This Is My Family: the Widower Who Is Dating Again at 63
In This Is My Family, we explore alternative family structures and the institution of marriage in India.
I lost my wife six years ago to cancer.
After her, I wouldn’t say that I was lonely; my life was full. I was spending most of my time with my grandchildren, picking them up from school, helping them with homework and my son, with accounts in his business. My daughter would visit us from the U.S. every summer, and I was quite busy traveling myself. I went for walks each morning and evening and that’s what changed my life. I think I was yearning to see the world through someone else’s eyes again. I wanted a companion.
I met a woman who had also lost her husband a couple of years ago. We had both been married to our respective partners for over three decades and after their passing, we had a lot on our plates to stay engaged. But we still ended up noticing each other.
We started talking to each other after we participated in an event for senior citizens and were part of the same team. She was the captain, and I couldn’t help but admire her decision-making skills and confidence. I told her this, and it made her really happy. Ultimately, we both started taking walks together, talking about spirituality, family, health, and how life had been post our spouses’ passing. Our thoughts matched on so many levels. We also joined a laughter club, an exercise group and never missed a class. We’d have breakfast and juices from the stalls outside the park and sometimes even go to the beach on rainy mornings.
Walks were a part of the daily routine only once a day, but after we met each other, we started taking one in the evenings as well. Sometimes we’d get our grandchildren along, and they’d play with each other. And after we had introduced our children, they would also take walks together.
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Initially, I thought our kids would not approve of our friendship — they would think we’re overdoing it for our age. But surprisingly, none of them thought so. In fact, they liked it that we had found someone to spend time with because they said they felt bad when all of them had their partners around for functions and we didn’t.
I remember it was Diwali, and our kids were discussing what we were planning to do in our homes. My daughter asked my friend to come over for the pooja (prayer meeting).
She hesitated a little, but I told her that there was nothing to worry about, as friends anyway visited each other on festivals. She ended up coming home with a box full of laddoos (sweets) and some snacks she’d made herself. We sat for the pooja, and I could see that she enjoyed it a lot.
After dinner, she mentioned that there was going to be a card party at her house, and my kids asked if they could join as well because it was my wife who used to organize these at home; since her passing, nobody had done so.
“Both of us are extremely lucky to have a family that … supported us in our friendship.”
We went over to her house and it was a night to remember. The grandkids were busy playing, our children were discussing business, politics, and food, over cards and drinks. Nobody was ready to call it a night, while both of us were feeling very tired and sleepy. We both joked about how none of them had to wake up to go for a walk but we had to. We even got told off — of course as a joke — that we didn’t have to go every day. But it was something we never skipped.
We did end up meeting the next morning, discussing the previous night and how happy it made us. We remembered our spouses, prayed for them in the new year and continued with our walk.
When we reached home, we found out that our children had made plans to go to Shirdi over the weekend. That whole week, we kept talking about how we couldn’t wait for the weekend to come. We’d talk about what food we’d carry; I asked her what her kids and grandkids are fond of, and she asked me the same and more.
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The weekend came and we drove to Shirdi. There were two cars, and our kids ensured we got into the same one. We had a good time playing, discussing stuff in the car and when we got there, the children had booked a beautiful resort. We would sit on the swings in the evening, sit by the pool, or go for a walk in the garden nearby.
We went to the temple the next morning and after coming back we decided to watch a movie together. Since then, we’ve celebrated so many of our family members’ birthdays, anniversaries; we’ve gone for movies as one big family and keep visiting each others’ homes on a regular basis. We do spend time alone as well. We go for walks. I’ve introduced her to a couple of my friends, and we go for dinners to their houses whenever they host one, and she takes me to hers.
We’ve also had tiffs. I would say they are petty, but it was fun doing that as well. My wish is to travel with her, alone. I’m not sure how everyone would react and to be honest, I’m pretty scared bringing it up as well, but on the other hand, my son has also told me, they would be completely fine if we wanted to marry each other. We’ve not thought that far, but I’d like to say that both of us are extremely lucky to have a family that thought of us, supported us in our friendship and did whatever they could to help us be the way we are with each other. Life has given us a second chance and there’s no way we are wasting another minute not making the most of it.
This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity. As told to Anubhuti Matta.