Remarriage and Indian Society

A professor in my college had been in a terrible car accident last year and his wife had died on the spot. He has a 10 year old son and a 14 year old daughter. Few days back I came to know that he had remarried after six months. I exclaimed “In just six months??” My colleague who gave the news justified that sir by saying “He has two small kids,madam”. I thought to myself “then he should have got a nanny, not a wife!!”

Is 6 months enough for mourning the loss of one’s partner? Is a woman just a body, a thing to be replaced so quickly? I guess that depends on how much attachment and love was there in the marriage. As I don’t know the family personally, I can’t comment whether the husband even mourned her death or not. I also wondered how would it be for the pre-teen daughter to have lost her mom and to have a new mother so soon. I think if the kids are really young, its easy for them to adjust to a new mother figure in the household. As they grow older, the stories of evil stepmothers becomes hardwired in them mostly due to the stereotype portrayal of stepmothers in Hindi movies. The children are conditioned to feel antagonistic to a stepmother. Add the curious questions of friends and schoolmates, and a child will have a serious problem in acceptance even if the stepmother may be nice and loving. Subjecting children to this new change is not always advisable that too just because the father is unable to take care of them alone.

Why does the society think it is so hard for a father to bring up his kids single – handedly when widowed mothers in India are expected to do the same? Why all the relatives and parents start advising the man to get remarried citing the reason that the kids need a mother? Can a widow cite the reason that “her kids are small, they need a father”; remarry in Indian society and live peacefully in her neighborhood? Is having a mother more important than having a father?

In chapter 5 verse 1560–1611 of the Dharamshastras, the Hindu sacred texts, Manu wrote:

A widow should be long suffering until death, self-restrained and chaste.
A virtuous wife who remains chaste when her husband has died goes to heaven.
A woman who is unfaithful to her husband is reborn in the womb of a jackal.

Due to outrageous beliefs like these, Hindu widows have been subjected to various evil social practices from centuries like Sati (Though the practice has been made illegal, it is still very much alive in rural India) or being sent to lead solitary lives in widow ashrams in places of pilgrimage where they live in pitiable conditions. They are even expected to change their food habits!! Widows are expected to not eat fish, meat, eggs, and even lentils, onion and garlic for their entire lifetime. Are there any such restrictions or customs for men in Hinduism? As far as I know, there isn’t any. Remarriage of widows has been an issue since the days of Raja Ram Mohan Roy. Though the Indian society and the Indian woman has come a long way since then; yet still today there exists a prejudice against it. Even now the mere presence of widows at auspicious occasions is avoided.

According to Women and Child Development Ministry, there are 33 million widows in the country. As per the 1991 census, widows account for 9 per cent of the female population and only 40 per cent of them are over 50 years of age. Interestingly widow remarriage is not uncommon in the lower strata of Indian society. The so called upper caste Hindus are the ones who are prejudiced against it. Even educated people are averse to the idea.

What we need is a change in mindset and attitude of people , even the educated ones. We must understand that a woman may desire or need a life partner just like a man does. The parents of the woman also need to support and encourage her to move on and assert her right for companionship. The society must understand that a father figure is equally important for children, that a woman may want to share her financial burdens with a husband and that a woman may have equal sexual needs just like a man.

Remarriage after death of spouse or divorce can actually soothe ruffled feathers and unite love between two hearts that have unfortunately seen more of the seamier side of marriage. It can provide social support and companionship. But I feel it should be done when one is ready to move on mentally, emotionally and physically. If one has kids, their feelings should also be taken into consideration. Remarrying just because you are a man and can not perform “wifely duties” maybe a reason for the Indian society but not for me.

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42 thoughts on “Remarriage and Indian Society

  1. Hummmmm

    Somehow I think you are biased…. !!!

    Everyone needs love… and moreover u are nt sure about the reason why he remaaried…??

    What if he brght a nanny… falled in love with her and married that gal??

    If you are marrying someone it doesnt mean that ur love for ur partner died…

    may be that guy had been suffering more then that but just for the sake the children he had to get marry…

    And moreover…as children grew older… it would be hard to accept them a new mom… better the sooner…

    isnt?

