For the last few weeks, I have been seeing posts and articles on social media about a model, described as “the guy who is publicly hated, but privately desired by every woman on the face of the earth”. Since one look at the guy’s photo didn’t do the trick in getting me into the category of “every woman”, I looked him up just to see who this suddenly-viral, ‘chick magnet-labelled’ human being was. Turns out, he is an ex-Big Boss contestant. While that probably tainted my opinion of him right away, his other title – social media influencer – is what sealed it and made me go “Eww”. That “Eww” got stronger when I got to see the kind of “influence” that this “influencer” has been dishing out to his loyal followers and haters – how to live in a happily unconventional family with his first wife, two kids and his now-pregnant second wife. And while I haven’t had the courage to watch these gems of “influence” first-hand, I read through some video transcripts and interviews of this celebrity to get an understanding of how he sells this load of crap and literally makes a living out of it – because apparently, any publicity is good publicity.
At the time of my Google search, the most viral video of his was (and seems, still is) one where his second wife shares her pregnancy test result with his first wife. The thumbnail of the two women, all smiles, was enough to make me want to puke. And here is when people will ask me this question – “If they don’t have a problem with the whole setup, why should you?” Which is something I would normally ask, at least in my mind, when people make judgmental comments about others’ private lives, their relationships, their sexuality, their choice of clothes, and more or less anything like these. “Live and let live” is something I firmly believe in when it comes to letting people get on with their lives as long as they are not hurting anyone else in the process. And morality is very much a subjective parameter, that I try not to use as a tool to colour my opinion of someone else. But there are some things which are wrong, just because they are, and do not need a lengthy explanation as to why. Polygamy, for one, certainly comes in this category, especially for the way it tries to turn a terrible injustice into an acceptable arrangement and directly or indirectly coaxes weak and helpless women into accepting it if it ever happened to them.
When I started writing this blog, I did a Google search on what our country’s law on polygamy is and I was shocked to see that even in this age, there are exceptions to the law that states polygamy is illegal. And even for the section of citizens for whom it is illegal, punishment for polygamy (although the second marriage is not legally valid) rarely happens if the first wife has no objection to it. That explains why this celebrity “influencer” believes it is okay for him to so openly preach to the world that two women can share a man and live together harmoniously as sisters, almost as if it is the best thing that could happen to them. He goes on to add that he believes in fidelity in marriage, which is why he never kept his relationship with his second wife a secret from his first wife and decided to get married to her with the first wife’s blessings. In short, his definition of fidelity is to not keep extra-marital affairs secret from his spouse and turning the “extra” into “marital” so that things are easier for him. After all, what better luck than to have both the women you are interested in under the same roof so that you don’t have to commute! Isn’t that so, dumbass??
While I could kick this idiot’s ass for the self-righteous cloak that he has wrapped around himself in advertising himself as the best guy a girl could ask for, I couldn’t help feeling bad for not just the first wife, but both the wives, for believing that their ticket to happiness was with an asshole who doesn’t even believe in the sanctity or meaning of love, commitment and marriage, and feels that any woman who reciprocates his feelings is free to simply join in as yet another add-on to the “family”. Whether these women are genuinely happy or they are good at masking their real emotions and putting up a show for the viewers who are fed this “happy family” bullshit, it is, without a question, sad. And if these women do not know that it is sad, it is even sadder. Not just for them, but for women in general.
Trust me, while this moron has legal validation and protection for all this assholery, thanks to his religion, even citizens for whom polygamy is illegal do this and more so, flaunt it. I have seen “happy family” photos being shared of two women who observe a fast and do poojas for the same guy for his long life and happily pose at his feet with their respective thalis. I have seen news articles of the groom getting married to two women – one chosen by his family and another his lover, at the same time, in the same mandap. I have heard of guys who are married to two sisters and have children with both. And nothing happens to these guys, two, three or four wives later. While outsiders have fun cracking pathetic jokes like “I can’t handle one wife, how does he manage two or three?”, these women live on believing it is the best they can ask for, finding happiness in an existence where they don’t have the privilege of calling even their spouse as their own.
