Shanthi Kotresh, a Bangalore-based do-gooder who has been conducting annual matchmaking events for senior citizens in the city and its neighborhood, has determined a curious truth. Despite the growing openness in urban India and a rush of women joining the white collar workforce, Indian women find that marrying for the second time at an older age is extremely challenging. In the second or late marriage scenario, the odds are heavily stacked against women, says Kotresh whose learnings of the past few years could serve as a social commentary on the status of middle class and upper-middle class women all over India.
There are far fewer women contemplating a second marriage because of societal and family pressures. On matrimonial websites, the trends clearly demonstrate that about 75 per cent users are male. The number of seniors is limited and the number of women seniors miniscule. Murugavel Janakiraman, CEO of Bharat Matrimony, which has 2.5 million active users, says the gender skew echoes more markedly among older registrants.
In Bangalore, Kotresh registers men and women who are in their mid-fifties and older in her marriage database.
Because of the age segment, she has found that the two trickiest angles to second and senior marriages have proven to be finance and healthcare. During the months leading up to her last seniors’ match making event Sangaathi Vedike, or “life partner forum”, Kotresh discovered that many men do not disclose their full medical or fiscal status to prospective matches. That is proving to be a major hurdle as there are no reliable means in this country to verify an individual’s healthcare or finances.
India is the diabetes capital of the world. The disease has reached epidemic proportions with an estimated 70 million diagnosed diabetics in the country in 2014 and a similar number or more of undiagnosed or undisclosed cases. Indians are also genetically vulnerable to high blood pressure, cardio-vascular ailments and other chronic diseases. “So many men hide their medical histories even though it is well known that Indians over 50 are highly susceptible to chronic ailments,” says Kotresh.
So, in many seniors’ match-making fora, both online and offline, women are especially hesitant to plunge into a second marriage at an older age for fear of discovering their partner had a previous ailment, she says. The bolder women and their families demand a medical check for the prospective to cover diabetes, BP, COPD and other diseases.
Some months ago, a 62-year old man approached Kotresh asking her to find him a wife 55 years or younger. He did not disclose his health status until she suspected something was amiss and questioned him persistently. Finally, he admitted that he had “a little bit of diabetes” and it turned out that he suffered from both diabetes and high BP. The ladies who had been interested in his profile stepped back. One of them told Kotresh bluntly, “I am not looking to be a housekeeper and caregiver to a man in my old age.”
Such episodes make other women increasingly wary about rushing into marriage at an older age, Kotresh says. The caution is well-placed as the onus of checking out the prospective match’s history – medical, financial and otherwise – falls squarely on the individual intending to get married and not on the facilitator. For instance, the online matrimonial site secondshaadi.com gets over 200 individual sign-ups every day. Of this, men constitute 70 per cent of the registrants. Secondshaadi does not authenticate any of the information that its users provide on the site, understandably. “We cannot possibly verify the accuracy of the information users provide on the site, we leave it to the parties to do that,” says Vivek Pahwa, its CEO. The platform provides a means to connect people and does not get involved in individuals’ discussions, he says.
Prudence is the key when older women look for a partner through online and offline facilitators, says Kotresh. Her antenna is up when older men come asking her for a wife who is “a working woman” or a “well-settled woman”. Many of the women who look to marry at 55 plus are looking for companionship, stability and shared responsibilities and not a life as nurse, housekeeper or ATM, says Kotresh.