    Reema: That sir is a family friend of my colleague, so I know he remarried a girl searched by his relatives. It wasnt a love story like u said. Simple second arranged marriage. why is it necessary to remarry “for the sake of children’?? And I think 10 and 14 yr kids are old enough.

    • Could you justify, why should not he be married after death of his wife?

      I believe, my wife should be free to get married after my death, if she wants to do so. I wish her a good husband after my death that I love her so much. Though, she might not be able to find out husband like me but again she will have a company for her life. If I was good to her, no matter how many husband she change after my death, but again she will remember me and she will love me everyday, she will cry for me.

      Reema: I didnt imply that one should not remarry!! my post is about the right time to do it and the right reason to do it.

      • “Reema: I didnt imply that one should not remarry!! my post is about the right time to do it and the right reason to do it.”
        =

        But Reema, who gets to decide the “right time” and the “right reason” and then apply it to everyone in the society? If your philosophy is ‘live and let live’ as you say, then it’s strictly a personal matter between that person and his/her spouse. I find it interesting that your judgment here is not considered you playing the “moral police” but if others say anything against gays, then the comeback is “who are you to play the moral police?”. I don’t see how the two situations are different, and the fact of the matter is that we all like to play the role of the moral police – liberals and conservatives – and want to shape the society according to our moral views. 🙂

  2. These scriptures are very archaic. 😦 I don’t how to unwind their after effects we still have.

    But remarriages for convenience happen reverse ways too. I knew few young widow women who were immediately married off, sometimes to their younger brother-in-law (devar).

    Reema: Oh yes I do remember a movie about this tradition.

  3. I feel that if you were married to someone for at least 15 years then you possibly can not just replace that person in 6 months.

    Kids are not a reason also. My mother’s cousin brother just lost his wife in a similar situation. His parents are after his life to get married, that too when here its 2 boys aged 14 and 17 years old. Imagine the plight of the woman who will marry him also. It will be so difficult for her too. He has just refused saying he is just not ready, but that is something his parents do not see as a reason.

    Their reasoning is simple, who is going to take care of the house of three males? Hence, he must marry! RIDICULOUS !

    Reema: Very true! I am glad to hear about men like your cousin brother.

  4. Nice post Reema with some very powerful thoughts and comments by others!

    I would like to pass on my view:

    Let’s rub off all about the children and the death of his wife from the slate and lets go back to his youthful age. Why did he get married in the first place?

    Why do we marry? Do we marry just to have children? Many will have a view that people marry to have a family. But is this all what a marriage is all about? There are many phases in marriage and the children are just one of them. The joy in sharing, sex, companionship, a partner in their lonely life when the children go away are others. People, be it a Man or a woman simply cannot live their lives alone. They simply must not!

    I simply cannot understand why people are judged when they remarry. People have to understand that “Time” does not wait for anyone. The Professor in your college cannot come back home to an empty home. I don’t agree that a maid could have done the job of a new woman in his life. I agree that the maid can do a fine job in looking (read: cooking, washing their clothes) after the affairs of the children but what about being a family? Can she replace the dead Mother? What about imparting motherly love and morals? What about being a lady who the girl child can depend on questions and solutions who otherwise would be very uncomfortable with their dad?

    I understand that the time of six months is what the Indian society cannot digest. I feel that he is lucky to get a partner and a Mother for his children in just six months. At his age if he keeps brooding and feels threatened by the the looks of the society he is doomed to be single all his life. In another 10 to 15 years his children will go out of the door one day giving him a kiss and promise him letters and phone calls but what what about him? Will he be happy waiting at the door step with no smoke from the chimney, no one to light up the bulb in the house in the evening and no one to warm his bed?

    At his age, I believe that it’s very difficult to find a partner who can Mother his children. This step Mother hate towards the children not their own happens only in movies. It has been hyped to create a negative person in movies. In real life, a woman is as soft she can get when it comes to taking care of any child even if it is not her own. God created them that way!

    This is just my view and please don’t be perturbed by it.

    Keep Blogging!

