The Times Of India is one newspaper which cannot be accused of having intellectual pretensions. It’s Sunday supplement, in particular, is an exercise in banal celebrity worship. It’s a strategy that serves them very well, going by the number of advertisements it carries. By the way, isn’t there such a thing as too many advertisements? I am sure the law of diminishing returns would begin to kick in at some point, but where is that point?
Anyway, I digress. So sometimes the Sunday supplement of The Times Of India, which is firmly committed to the mantra of focussing on the packaging way more than the contents, does manage, probably unintentionally, to come up with something that catches the eye. Last Sunday, on the occasion of the Valentine’s Day, they did a feature on artists and their relationships with their ‘muses’–in the name of celebrating ‘true’ love, if you please!
Among the artists who featured in the article was Raja Reddy, the well-known Kuchipudi dancer who always performs with his wife Radha sharing the stage. Now theirs is a story straight out of Bollywood potboilers. Apparently, when as a young couple they shifted to Delhi for Raja to take up a job, Radha was terribly home-sick. So her parents sent her four year old sister to Delhi to keep her company. This perked up Radha considerably, and so her little sister remained with them in Delhi, grew up in their house and also got trained as a dancer herself. The couple, meanwhile made a name for themselves as exponents of Kuchipudi and frequently went abroad to perform. Radha’s sister accompanied them and managed their tours and performances.
Everything was going perfectly till the time when a female fan confronted Raja in one of his performances abroad and begged him to marry her. This was when Radha’s sister took the opportunity to profess her own love for Raja and declared her desire to marry him. And Raja, who himself had come to nurse feelings for her, found it impossible to turn her down. They got married. Even Krishna had more than one wives, he states in his defence. He has either not heard of the law against bigamy or does not care–not an unusual scenario in India.
Radha was, predictably, very disturbed at the turn of events but she eventually relented ‘because she loved her little sister so much’. The only thing she asked for was that only she would share the stage with Raja, to which Raja, being ever so generous, agreed. Both sisters have a daughter each with Raja and all of them apparently stay under the same roof. Once one of his daughters wanted to know why she had two mothers when everyone in her class had one–to which Raja replied that it was all due to Lord Venkateshwara’s blessings that she had two mothers to love her while everyone had ‘only one’. Very funny.
This is hardly the first instance of bigamy by well-known, public figures. The Hindi film industry provides many examples, but to my limited knowledge at least they took the precaution of converting to Islam( Muslims in India are allowed to have more than one wives at a time) if they were unable to divorce their spouses. Certainly a case of misusing one law to escape another but at least they tried to stay on the right side of the law.
What options are open to a woman whose husband marries another woman while still being married to her? Precious little, as this article I found says. Apparently, the wife must prove that both marriages, her own as well as the second one , were performed in accordance with certain rituals and procedures. Bigamy cases often collapse because the wife is unable to provide such proof, and the defendant gets off the hook all too easily by claiming that some or the other procedure was not performed. Looks like Raja was right after all–why care about such toothless, harmless laws?
Of course, Raja’s case was helped by the fact that Radha’s professional life was inextricably linked to his own, so she was unlikely to topple the apple-cart. And the fact that the other woman was her own much-loved little sister!
I think the only way to deal with this gaping loophole in the law would be to make registration of all marriages mandatory. I believe converting to Islam in order to remarry has already been outlawed. Make it compulsory to register a marriage for it to be recognised as legal. That will make sure that the only way anyone can remarry is by obtaining a divorce. What am I missing?