May 22, 2011

INDIA: Love blooms in autumn of their lives

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MUMBAI / Daily News & Analysis / Report / May 22, 2011

A Mumbai organisation is helping senior citizens find companionship and is even offering to marry off
those who've found the right one

By Santosh Andhale  - DNA

Seventy-two-year-old Pune resident Vasant Limaye can’t help humming to himself as he admires the new clothes he has bought to wear next week.

In Nagpur, 800km away, 62-year-old Sharada Deshmukh is confused about whether to tie her hair up in a bun or braid it like she used to three decades ago when her husband was alive.

Over 50 single senior citizens from the state have expressed a desire for a partner/companion to spend the rest of their lives with.

Bringing them together is the Kumar Deshpande Foundation (KDF), an organisation for the elderly, which is facilitating such unions to help the elderly cope with loneliness. Now at a special get-together on May 28, they will meet their prospective partners at Damodar Hall, Parel.

“Following DNA’s (February 16, 2011) front page report ‘Companion for sunset years,’ we at the Foundation were amazed by the number of calls from all over the state. People not only had queries but also registered their names to find a suitable companion,” said Kumar Deshpande.

The Foundation received over 3,500 inquiries from senior citizens about prospective marital partners or companions. Deshpande, who owns a printing press, insists the Lower Parel-based foundation is not a marriage bureau, but a service to help single senior citizens cope with loneliness.

He recounts how the idea came to him when he saw his forlorn father-in-law struggling to cope with the death of his wife. With his children having migrated, he lived alone in Dhule. After Deshpande got his father-in-law married, he realised there were many elderly like him.

Unaffiliated to any political party or organisation, the foundation that Deshpande has named after himself, provides legal aid and calls lawyers and marriage counsellors to the event where participants have to give their details. There is a no caste, creed or religion barrier and members of any community can take part in this marriage mela for the elderly of sorts.

“Since the last year, 25 people have married and 200 have found companions. Now there’s a huge demand from people for similar events to be organised in other parts of the state too,” informed Deshpande adding, “The overwhelming response in interior towns like Kolhapur and cities like Hyderabad convinced me that we were fulfilling a grave need.”

Kumar Deshpande
(Photo courtesy:harmonyindia.org)

He however laments that not many are willing to sponsor an event like this. “We have managed to scrape through and organise it on a small scale but as it grows, the needs for funds also increases,” he pointed out.

Strict rules have been put in place for the event where prospective partners gather and share contact details after being introduced to each other.

“We are asking everyone to come with some document stating that they are single. If s/he is a divorcee, we are asking for the divorce paper, and if s/he is a widow/widower, then we need a copy of the death certificate.


Apart from residence proof, we have asked all those who register to have some photo-identity like a pan card. Without these, we are not entertaining anyone. Most people give reasons why they don’t have the document but this may create a problem in the future so we are making it mandatory.”

There will be NCC student volunteers to help the elderly fill forms and answer immediate queries.

Over 800 silvers gathered at the Kumar Deshpande Foundation's Match Point event hosted in Mumbai's Damodar Hall early March this year. Many seniors were from Mumbai and Maharashtra, others came from Delhi, and some even from far-off Dubai.

(Photo courtesy: harmonyindia.org)

A big attraction at the event this year will be the presence of couples who met last year and are still together.They will share their experiences and encourage others to follow their lead.

65-year-old Kolhapur resident Bhalchandra Nikharge who married Andheri resident Vrushali Barale last year, says he is very happy with his new partner.

He told DNA, “The remarriage of senior citizens is still a sensitive issue in society. While my well-wishers outside the family accepted my marriage, my own sons have still not accepted it.”

“I did not marry again for fun or sex, which is immaterial at this stage,” said Nikharge, “I want a companion to share my views with. It is almost like rehabilitation. I’ve heard lots of children initially resist, but over period of time, come around. I hope this is true in my case too.”

Interestingly, since his marriage, Nikharge has himself arranged two successful senior citizen marriages in Kolhapur.

(Some senior citizens’ names have been changed to protect identity on request)

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