Nagpur man aims to unite lonely elders
"The relationship might not be sexual only. They can live together as friends or define their own relationship," Arvind Godbole, 81, who is spearheading the initiative, said.
Godbole is working under the aegis of Jayeshthanche Live-In Relationship Sanyojak Mandal, formed by the Geeta Godbole Smriti Trust named after his daughter.
He said he got inspired by a book written by Dada Dharmadhikari, an Indian freedom fighter and philosopher.
"Fondly known as Acharya Dada Dharmadhikari, he was one of the strongest adherents of Mahatma Gandhi's principles. In his book 'Purush aur Stree Sahajeevan' Dada quoted Gandhiji as saying that a woman has many 'roopas'. She can be a sister, a mother, an aunt, a friend and so on," Godbole said.
"What we need to realise is that a woman can shower her affection in any form of a relationship. It does not have to be sexual. When we understand this, we will be free from the shackles of backward and narrow-minded mindsets," he added.
Godbole said that the book inspired him to bring together lonely senior citizens. The recent Supreme Court verdict making live-in relationships legal encouraged Godbole to take the initiative forward.
The mandal is now on the verge of laying down rules for membership and soon a drive would be formally launched to enrol interested elders.
"Once that is done, we will be open to registering members. A general member can be anyone over the age of 55 years -- single, married or widowed. We will then call them for a general meeting next month and discuss the format of the mandal and put it up for approval," Godbole said.
The octogenarian said that the mandal currently had 15 core committee members and that the committee was a part of the Geeta Godbole Smriti Trust.
"As of now we are a sub-committee of the trust. Later, we might apply for a separate entity," he said.
"Once the members agree upon a format, we will be organising several workshops and programmes for senior citizens," he added.
Godbole, however, conceded that the initiative might be much more difficult to take forward. "While it sounds like a wonderful idea at first instance, we also cannot ignore the fact that elders are set in their ways and their ideas. If we bring together a hundred people, chances are that only two of them would be compatible," he said.
"But companionship is only one part of it. We would also look forward to sponsoring hostels where seniors could pay and stay in the comfort and company of others," he added.
Godbole said that youngsters could also register as volunteers. "From all the general members, those who are left alone in society will be registered as beneficiaries. Our aim is that these beneficiaries be benefited from the mandal."
The former Bank of India officer said that once the members were registered, the mandal would help them with a memorandum of understanding (MoU).
"The agreement of the MoU will be signed by both the beneficiaries who plan to stay together. We are also thinking about deciding an amount of compensation for women who might get cheated in this case. But this is just a preventive measure," he said.
Godbole said that the core committee may arrive at a decision that the legal or biological heirs of the elders give a clearance to their proposed live-in relationship.
According to 61-year-old Nandini Pimplapure, a committee member of the Mandal, "This is an age of nuclear families. Moreover, when your children grow up and start working or go abroad for work, parents are left alone. It becomes even more difficult to tackle loneliness if your spouse dies".
Pimplapure, a retired school principal, says that a live-in relationship is often misunderstood.
"By taking this initiative, we are trying to remove the tabboo that surrounds a live-in relationship. I never married due to my dedication to work. Today I stay with my 92-year-old mother and take care of her. This is a live-in relationship of sorts," she said.
Pimplapure said that instead of misinterpreting the phrase people should look at it in a broader sense.
"At the evening of your life, you look for moral support and companionship. Our organisation will work towards this. Two women or two men or even a group of oldies can live-in and be good friends," she said.