And if you think this happens only in certain religions or certain societal classes in other religions, you are wrong. The perfect example for this would be a yesteryear star couple hailed for “marriage goals”. While there have been many star-studded stories of “home breakers”, extramarital affairs, messy divorces and second marriages, I have found none as unbelievable as this duo’s marriage. There have been many star-wives whose fight for their superstar husbands are common knowledge – how they fought to win them back from those “seductive vamps who tried to steal the man” (the other woman is always the guilty party, if you notice) and how they emerged victorious in keeping the man for themselves, at least contractually. But in an old interview, this once-superstar’s first wife says how she understood why her husband fell for the actress as she was someone any guy would want, how she was okay with him having a second family at the same time and how, while he might not be coming home for her, she was happy that he was coming home for the kids and would always be there to protect her. “Whoa” was my only reaction to this. I mean, here was a woman who was married to a superstar and was probably financially well-off and had a huge family. Yet she believed that she was inferior to the other woman and that it totally justified her husband’s actions. And all the happy family photos with his children from the first marriage show how, as a family, they have accepted this injustice done towards this woman, this wife, this mother.
It is this sense of gratitude for being protected and still given a role in the husband’s life despite him finding someone new, that is the basis of existence for these women. They do not open their eyes to the simple fact that if they were important enough to these men, they wouldn’t be sharing him with another woman. Instead of feeling insulted or enraged by this injustice, they immediately turn to believing that there might have been something wrong with them that led to their husbands falling for someone else. While this sense of low esteem and even guilt come into play in instances of the guy leaving his wife for someone else, this particular scenario of bringing home another woman as an addition to the existing family or as a second family is just another level of insult that is wrongly perceived as love and care.
For a lot of such women from lower classes of the society, lack of financial security and no real options to take charge of their own lives could be the reason for staying back and keeping mum. But even for those with options, leaving doesn’t seem like a choice at all compared to being happy with the new arrangement, only because they have been made to believe that what they are offered is the best they could ask for. Same applies to the woman who has newly come in too. Even a superstar like the veteran actress I was talking about, who we might think has all the self-esteem in the world, says that she is happy with what her husband has done for her, by choosing her as his second wife while still being married to his first wife and taking care of her and her daughters. All these women believe that they have been lucky to be loved and protected; none of them seem to have thought of something a little more important – respect, just basic respect. And I repeat, that is even sadder, that a woman could leave, but wouldn’t, because she believes this is what happiness is.
Let’s try to get some simple points clear before I sign off.
1) The saying “All is fair in war and love” is bullshit.
2) While a couple in a casual relationship might mutually agree to having other partners and not being exclusive to each other by being open about it from the beginning, bringing a third person into a marriage or even a committed romantic relationship is in no way fidelity, and no amount of whitewashing makes it so.
3) It is basic decency to end your current relationship before actively pursuing another, whether you are equally interested in both or not.
4) The wives who happily accept prefixes or suffixes like first/second or No.1/No.2 and stay on are not wives, they are victims.
5) If polygamy is illegal, it is for a reason. Which means, the exceptions to such a law are loopholes enabling a grave injustice. It is high time we threw the exceptions out and made it one common law – polygamy is illegal. Period.
6) Whether the first wife agrees to it or not, there has to be a system where someone engaging in polygamy is punished. It is very much an equivalent to punishing someone for domestic abuse, whether the victim complains about it or not.
But then, in a society where domestic abuse can happen on the streets for the entire world to see, and no one, especially not official authorities, would take it up until the victim is dead, I am not really surprised that a man “happily married” to multiple women isn’t looked at as an abuser. Especially so, when he is “taking care of” all his wives and not giving them any reason to complain. Will we ever move forward from this or will we continue our journey backwards? Only time will tell.
Also published on Medium.