    Reema : Thanks! I agree time doesn’t wait and all that but the point is not that Indian society can not digest 6 months…the point is how can a person replace his/her spouse so quickly?? Its not about judging.. its about questioning the importance and extent of attachment and love. One of the points of my post is that society should not force to remarry. As for every mother being caring towards every child i.e. the maternal instinct is not all that true!! I have personally known kids’ own mothers or rather women to be as cruel and uncaring as the step mothers in movies!! All women have the maternal instinct and are full of love and care for kids – thats a myth.

  5. Yes, even now, widow remarriage is frowned upon and it’s considered as a crime…

    but, as a whole remarriage due to the death of a spouse is a sensitive issue and a year of mourning is needed I feel…
    Also, if the children are grown up then, their opinion and support is a must when the spouse re-marries…
    For the child would have lost not only a father/mother, but also their best friend…

    Reema: Welcome to my blog. Yes kids must be consulted. Keep visiting!

  6. yesterday i was discussing with Apar about how even a woman in this age can live alone without remarrying.. (started due to this- http://oorjas.wordpress.com/2009/02/14/secret-admirer/)
    though it may be difficult i still feel single parenting is not impossible. yes taking a second partner is no sin for a man or woman. but here 6 months is as if he was waiting for this opportunity. (sorry if it was harsh)

    his kids are well grown up and at an age where they begin to understand responsibilities. a new member may not be accepted or looked upon in a good way even though she may be a good woman.

    the discrimination is wrong. if man can remarry so can a woman. though i feel women should be independent but not all women are or can be. so it is more necessary for them to have a partner. than a man who needs her in lieu of a housemaid. (not generalising). there are many men who remarry a widow. now there is a good cause. both get a family again.

    Reema: will read your post soon!

  7. hmmm.. i agree with your points..
    but at the end of the it must be individual’s choice.

    and where on earth did you get that verse!!? 😀
    it’s ridiculous.. some sadistic moron might have written it.

    Reema: Thats what! The society must leave it to the individual. Read more of such ridiculous verses in the related post by IHM

  8. At least they are being allowed to live now Reema!

    Children benefit from a father figure as much as a mother, also the financial assistance bit.

    And since they hardly have any inheritance women are as it is even more helpless than men in bringing up their children, on their own.
    It looks like just another example of our biased family values.Thankfully it is changing though too slowly ….

    Reema: Change has to be brought about by the new generation.

  9. Do you remember when i had taken leave for my cousin’s marriage which was to take place from my mom’s place???

    Well, as it turned out that for my uncle’s family it was okay to get their daughter married from a widow’s (my dad passed away last year!) but my mom, apparantly, could not be the part of any, ANY, auspicious function!!! Bloody society….

    Reema: Hypocrites!

  10. but i do believe in remarriage of either gender when they are alone and at any age. I think in the later age the person needs a partner even more

    Reema: Remarriage is not bad when done after thinking it through!

  11. ‘then he should have got a nanny, not a wife’
    I dont quite agree. Its an individual choice. We cannot judge a person on the time interval he remarry. Would we say the samething if he remarried after 2 years?

    Who would define the time interval?

    But I do agree at the fact that women are frowned upon if she remarry and are expected to stay as a widow at her husband’s place looking after kids.
    I think that attitude should change.

    Reema: Well, being humans and having emotions we can safely define that 6 months is not enough to get over the loss of a partner of like 15-16 yrs. But of course it depends on how much attachment was there in the first place. In case of utmost hate only one can get over so fast. And my point is remarrying for the sake of wifely duties without getting over your ex partner or without consulting grown up kids is a bad decision.

  12. I think we should stop living in the 50s and 60s and start sniffing the bloody caffeine! People wanna remarry, then they should go ahead and do it. If they loved their long lost spouse too much and not wanna remarry, then be it. I find this whole concept of frowning on remarrying very loony…. People marry for love, money, security, pity (Yes, don’t deny it. You know it’s true) and a lot of other reasons, and we can’t judge them…
    And reema, for once, your posts has ignited a usually placid me… 🙂

    Reema: Glad to have a serious comment from you once. Not frowning upon remarrying maybe right but its a issue when there is frowning upon when a woman does it and justifying with “kids needed a mother” when men do it

  13. Why does the society think it is so hard for a father to bring up his kids single – handedly when widowed mothers in India are expected to do the same?”

