Bigamy is having one wife too many Monogamy is the same
— Oscar Wilde
In one of P.G. Wodehouse’s side-splitting golfing tales the protagonist, an adventurous golf enthusiast, while cringing at the pusillanimous advances of her would be English lover, recalls her meeting with an irresistible tribal chieftain somewhere in Africa. ’Mgoopi ’Mgwumpi was the chief of the Lesser ’Mgowpi, and were it not for the fact that he was already married to ‘twenty seven wives along with a hundred spares’, something might have come of it. Clearly, polygamy on such an impressive scale put her clean off any serious intent to walk down the aisle with Chief ’Mgwumpi. The fact that he was ‘black as the ace of spades’ didn’t help matters, though his masculine appeal was not lost on her. A bit blonder and a bit whiter and she could have taken the plunge. In Wodehouse’s times, off-hand racial comments of this nature were apparently par for the course, staying with the golf idiom.
Some weeks ago, former Brazilian soccer star Ronaldinho, announced his dramatic nuptials to two of his lady loves. He was to marry both of them simultaneously on the same day, at the same church. Ronaldinho was a great dribbler on the football pitch in his prime but this level of fleet footedness took the wedding cake. His former football mates sent their blessings and some of them will have attended the ceremony. Don’t be surprised if you see Ronaldinho at the VIP box at all the Brazil ties during the forthcoming World Cup in Russia, flanked by both his wives!
The shutterbugs will have a whale of a time. As for Ronaldinho, he will have to buy two of everything during the games - popcorn, ice-creams, soft drinks, sausage rolls etc.
Three, if he includes himself. The lunches and dinners won’t come any too cheap either. Then there’s the clothes, jewellery, perfumes, hand bags etc. In for a penny, in for a pound about sums it up. As this is a family newspaper, I shall refrain from speculating on how matters might unfold as regards nocturnal activities in this ménage a trois . Perhaps the great footballer should consult Chief ’Mgwumpi’s spiritual successor from the Dark Continent!
That said, the surprising case of Ronaldinho is not unique. I am talking about those who harbour mistresses either openly or on the sly. In Tamil Nadu for instance, the term chinna veedu, meaning an unofficial second wife or household is tolerated and even bestowed respectability in some circles. Doubtless there are equivalents in other parts of the country as well. The important point to note is that all the concerned parties appear to take the situation in their stride and life moves on an even keel.
Clearly, Brazilian law does not frown upon bigamy. And the converse, two men marrying a single woman is even rarer though the practice, polyandry, does exist. Ronaldinho straining to say ‘with this ring I thee wed’ twice in Portuguese on the same platform, pales into insignificance when you go back in time and consider some of the notorious characters who have set records in polygamy which may remain unconquered. Here are some standout performers from this infamous rogues' gallery.
There’s Joseph Smith Jr., who founded the Mormons and lived with 33 wives! It is not clear how many children this jaunty Joe sired, but DNA tests are ongoing and people are crawling out of the woodwork claiming to be his descendants! What is puzzling is why anyone would want to claim to be a descendant of this serial knot tier, unless he was filthy rich and they could lay their grubby hands on some of his wealth.
Then there was the infamous Brigham Young, whose list of wives is so long that counting them proved to be a tedious process.
At an educated guess, he was married to not less than 60 ladies at a time. And guess what? A couple of Brigham Young’s wives were also married to the earlier mentioned Joseph Smith Jr. Concurrently? Quite possible.
It has also been reported that despite this phalanx of wives, Young had only 57 children, a paltry figure when you consider the size of his harem. One of Young’s contemporaries wrote, ‘It was amusing to walk by Brigham Young’s big house, a long rambling building with innumerable doors. Each wife has an establishment of her own, consisting of parlour, bedroom and a front door’. Around 60 of them, I shouldn’t wonder.
One Saleh al-Sayeri from the Middle-East, a 64 year old businessman claims to have had 58 wives, but cannot recall the names of most of them. What he does remember is that he has 10 sons and somewhere between 22 and 28 daughters, though he could be off the mark by two or three daughters. His marriages and divorces have cost him more than $1.6 million, a mere trifle in sheikhdom. Islamic law allows men to have up to four wives at a time but Sayeri beamingly says, ‘I like to change my fourth wife every year’. Like rotating his car tyres! One of his sons, Fahd al-Sayeri, said he was out with friends when they heard celebratory gunshots coming from a tent, signalling a wedding. On cursorily inquiring who got married, Fahd was informed that it was his own father! Our titillating treatise ends with Tran Viet Chu of Vietnam, who has no problem keeping up with his 14 wives and 80-plus children. ‘Poor me, every time I see a voluptuously shaped woman I find no way to resist my sensitive feeling. I seem to have been born with this flirtatious tendency’. Our hearts bleed. Apparently polygamy is illegal in Vietnam, but no one told Tran.
Post script: Ronaldinho now claims he was misquoted about the twin wedding. Tell that to the marines, Ron!
(The author is a brand consultant with an interest in music, cricket, humour and satire)...