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61 and ready to start new life
(Top) Reba Mukherjee; Hamida Modan

Ahmedabad, Nov. 15: They say 16 is sweet. But ask Reba Mukherjee, and she’d say 61 isn’t “too late” either. To start life with a live-in partner.

Hamida Modan thinks so, too. Which is why both have registered for a public matchmaking event this Sunday.

The event, reported by this paper on November 4, is being hosted by an Ahmedabad-based NGO for 50-plus would-be live-in couples so that they can pick their partners.

Reba and Hamida, who are both 61, might have become grannies by now had they got married in their twenties, as Indian women usually do.

They didn’t, though for different reasons. But now loneliness has set in. “You need someone to talk to and share your feelings,” says Reba, who lives in Mumbai all by herself.

Hamida, who retired as principal of a nursing college, lives alone in Vadodara, has a part-time job and draws a monthly pension of Rs 15,000.

“Obviously, financial security is not the reason why I’m looking for a companion. Loneliness is. I’m looking for a caring person who can take me out wherever I want to go… for a picnic, on a world tour,” she says.

“It is never too late to make a new beginning,” says Reba. She is “even willing to leave Mumbai to settle anywhere with my would-be partner”.

Why didn’t she marry?

“After seeing the unhappy marriage of my parents, I began to dislike men,” says Reba, a classical signer and voracious reader who runs coaching classes for a living.

She also had to look after her mother who has now passed away. “After my mother’s death, I feel very lonely. After all, how long can one sing and read.”

Reba speaks highly of Natubhai Patel, who runs Vina Mulya Amulya Seva, a marriage bureau for senior citizens, and the man who changed her perception about men and marriage during an orientation programme in Mumbai a few months ago.

“He has given us hope — that old people need not live in old-age homes,” says Reba, who has already got a live-in proposal from a retired bank employee in Ahmedabad.

Asked how he got the idea, Patel had said he had been moved by the misery of the elderly who lost their spouses to the 2001 earthquake. His NGO began organising marriages for them, and has married off 34 such couples since then. But three of those marriages failed. So, the latest effort.

“Nothing can be worse than being stuck with an incompatible spouse in old age,” says the retired central government employee. According to Patel, 30 men and 20 women from outside Gujarat have already registered for the November 20 event in the city.

Patel, however, was puzzled by Hamida’s choice for a partner: Hindu only.

But Hamida says there’s no mystery in her choice. “I am not a Muslim any more. I was born one but converted to Hinduism 10 years ago. Now I’m a practising Hindu. I read Hindu scriptures, I can recite the Ramcharitmanas,” she says.

Why didn’t she marry?

Her mother died when she was young and her elder brother was mentally challenged. He is now dead, and so is her father. “I had to sacrifice my life for the family. I had three younger sisters to look after. All three are happily married. I live all alone in Vadodara,” she says.

The only thing Reba and Hamida are looking for in their would-be partner is that he should be caring.

An occasional cigarette or a peg is okay with them.

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