Natubhai Patel believes that love can come to anyone, regardless of age, and senior citizens should get married, despite social taboos, if they want. This is how he is helping people above the age of 50 find companions.
“Loneliness is a slow poison. I think everybody needs a partner, especially after the age of 50 or 60. We need someone talk to, share our stories with, and care for. I want to help unmarried, divorced, or widowed senior citizens find their life partners. I believe that having a companion can increase one’s age by 5-10 years. Many people feel the desire to get married in their later years of life, and they have the right to do so. But societal pressures prevent them from taking this step,” says Natubhai Patel, a resident of Ahmedabad.
The 67-year-old runs a unique marriage bureau called Vina Mulya Amulya Sewa (VMAS) for senior citizens. He is responsible for bringing together many men and women who are living as happy couples today.
Natubhai retired as the superintendent of a Ministry of Planning department in 2009. He was posted in the Kutch district of Gujarat during the disastrous Bhuj earthquake, which turned several lives upside down in 2001. The three-storeyed hotel building where he used to live collapsed completely and he lost some of his colleagues.
“I survived only because it was a holiday and I had gone home to Ahmedabad. That earthquake took away many loved ones from their families. I saw how the lives of survivors were ruined after they lost their partners. That was when God inspired me to do something for them. I started working on this mission in 2002,” he says.
The sexagenarian has a team of four people who work with him as volunteers. They organise two matchmaking meeting sessions every month for people to socialize and get to know each other. One of these sessions is held in Ahmedabad itself, and another takes place outside Gujarat. Natubhai has organised the meetings in places like Indore, Bhopal, Raipur, Jaipur, Hyderabad, Chennai, Bengaluru, Kolkata, Kashmir, etc. He places advertisements in newspapers 7-10 days before the meetings.
These are full-day events where people looking for life partners come under the same roof and talk to each other. VMAS will organise the next meeting in Aurangabad, followed by Delhi, Punjab and Kerala. People coming to the events should bring their photographs, biodata and IDs.
Natubhai also gets individual enquiries from families looking for matches for their loved ones. He has biodatas of over 7,000 senior citizens, 10,000 young people, 1,000 people with disabilities, and more. People visit his place in Ahmedabad every weekend when he works on individual cases. VMAS registers people who are looking for partners. The bureau ensures that prospective brides and grooms produce required documents like divorce certificates, spouses’ death certificates, biodatas, etc. Natubhai meets the senior citizens to understand their concerns and needs. He then goes through his database and suggests suitable matches, providing people with phone numbers to take the conversations forward.
To date, Natubhai has helped 95 couples get married and 22 couples are in live-in relationships, thanks to his efforts.
He organised the first ‘live-in relationship sammelan’ in November 2011, which saw the participation of 300 men and 70 women from across the country. “We support people who want to live with each other without getting married too,” he says.
Natubhai also appeared on the television show Satyamev Jayate. As a result, he became more popular and his work expanded. Now, he receives five to six phone calls and many couriers and letters each day.
His bureau offers its services completely free of cost and does not take caste, religion or state-based restrictions into consideration. VMAS also takes 250 couples out for a picnic free of charge every year.
“Of the 7,000 biodatas that we have, only 1,000 belong to women. That’s because a woman looking for a spouse at the age of 50 or above has to deal with a lot social stigma. I want more women to break stereotypes and start the second innings of their life with a new companion. So to encourage them to take this step, we provide them with travel fare to attend the seminars held in different states,” says Natubhai.
Tara, 52 years of age, was living in Bhuj with her mother and younger son. Her older son approached Natubhai and was able to find a match for his mother. She married 57-year-old Dhanki Jadhav in 2012. Another man came to Natubhai seeking a match for his father-in-law. “I feel glad that one new member who enters a family because of us makes such a large difference. Someone gets a mother, someone gets a grandmother, a son-in-law, a father, etc.,” says Natubhai.
VMAS arranges the funds for this work with the help of donations and individual sponsors. Natubhai’s wife, two sons, and daughters-in-law support him in his work.
“Among the first few cases that I took up, I came across a woman who had three sons and two daughters. None of her five children were ready to look after the 60-year-old after she lost her husband. She used to live with one of her sisters and was about to go to an old-age-home. Her sister approached me and we found a partner for her. Today, she is in a happy, well-settled home. This is the sad portrait of the society we live in. Children, for whom parents do everything throughout their lives, are not ready to care for them. That is why we should not look down upon remarriages,” he concludes.
People seeking matches can contact Natubhai by writing to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.