The Merry Wives Of Windsor…Errr…Raja Reddy

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?

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23 Responses to The Merry Wives Of Windsor…Errr…Raja Reddy

  1. R's Mom says:

    Oh I did read about Raja Reddy in the TOI supplement (Agree to your analysis on the supplment getting too many ads) ….You know when I was a kid, and learning Bharatnatyam, I came across the couple (we had theory papers in Gujarati, I used to write *Preens*) anyways, so when I got to know about him and his two wives, I asked Appa (he is still my man-who-knows-everything)Appa was not very enthused about explaining this to me..and I was bugged at him because usually he is the one who takes great pains in letting me know everything in detail…Appa mentioned that one man married two sisters, and I asked him why, he said, he loved both of them…I said’but its not fair na’ and he said ‘its not, but its his personal life and we cant do anything about it even if we disagree’ and I didnt have anything to argue about! Do I agree to what he did? NO..but does it really concern me? NO again! somehow I stopped watching their performances after I got to know about them 😦 Does that make me a small person? YES!

    • But RM this man blatantly violated the law of the land. And it is disturbing when such high profile people, who are always in the limelight ,show such scant regard for the law. A person’s personal life remains personal only as long as he abides by the laws. If he does not, others have every right to at least show disapproval / raise a hue and cry even if it is none of their individual concern. Highlighting such cases might bring to light the loopholes in the law and maybe, in due course, lead to these loopholes getting plugged.
      I’ve nothing against Raja Reddy personally but bigamy has no place in a modern society.

      • R's Mom says:

        Oh I totally agree to what you say…but then again, my mind questions that if the wives dont have an issue, should we even be thinking about it…or the surprised mind asks why in so many years hasnt anyone done anything about it…or the private mind asks why should I step into his private life…Pata nahi SH, I am pretty confused on this side of me wants to questions the laws of the land, the other side of me wants to just ignore them 😦

      • I guess the law can do nothing as long as the first wife does not file a complaint, and she did not file a complaint probably because she was professionally dependent on him. In any case, like I said, bigamy is difficult to prove and so most probably nothing would have come out of it even if the first wife had gone to court. I don’t think it can be assumed that the first wife had no issues just because she did not take him to court. No woman wouldn’t mind sharing a husband!
        The second marriage is anyway null and void legally because any man’s name can appear as the spouse’s name in the passport of only ONE woman, unless the man is Muslim. The other wife’s passport probably shows her either as single or as married to some other man.
        The point is, what’s the good of having anti-bigamy laws if they can be flouted so easily? Do away with them if it is not an issue, or make better laws if it is!

      • Fem says:

        My father (a lawyer) once told me that unless the wife complains, nothing can be done in law. That may, of course, been something to shut me up since I was going on and on about Karunanidhi and his harem. 😀

      • Oh yes, Karunanidhi is another shining example 🙂

      • biwo says:

        I don’t think Raja Reddy is unaware of public disapproval. The thing is, he doesn’t care.
        Neither does Boney Kapoor, who never divorced Mona before marrying Sridevi.

        Hindu marriage customs and traditions only apply to women, never to men.
        We all know that “mard ke liye saat khoon maaf”.
        I wonder how Raja would react if he discovers that his first wife is secretly married to another man?
        Here’s another blog post about the Reddys.
        Apparently, a Union law minister ate at the Reddys and did not so much as make a token protest.
        I really think we should all honestly accept that India is a functioning anarchy.

        Anyone can do whatever they please, and get away with it.

      • You’re so right. “Mard ke liye saat khoon maaf’ is pretty darn close to the truth, isn’t it. Saw the blog–ah, the irony of a Union Law Minister paying Raja a visit with a bouquet each for both his wives!!! Raja’s critics can stew in their own juices.
        Welcome here, Biwo.

  2. I too read this article and was so attracted by that superb photograph of the family that I never thought of this bigamy thing!

    They sure make a stunning fivesome!

    Not that that excuses blatant contempt for the law but in the world of art it is very common.
    The courts can do nothing till the first wife makes an issue of it and drags the husband to court.
    I suppose the first wife will not do that and that must have been sorted out early.
    Unlike other violations of the law, I think a third party, cannot raise this matter and hence these violations of the law will continue.

    I have heard some people condoning this half-heartedly with arguments like:

    1)if the first wife has no problems with it, why rake up the issue?
    (similar to a victim of theft who refuses to report the crime. Why would the law bother to catch the thief simply because the law has been violated? If the victim is okay with it, then fine. The law has better things to do.)

