Times of India - 21-11-2011
AHMEDABAD: The Mehndi Nawaz Jung Hall, one of the oldest auditoriums in Ahmedabad, could well become the ground zero of a social revolution in India.
Such was the success of the country's first live-in mela for 50-plus people here on Sunday that the organizers have now decided to hold it in Bhopal, Pune, Delhi, Kolkata and Mumbai in the next six months. At least seven couples from as far away as Assam, Karnataka and Gujarat found prospective live-in partners during the event. Many of them are planning to go on dates for a few days before they finally start living in.
"Some call our event radical, but we see it as the new thought," said Natubhai Patel, founder of Vina Mulya Amulya Seva, the NGO which organized the mela. Patel will take the live-in couples to Rajpipla on a picnic next month, where they can spend some private time.
Among the lucky ones on Sunday was Jeetendra Brahmbhatt, 62, a widower from Ahmedabad, who felt butterflies in his stomach when he met Ami Pandya, 52, a divorcee. "I have all the luxuries in life, but I wanted somebody to share my feelings with and find an emotional connect," said Brahmbhatt."I need someone whom I can enjoy life with, go shopping and watch movies," said Pandya, who had brought her 25-year-old daughter along. Brahmbhatt is a consultant to an MNC, and his son is a successful professional in Tokyo. The duo will date for a few days.
"At my age, sex is not a consideration. What I need is company, a person with whom I can live with for the rest of my life," said Natu Thakkar, 60, who owns a rice mill in Bavla, and found a livein partner in Jyotsna Dave, 53.
More than 350 people, including 70 women, turned up at event seeking to explore live-in relationship. People from Delhi, Assam, Punjab, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Karnataka, Maharashtra and even NRIs came in the hope of finding companionship. The maximum entries were from Gujarat, especially small towns where the elders have been left alone by their kin settled abroad. If this experiment is successful, live-in may not be a taboo word in the country.
The event drew enthusiastic participation, with women seen decked up with make-up and expensive saris and men attired in formals and suits.
Participants came from all walks of life: from journalists to businessmen, from singers to company directors, and from farmers to teachers. The process was simple - every participant came on to the stage wearing a numbered badge and information about him or her was provided by the announcer. The details announced included age, caste, education, employment profile and financial standing. Participants were asked to note the numbers of potential matches.
After introductions, the women were given the power to call the shots. They met prospective matches for five minutes each and exchanged pleasantries and information. Once this was done, participants stated their preference and pairs were announced. Organizers had laid two rules: participants had to be financially settled and had to have secured the consent of their children, if any, for the process.
"While some took the decision pretty quickly about probable partners, others weighed all available options," said an organizer of the event. "Interestingly, most participants stated that they had come to the event to find a friend and a companion in the evening of life and thus caste or age was no bar." Indeed, many participants ventured out of their comfort zone and explored matches from other castes and age groups.
Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Christians and Parsis attended the event. Mohammed Ismail Shaikh, 56, a resident of Jivraj Park, Vejalpur, told TOI: "After the demise of my wife, I was feeling lonely." He said his children were busy with their careers.
Prabhat Rawal, 78, had come from Veraval. "Some laughed at the idea and asked why this at such an age but I say, why not," Rawal said. "I am well-off financially and want to enjoy the remaining years of my life with someone."