    I understand there can be problems about the widow thing in India, although I am not qualified enough to talk about it. Generally I think woman and man are genetically different. This produces different gender behaviours, complementarity and better chances of survival. Such difference, common to every culture, can create problems (and endless quarrels lol) but it is also the beauty of gender relationships.

    Thus said, and for the said reasons, I think it is harder for a father to raise kids alone. This is also one of the reasons why, when a couple separates, kids are given to the mother by the judge rather than to the father in many countries. Which if course raises fathers’ high discontent.

    Reema: Men and women need partners for different reasons but it is illogical to deny the right to have a partner to one sex and allow it for another.

  14. You have been tagged Reema,please see my latest post 🙂

    Will come back to read the post,indeed a sensitive post..

    Reema: Ok I will check it out!

  15. I have no clue as to whats right here…ideally one should marry for love…in my book..:)
    Also the children need a mother argument seems lame to me (maybe I am wrong)
    No clue of marriage and about it..
    but yes,the condition of widows in India is tehre for all to see…

    PS:your new look is really nice and lively or am I the one who is too late to see it?:)

    Reema: Welcome to my blog. I just think children should be consulted before remarriage. And that society should change its attitude towards the reason behind remarriage. Thanks!! Its been days since my blog’s new look. Have you been here before? Keep visiting!

  16. well i think indian society is changing and we need to give some more time …
    I think its ok if women/man marries after the demise of her/his partner but like u said one should confirm if its ok with their children too ..

    Reema: Society still has a longg way to go!

  17. A woman has every right to be remarried as a Man. But wanting to remarry is absolutely their choice, for either the man or the woman. Nice post!

    Reema: Thanks!!

  18. There are many people who remarry when their spouse is still alive without divorce and teenage kids also… Most of the film stars belong to this category….

    If a widow/widower remarries, then its his/her personal choice.. How long can maternal/paternal grandparents look after their grand kids during old age???

    Reema:Yes but kids must be consulted and counseled before such a decision.

  19. 6 months in my opinion is too short a time. Whatever the reason may be. Here the children are not that young. I know its his life but how can you forget your spouse in such a short time?

    Now coming to marrying a lady to look after children..is another sad issue which is very common in India. Many poor women get into this kind of marriages because they couldn’t get married in the first place because of dowry issues.

    I would like to know how many men would agree to marry a woman with 2 children. I am sure a man would have conditions and priorities if he ever gets into an alliance like this.

    As usual family thinks that their son cannot manage house and children whereas if it was a woman then she would never have gotten such an advice.

    Reema: Exactly my views!!

  20. Wow! Reema…you got Nikhil to pen in a long comment!! 😀

    Yeah 6 months do seem short…but people who make up society must realise that remarriage is that person’s choice! Not to be judged or criticised upon. To each one’s own. If you are single and want a partner, seek one and live with one, marry him/her.

    Do not oppress one gender with whatever!!

    Though I must agree that this concept of filmi evil step mother is just that – filmi. I have personally known step parents being really nice to kids who warm up to each other and form one big happy family.

    The stigma of remarriage is what one must fight…if one is single and wants to marry, there need be no opposition – be it man or woman, widowed or not, divorced or not.

    Like solilo says, how many men would come fwd to marrying women with children?!

    Reema: Thats what!! Relatives and parents should not start the remarry chant as soon as the DIL is dead. Also the kids must be consulted.

  21. I think it’s a very personal decision to remarry or not. And once you decide that, it again is very personal decision how much to wait. Six months might be too little for some and just adequate for some. Besides, if he has taken a decision, better marry sooner than later…he is not getting any younger.
    The point is, as long as he is not hurting anybody directly through his choices, we have to allow people to exercise their choices in personal matters and not get judgemental.
    As for your point that 10 and 14 year old kids are old enough to not need a mother, I think that’s very debatable. Yes, they are not babies but still they are kids and a mother, even if a step mother, might be good for them in the long term.

