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Odd couples

Old white men and women find love in much younger Indians, the age of their children from previous marriages. A vindication of the fact that they are still virile

Delhi is an incredible city, complex and vibrant. It has a great capacity to absorb all sorts of people with all sorts of whims and fancies. To the extent that sometimes one wonders, has this city become a dumping ground of humanity?

Odd couples. There are plenty of them. To label them, thus, is not judging them but describing a phenomenon. Lately, there has been an increase in the middle-aged women and men, well into their fifties and sixties, hailing from the West— particularly Europe — who have invariably left behind a broken family and children in their twenties.

Fairly dejected and rejected in their home country, they land up in Delhi on a cushy assignment, get a big house in south Delhi, castigate their former partners in public, get hooked on with an overzealous Indian boy or a girl starving for a certain experience and about the same age as their own sons and daughters, if not younger. They get this much needed vindication that they are still desirable, they host big parties, and discuss the unbecoming of India while sipping single malt.

Take the case of a Scandinavian woman in her fifties, who has a paying job in Delhi that allows her to stay in a big house in a posh locality. She resembles Marilyn Monroe as the actress would have looked had she lived on for another 20 years. She seems to be in control, quite a party animal, gregarious and makes it a point to tell strangers in a party how uncouth her husband is and that they live in the same house for the benefit of her grown-up daughter, don’t have sex any more. And that she, like an empowered person, is open to experiences.

Not long ago, she was flaunting a young man who wears a turban at the parties as someone she’s in love with and would end up marrying soon. The boy — to describe him as a man would be a stretch, he’s about the same age as her daughter — is a budding lawyer, blessed with a mild disposition, is fairly charming with an innocent face perpetually lit up with a bright smile.

But there’s a hurdle nearly insurmountable. The mother of the boy, who’s a few years younger than his prospective wife, is dead against the marriage, and so is the family. They think, explains the woman herself, that she’s a bad influence, that she’s polluted his mind and body, is not serious and she’ll ruin his life for her corporeal pleasures. The boy, meanwhile, keeps smiling, looking like a kid in a candy store. He has had experiences in the recent past that unsettled him.

Now, having crossed the line, having experienced new dimensions of pleasure and of being treated like a man for the first time and having seen what he’s capable of, he wants more. His family knows it and is worried that this spell will be over soon, but it would be too late by then.

Then there’s a musician, an accomplished one from the UK, who has been staying in Delhi for more than eight years and moves around with an air of superiority for he speaks English with a lavish Scottish accent. His family is scattered all over the world. In India, he’s acquired a new one: He married a woman of the age of his daughter and now is the proud father of a baby girl. And when authorities caught up with him for overstaying illegally in India for many years, he was of the view that one shouldn’t necessarily be considered a subject of the country where they were born.

Well! That’s a good argument in a globalised world, but not tenable legally, especially in the West. One wonders what treatment would be meted out to a middle-aged Indian, or from other parts of Asia or Africa, under similar circumstances, say in England or America. In all likelihood, that person would be put on the first available flight back home. There are instances of children from India adopted by American parents, who were deported back to India after they grew up — married an American and mothered American kids — because the papers weren’t in place.

Then there’s a middle-aged gay man, a socialite who offers his guests the nicest liquor. He is a jovial man with a witty tongue and has been in a relationship with an Indian man half his age for the last five years. And it has been a blessing in disguise for the latter, as many doors are open unto him, and now he’s a successful designer. Behind every successful man there’s, in some notable cases, another man.

There are middle-aged white women who travel to Africa to revive their sex life. Some land up in Delhi to encash white privilege by cuddling up with skinny, ambitious brown men. Like this middle-aged Russian woman, who’s living in an Airbnb accommodation in South Delhi. She’s big, busty, with hair painted white, and is dating a skinny, hairy travel agent in his late twenties. She’s a novice and innocent enough to believe it’s true love, and perplexed as to why this man doesn’t acknowledge their love in public. She has expectations from this young Kashmiri man, who can be mistaken as Turkish.

In such relationships, there are profound barriers to overcome. Language is one, if age is not. Like the young lawyer with a Scandinavian woman discovering pleasures of life; she perhaps is rediscovering it, and both of them are equally vulnerable to their emotions, fairly desperate in their pursuit of happiness.

As is the case with many European women, young and old travelling alone, Japanese tourists in the quest for nirvana are sitting ducks for travel agents who befriend them, sleep with them, travel places with them, overcharge them, and leave them at the airport after a month or two with a promise to return, sooner than later, and disappear without a trace.

S Rozy, 53, a Russian professor who lived half her life in England, is back in search for the love of her life whom she found in Paharganj three years ago, where she’s putting up currently. She met his friend, Anwar, who told her that he’s in a relationship with another woman and is travelling to Goa. Now, she’s with Anwar, who’s accompanying her for a month-long holiday in Kerala. “I felt cheated alright,” she says, “But I’m also glad it happened.” Sweet are the uses of adversity.