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In Twilight of their Lives, They Look for Life Partner
|by Rafat Quadri|
They were in their 50s, 60s and even in their 70s. With love and longing in their hearts and dressed in their best clothes, hundreds of elderly men and women from various parts of Gujarat gathered here to look for a suitable match.
The 75 women and 700 men, many of them lonely in the twilight of their lives, offered their bio-data as prospective marriage candidates at the unique function in Town Hall here.
"Why should senior members of society be ashamed and apprehensive to live once again with a new partner? Instead they should learn to live happily and pass the remaining span of their life with peace," said Bhartiben Raval, secretary of Vina Mulya Amulya Seva (VMAS), the group that organized the event.
Sure enough, last week's event afforded a rare sight - ageing men and women lining up to choose or at least shortlist their would-be spouses.
They wore their best attires and looked fresh and joyful. Some openly sang the old Hindi song: "Bahaare phir bhi aayegi ... bahaare phir bhi aayegi (Spring will still come)". And others endorsed the feeling with beautiful smiles.
Raval explained that VMAS works for senior citizens for free. It was founded four years ago by Natubhai Patel, who has been involved in social service for the past 10 years.
Himself a government employee and soon to retire, Patel launched the idea of conducting the seminar-cum-get-together for senior citizens across India.
On the agenda was not the discussion of any pension-related issue but registration of people with their bio-data for marriage purposes. It was meant for all those over 50 years of age, irrespective of caste, creed, sex and community.
And it got a huge response, with people coming down even from neighboring Maharashtra.
"I strongly feel that each person has a right to live and live his/her life with respect and dignity with happiness and joy," said Patel.
"But it is a big jolt in every ageing person's life to lose the other partner; even otherwise there are cases wherein a spouse loses the other partner in a natural death or accidental death and finds it very difficult to lead the life alone. It becomes very difficult when an elderly man or woman loses his/her partner. Life becomes meaningless".
Among the men was a 66-year-old ex-businessman who found himself deserted by his grown-up children after he lost his wife.
Daulatram Rahandani said he decided to give away his business to his flourishing sons. He thought he would relax in his old age with his joint family and not work any more. But to his utter dismay, he found himself all alone - left to talk to himself and eat by himself.
So he decided to start a marriage bureau at Maninagar. And overcoming the fear of social stigma, he too came looking for an elderly life partner.
VMAS has already been successful in getting 37 couples married who are all aged between 50 and 80 years. Four such couples attended the seminar and addressed the gathering. They shared their positive and happy experience of a blissful new life.
However, Patel said there was still a social stigma attached to aged people remarrying. In the age of TV, grandchildren were not interested in listening to stories from grandparents, neither were sons and daughters-in-law concerned and serious about ageing parents. But women who are single, divorcees or widows still found it difficult to come forward and register themselves at VMAS for a remarriage. But Patel said the silver lining was that more and more women were coming forward. Not only marriages but there were also instances where women in Gujarat choosing to be in live-in relationships.
"But in such cases", said Patel, "we insist that women are not exploited and there is some fixed deposit condition which has to be fulfilled by the male partner."
He said It was high time that more bureaus like VMAS came up in the country and rendered this important service, he said.
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