    Reema: That is my point -that its a personal choice then why does society forces or justifies a man’s remarraige and frowns upon a woman? How do we know he is not hurting anybody? I feel in such cases kids should be consulted. I am not being judgmental about the person. I am judging the norms, the instant justifications people give when they hear a widower remarried and when they hear a widow remarried.

  22. Hi Reema, Remarriage is a personal choice and I dont know under what circumstances this guy got married. In some cultures whenever there is a death in the family you can have a wedding within 3-6 months or else after 1 year. I dont know the exact numbers here, but this could be one of the reason. I think the guy is being judged because he married within 6 months. But he could have married for lot other reasons than just lust and unable to perform wifely duties. May be the female was also in a similar situation and needed company. Maybe he thought having a new member at home will help them come over their grief.

    Reema: Welcome to my blog. That is my point -that its a personal choice then why does society forces a man to get remarried asap (maybe not in the case I cited as I dont know)?? and why does the same society frown upon a woman doing the same? The point about duration that I have mentioned is not related to religious beliefs. I am talking about the emotional time for healing. Maybe he did for the reasons u gave but what about several others who do because they cant perform wifely duties? Society has no problem if they say I cant bring up my kids alone..I need a wife. Where do kids feature in all this? Keep visiting

  23. One marriage itself seems so complicated, another one??? Not even on my dead body !!!!

    I loved your post. In our society, men and women have different rules. A woman remarrying is still frowned upon in most parts of our country, but when a man remarries, they say its for the kids and for his survival in the future. A widow requires more security than a widower and when will this stupid society understand that !

    “A woman who is unfaithful to her husband is reborn in the womb of a jackal” — So be it. It is better to be born that way than being born once again as a woman who is not respected !

    Reema: Yeah!! Thanks!! I am glad to read your views.

  24. Long as the family is happy, its all good! If he is in a cosmopolitan city, not many will care – if he is in a village, he can set up a good example. Bottomline – it should not be a big deal. Its not like he cheated – his wife died in a tragic way and he got him a wife and his kids a mother. Everyone’s happy – Nothing wrong in it.

    Reema: We don’t if his family is happy or not. Even if his family is (suppose) then I am sure there are many families in which the kids are not happy. Places are not always cosmo or village. There are more small towns in India than metros. Infact the casualness of the sentence “wife dies and he got him a wife and the kids a mother” is the whole point of my post. Seems u missed it 🙂

  25. Pingback: I love daddy! « Sakhi’s Laghukatha

  26. There is a saying in India,
    That man is fortunate, whose wife dies
    and unfortunate, whose cow dies.

    It seems to me some of your readers did not read your post to the end, and missed the whole point. These things take greater relevance in rural areas and small towns.

    1- every person, even women, has a right to remarry
    2- the reason behind marriage and remarriage should not be compulsion from family or society
    3- widows are not demons (ashubha), contrary to popular belief
    4- What should be and what could be the personal reasons of an individual are all surmises, the real fact is, in India, men have to or choose to or can remarry very soon, and women do not./ cannot
    5- Women are treated like commodities, like a fridge, needs to be replaced if broken or dead.
    6- It should not be considered unmanly if a man declares his love for his wife and wants to mourn her for sometime.

    Reema: Glad you understood my point 🙂

  27. We shouldnt judge someone for remarrying…its their own personal choice. It is probably never too long to mourn the loss of a loved one…but to everyone their own free will.

    It is unfortunate though if the same rules are not applied to men and women. I remember seeing the movie ‘Water’ and was appalled by the conditions portrayed in that movie.

    Nice thought provoking post!

    Reema: Well, I am not judging that person. I am discussing the practice of remarrying in our society in general..why do some people do it..why there is a vast difference in remarriage of men and women…why society thinks its correct for a man to remarry asap and almost forces him to (even if he doesn’t want to as told by a commenter above)..why society thinks a women is replaceable not a man. And the major point is as you said “free will”. Thanks!!