    2)Isn’t this better than the fellow living with another woman and NOT marrying her? Having two wives is still better than having one wife and a a “woh”. If that is not illegal why should this be illegal at all? This law is stupid and wrong! It deserves to be violated!

    3)Why should we Hindus protest? Aren’t Muslims allowed? Serves the law right! Let us Hindus too have this privilege!

    4)So what? Who says a man can’t love two women equally well? If the family is happy, who are we to play spoilsport? Why this brouhaha? Is this the only law being violated in the country? Let’s go after the real criminals who violate laws that harm society instead of bothering about one insignificant private family matter.

    5)What’s the big deal? Aren’t there enough precedents in our scriptures?
    How can the law step in? Next, the law may dictate how many children a man may have! Let the law keep off a private and personal family matter. If they want to interfere, let them start with the Muslims! Do they dare do it ? Ha, they don’t have guts! Do they?


    I agree with your views about the Times of India.
    I call it The Advertisements of India. Now, even the front page has not been spared.
    The pride and prestige of this great old newspaper has been thrown to the winds for commercial considerations. Now it is no longer journalism. it is commerce and business, plain and simple.
    I finish reading the paper in five minutes flat and out this some of the time is spent reading Calvin and Hobbes and SMS joke of the day. The raddiwalla gives us a decent price for it and so we continue to buy it. Moreover mornings at the dining table are not complete without something to spread out on the table while sipping the morning coffee.

    Another regular feature I noticed in the Sunday supplement is the Diary of a single girl.!
    WoW! Women seem to have become truly uninhibited these days. Never knew thoughts like this can reside inside a female mind. I wonder if it is really a women writing this. May be a man masquerading as a woman? Back in the sixties and seventies this would be called soft porn and never allowed to appear in any publication that is accessible to a family. Times have changed indeed.


    • Haha, a stunning fivesome they certainly are. And it is true that such instances abound in the world of art. I guess it is part of what they call artistic freedom.

      I think many first wives do not take their bigamous husbands to court because they find out that such cases invariably collapse, as the prosecution more often than not fails to prove that the second marriage took place at all. What’s the point of having such laws–scrap them altogether if bigamy is not really an issue, or make better ones if it is!
      In this context I think making registration of all marriages mandatory will be a step in the right direction. Am I missing something?

      LOL at your views about the Diary of a Single Girl. I agree it sometimes qualifies as soft porn and is a tad unsuitable for a family newspaper.

      • I support any proposal to compulsorily register all marriages.
        But will all communities cooperate?
        I am not sure.
        Why just marriages, why not births and deaths too?
        At present only divorces are compulsorily registered.
        By the way I don’t have a birth certificate and neither was my marriage registered.
        No problems so far.
        But, I wonder if there will be trouble for me if I seek a Green card and eventual citizenship of Usa or some other country.
        No immediate plans, of course, but if my children decide to settle abroad permanently I wish to keep this option of emigration open and possible.
        I request you or any other reader who knows to guide me.

      • I agree, GV-ji. There will be practical difficulties. It’s never easy in India to rigorously implement anything.

        About birth and death registration, I think a birth certificate is compulsorily required to be produced at the time of the child’s admission to a school these days, so most births are registered(except probably in those sections of the population in which kids are not sent to school).

        Deaths are generally registered too, because producing a death certificate is the only way the deceased’s kin can gain access to his money/ property–again, deaths might not be registered in the poorer sections where births are also not registered and where it might be seen as an unnecessary hassle .

        I think my father(he is a couple of years senior to you) also does not have a birth certificate, and that did not pose any problems for him when he went to the US to pursue his Ph.D. as a Fulbright scholar in the seventies. But that was a long time back, rules might have changed and in any case he never sought permanent residency, so don’t know. As about registration of marriage, I think it can be done by producing the marriage card/ a photograph of the wedding and getting an affidavit made. Again, not sure!

  3. R's Mom says:

    GV-jee – My parents had to get some kind of a marriage certificate for somethnig and they didnt have one…Appa went and told the concerned person that we dont have a marriage certificate….and the man said ‘Sir then you cant prove that she is your wife’ and Appa was like ‘awesome, you are telling me after two kids who are married that I am living in sin with a woman for the past 32 years, I must be so rocking’ !!! I dont think they got the certificate done at all…the concerned guys passed the documents based on the marriage card and an afidavit signed or something!

