few times, before they decided to tie the knot.

Initially, Shah’s son and daughter were not accepting of the relationship, but when the marriage took place with five people at a temple, in July, they did. Today, they call Pandya “Mummy”, which she appreciates.

Patel, whose agency has existed for 19 years now, says he has helped 163 people find partners, with sammelans (organised gatherings) in every State of the country, with the most number in Gujarat. “There has been a huge change over the past five years,” he says. “Earlier, the children were not always happy about their parents’ decision to get married, but now children approach us. Girls are always more supportive and proactive than boys.”

Most remarriages that take place through his not-for-profit are in the 55 to 65 age group, but what has changed is that where earlier he would have about 100 to 200 registrations per month, there are now 300 to 400. During the lockdown, the 71-year-old saw five weddings.

What has not changed for this older category is that men want women who are younger, look good, and don’t come with responsibilities; women want men who have enough money to take care of the responsibilities they have. “This is the gap,” he says, adding that having learnt of what the potential problems are, he counsels people on what they should seek clarity on, including matters of sex, so there is no information and expectation gap.

Going online

New York-based previously single mom Dr Rupam Kaur of Netflix series Indian Matchmaking fame, found her husband on Bumble (having switched on the religion filter) and married in September. In an Instagram live, she said she would not look at a matchmaker, because of her experience with Seema Taparia, who said her options were limited. Many like her, look online for love, hoping for a wide network. “I had a good experience with an online platform as I trusted my own judgement and assessment over that of a third party (aka an elder or other common third party),” she says.

There are a few websites and apps specific to second marriages, like Divorcee Matrimony, secondshaadi.com, and thesecondmarriage.com. Many that cater to marriage at any age and stage in life have sections for those who are looking for ‘rematches’.

The Viiveck Verma family; the couple met through Shaadi.com

The Viiveck Verma family; the couple met through Shaadi.com   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

Shaadi.com, for instance, has 20% of its users looking at remarriage, with a male-female split (70:30) that is similar to those who have never been married before, says Adhish Zaveri, director, Marketing.

Aisle is a hybrid that positions itself as “a high-intent dating app,” according to Bengaluru-based founder-CEO Able Joseph. It has 6.24% non-single users, with Ahmedabad seeing the highest numbers, followed by Mumbai, Gurugram, and Bengaluru.

Some, like Divorcee Matrimony take a page out of the dating app book. It has a swipe right/left functionality and a facility to detect possible spouses in the vicinity. However, in true ‘matrimonial marketplace’ style you can actually make micro-choices, like choosing amongst 39 categories of just Christians. For added trust, the app has badges, where you can upload an education certificate, salary slip, even driving license and passport.

Depsite the fact that trust is seen as a problem with the online mechanism, something that Gurugram-based 38-year-old Vivek Sinha*, who has advertised in the newspaper and online, feels strongly about. “My first marriage was not even a marriage,” he says, of his experience with a person he met on a match-making website, who turned out to have MRKH syndrome, a congenital condition where the uterus and upper part of the vagina don’t develop. His main grouse is that in a traditional arranged marriage, a family member is careful about putting forth a proposal, because they can be held responsible, but in an online transaction, no one is accountable. Still, he has put his profile out again, to expand his options.

Arti Baruah*, 54, says there is no other way, because family is rarely interested in helping someone who has been married before, especially if the person is over 35 and has children. “I have a limited number of friends, who in turn may not know anyone eligible, I am not in a job in which I meet a lot of people, and I am not a part of a hobby group, like a dancing circle,” she says, adding that our social structure does not allow for much socialisation.

“In a city, I don’t even speak to my neighbours, so how can I tap into their circles? In a smaller town (Baruah works between Guwahati and Delhi), it is unlikely that parents will back off from asserting their authority on a woman, so she may not have the freedom of movement to find anyone.”

Baruah has been on Aisle, but now steers clear because she got a lot of messages for ONS (app-speak for one-night stands). She admits it could be because she is separated and had put that out on the app, which could be construed as nebulous by some.

Preferences and biases

A second marriage does not mean that people give up on fundamental beliefs, with inherent biases creeping in. If you look at newspaper advertisements for second marriages, a “H’some Punjabi Khatri Boy 36/6’2” who is a Canadian citizen wants a “Qlfd/Unmarried” woman; a “Well settled smart Brahmin boy, MBA” looks for a “b’ful homely educated issueless” woman; while a “38yrs MBA humble fair slim Dvcd I’less Brahmin wrkng girl” is looking for an “adaptive wrkng TT Veg Groom; and a ”Maham BE MS UK / online tutorials at Coimbatore 6l pa” is looking for a “chettiar broadmined groom”.

Several will mention their own caste and physical attributes, while also saying “caste no bar”. Ads under the “Cosmopolitan”, “Second Marriage”, or “Divorcee” section in newspapers use the same language as those for first marriages with a few ‘demands’ missing.

However, data from shaadi.com suggests that close to 60% of the members looking to get married again are open to marrying people from outside their community, though it’s pertinent to note that over 50% of its members come from India’s 10 largest cities.

Matches offline

Several people who have not proactively looked for spouses met them through the course of daily life. Kathakoli Dasgupta met her husband through a running group, while Mishthi Aggarwal* met hers through work. While Dasgupta was previously married and her husband was not, Aggarwal and her husband were, with two children each. They met at a TEDx conference, and “Initially, he grew to like me, but I wasn’t ready to be in a relationship. We continued to work together, I knowing how he felt, and he knowing how I felt.”

Once her children went off to college, she felt freer to commit. “My son would keep saying, ‘Why don’t you settle down.’” She says he used the language of her own parents, who were delighted that she was remarrying. The change she has seen is in the approach to divorce itself: where 10 years ago it was rare for people to mention it, today, there is less stigma attached to it. Correspondingly attitudes to remarriage too have changed, at least in the cities.

Nelson Carvalho and Aparna Mathur, who met through a common friend

Nelson Carvalho and Aparna Mathur, who met through a common friend   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

Before people even put themselves out to tell the world that they would like to commit to a second marriage though, Aparna Mathur, 48, feels people need to understand themselves better, and the deeper reasons they have for a commitment. She met her husband Nelson Carvalho, 51, three years ago on a work trip to Bengaluru, when a friend introduced them. They got married this February, and Mathur straddles Gurugram and Bengaluru. Both partners have been married before. One aspect that brings them together is work: they are leadership coaches who are planning a series of courses for people looking at marriage itself, second marriages being one.

In 2016, Hyderabad-based Ekta Viiveck Verma started a by-invite group on Facebook called Invisible Scars, open to all genders, where people who have been in abusive marriages can support each other. She and her husband of nine years, Viiveck Verma, met on shaadi.com. Both had been married before; she, divorced; he had lost his wife to cancer, and had two adopted daughters. “The first time around, you’re not very sure what you’re getting into. The second time around, you can draw up a list of negotiables and non-negotiables,” she says, adding that of late, people on the group have started showing an interest in looking at the possibility of being with each other.

In the end, as Baruah says, “What I found on apps like Aisle was that there are many people in the same boat as I am: lonely and worthy of long-term commitment.”

*Name changed to protect identity

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Printable version | Nov 28, 2020 8:25:32 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/second-marriages-in-india/article33046575.ece

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