  28. Very thought provoking post. And yes, Manu is one of the reasons why Hinduism has turned into what it is today. The man said it was ok to beat lower castes, animals and women. I don’t understand this kind of thinking, seriously. But what I do know from personal experience is that men are hardly ever fathers in the same way or to the same degree that women are mothers. I am of course talking about the majority here. I too feel that marrying someone just so they can help raise your kids is, well, revolting, for lack of a better word. But have you considered that many women actually step into this willingly. A lot of people want something entirely different from what we believe marriage should be. They are just more practical, the security, the companionship is all that matters to them. But yes, it is very sad when someone is just replaced like this. In the end, it’s up to the people who get into this sort of a marriage. But what is disturbing is how so many people believe that not only is this right, but that it’s the obvious choice. Good post. Gave me a lot to think about. Thanks.

    Reema: Welcome to my blog.Thanks.It was nice to read your views which are similar to mine. Keep visiting

  29. Powerful Post…and I agree with you as well as some of the com mentors on this post. Different people have various different perspectives, beliefs and outlooks in life. Every household has their own set of beliefs and limitations that they believe are limited and they usually tend to follow that. Good Post!

    Reema: Thanks!!

  30. Hmmm am a stromg believer in the philosphy of each to its own but sadly our society doesn’t belive in it. I seriously wish that we start maturing as a society….

    As far as the story that you have narrated is concerned all I wud say is that the best judge of a situation is the one who is going thru it so why ques him lets respect his decision…I think his kids are still at a sensitive stage 🙂

    Reema: Yes we need to mature asap 🙂

  31. It would be interesting to find out the views of the young lady who got married to the guy. While it might be his ‘personal choice’ to get married again, I wonder if she had a say in the matter.

    Reema: Hmm interesting point.

  32. The grass on the other side of the river is always greener! I would rather suggest that the man should have brought up the kids by himself – It’s tough but not impossible. There are pro’s and cons to both. But if someone or a group of people are used to a certain way of doing things, they find it very hard to change!

    Destination Infinity

    Reema: Its all relative!

  33. 6 months is ok. prof did the right thing. a nanny cannot fill the void. I am sure the most benefited people are the children . the prof knew that his children should not suffer in any way. And stepmothers can be good and caring. ur prof did not mourn long coz he has two kids to take care of. ur prof is shocked & heart broken inside .

    Reema: Maybe!

  34. I know of a case where the father remarried after 5-6 years of his wife’s death due to cancer. Their daughters were married by then, and only one of them supported the idea of remarriage. The other vowed never to talk to him again.
    I cannot even imagine the turmoil through his head when he was debating in his head whether he should remarry. I suppose it is always a race between the need for companionship and respect for the deceased one.

    But in the middle of all this, the society should really not judge. The Indian society once upheld the happiness of the individual; it then degraded to the society deciding what is “good” for the individual. It then made rules that basically ensured things like widows should be constantly reminded of their miserable lives, of lower caste people being treated like vermin… I guess I can go on and on over here. 🙂 Let me not do that.

    My point is that this issue definitely cannot be discussed objectively, nor can the society come up with “a right thing to do” because all decision makers will put themselves in the situation to see what they would have done – and that WILL bring in personal emotions.

    Ok, heavy dosage for a first time commenter. I promise not do that the next time I drop by.

    Lovely blog you blog. Wanted to leave comments on all the posts I read, but I have deadlines to meet. Sigh.

    Reema: Welcome to my blog. No problem with long comments 🙂 Thanks! Keep visiting!

  35. I am living dead. Someone is dead but living in my life. If someone love someone, that does not mean someone’s love disappears when she/he gets married. Does love only rest upon being unmarried or married, death or live? Love is god, undefined and universal. So, don’t define the love with marital status of person. Sexual relationship is universal but marriage we make it we break it, marriage in west and east differs because we make it and we define it. In reality I don’t understand what marriage is. Having baby is natural process, having marrige is natural process plus something we define . I agree with Kokonad..

    Reema: Welcome to my blog. Thanks for your views. Keep visiting!

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