  4. Thanks RsMom and Scribblehappy for the info.
    Thrilled to know SH’s father was a Fulbright Scholar.
    Was amused to read RsMom’s Dad’s experiences.

    I can produce the marriage invitation card which is now yellow with age.
    I can produce a B&W wedding snap taken 36 years ago and you will need to stretch your imagination to believe that the persons in the picture are really me and my wife!
    What I wanted to know is if I can get a marriage certificate NOW after all these years if I apply or get my marriage registered NOW.
    Some fussy offcials may not believe the invitation card or the wedding snap when I start emigration proceedings.
    Of course I don’t mind getting an affidavit if that will help.
    No urgency. I am not even sure I want to or will have to emigrate.
    A lot depends on our state of healh as the years pass and whether my children will return to India or settle abroad.
    As long as it is possible I would like to live here, independently, unless my children need my presence.
    I just wanted to be prepared in advance for possible emigration.
    At present I have a 10 year multiple entry visa, good enough for a six month stay during each visit.

  5. Ruchira says:

    I remember fuming when I read this article. The whole argument of Krishna having more wives than one is such a lame argument. And even sadder is Raja’s first wife saying she relented ‘because she loved her little sister so much’. My goodness what a shining example she has set for the women of this country !

    • Probably having played the role of Krishna so many times in his dance performances he has come to believe that he IS actually Krishna himself!!

      I suspect his first wife put up with him more for professional reasons than out of love for her sister or even him. Sad indeed!

      Welcome here, Ruchira 🙂

  6. Nithvin says:

    Hi Scribblehappy,
    Hopped over here from RM’s blog..even I was fuming when I read that article..a man marrying his own sister-in-law! and his own wife doesn’t ‘seem’ to mind..this was just too much to the name of artistic freedom, can people do just about anything, flouting the laws of the land?
    I just can’t understand the psychology behind these ‘artistic’ minds and to me unless a person has integrity in personal life it means nothing even if he is a great ‘maestro’. Just my opinion.

    • Welcome here, Nithvin. Thanks for dropping by and taking the time to comment.
      //to me unless a person has integrity in personal life it means nothing even if he is a great ‘maestro’.//
      You said it –I so agree. Nobody should be able to flout laws in the name of artistic freedom.

  7. Roopa says:


    Just came across this post! One thing that really bothers me, in addition to bigamy, is the incestuous feel to this whole affair. A 4 year old child staying with a couple should be more like a daughter. This guy actually developed feelings for her? Sicko! It smacks of paedophilia. Agreed he married her when she was 15 (thats what i recollect reading) – but thats statutory rape in India.

    Of all the polygamy tales glamourised in the supplement, I found this one particularly disturbing!



    • Hi, Roopa. Welcome here!
      You are so right–the relationship is just a little short of incest. He had been her guardian since she was four years old and it must have been something like a father-daughter relationship, at least initially. To then develop feelings for her when she grew up is kind of sick.
      The laws about statutory rape, however, are rather skewed at present. While the legal age of consent in India is indeed sixteen years, the law makes an exception in the case of married girls–apparently the age of consent for married girls is only fifteen, which means the husband of a fifteen year old girl can have sex with her without attracting the statutory rape clause 😦

  8. Scribby says:

    I don’t agree to what Raja’s stance was or for that matter Radha’s..but being a third person and judging them would be unfair. But being a society moral police and taking this case as not-so-abiding-to-social-laws I would certainly be against this act…overall I’m not very pleased with the trio…

    I read about them on HT’s blog and they’ve mentioned there how Kaushalya proposed Raja when she was all of 14 only [and he being some 30-40] …

    like you said in Bollywood we have umpteen examples of broken marriages and remarrying someone very very younger…but generally I think the tinsel town just doesn’t care the kind of lives they live and examples they leave behind….

    well as a general public I guess we are our own moral guards and we must continue abiding to laws,right?

    • Scribby says:

      P.S. I don’t know what all I wrote..I mean the thoughts in my mind got relayed well or no I’m not sure 😦

    • I think it is not just perfectly okay for third persons to condemn someone who openly defies the law , it is actually crucial for the well-being of the society. I think many of our myriad socio-legal ills–sexual harassment, domestic violence for instance– owe themselves to the fact that third–persons don’t interfere.

      Third persons speaking up on these and other issues might serve to raise awareness and to bring these issues to the notice of our lawmakers who might, just might, amend the law to make it more useful.

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