Divorce follows marriage for most world leaders because it redefines boundaries when power usurps love.
This can be applied to most world leaders whether it is the US President Donald Trump, his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan or his affaire de coeur with the Chinese President Xi Jinping, who has also married for the second time.
The only exception is our own Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Though married the devout and simple Jashodaben which he even acknowledged while filing an affidavit contesting elections, Modi has never lived with her, preoccupied with running Bharat Mata and its onerous responsibilities.
The RSS exhorts the sanchalak life (living without wife and children) which Narendra Modi exemplifies. Mohan Bhagwat is a celibate Brahmachari so that sanyas and sanyasins like Yogi Adityanath, chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, are upheld as icons for the youth to emulate. But for the Western world, they are the exceptions and not the rule.
This is why when power marries wealth; the first grouse is nurtured by a spouse who rarely enjoys intimacy with a President like Donald Trump or his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin - despite the latter’s virile machismo physique. For what the people see in public is not what a wife may see in private - if at all, she gets to see him in private.
Machismo apart, Putin’s ex-wife, Lyudmila Alekdandrovna Ocheratnoya married a billionaire 20 years her junior, after divorcing Putin. His ex-KGB status proved futile in discovering her affections for this younger man. Like mother-like daughter. Her younger daughter, Katerina Tikhonova, also divorced her husband, Kiril Shamalov, to whom she was married between 2013 and 2018. The split cost billionaire Kiril 50 per cent of his fortune. Undaunted by the separation, Putin’s ex-son-in-law went right ahead to remarry.
Divorcing to marry men 20 years their junior seems to be passé in the West. Brigitte Macron, France’s first lady, met French President Emmanuel Macron when he was just 15 years old, and she was a 41-year-old teacher in La Providence school in France. Emmanuel fell head-over-heels in love with his teacher, and the two scandalised the French society when they sunbathed with little to cover themselves. Macron’s parents sent him to another school, and Brigitte’s ex-husband disappeared after his delicate sensibilities could not accept his wife and mother of three daughters preferred a 15-year-old boy who was the classmate of his daughter, to his power and position.
Arguably, the title of “Most Married” may go to the US President, Donald Trump, who is now with his third wife. He had three children with his first wife, Ivana Trump, who is now 71 years old. She bore him three children between 1977 and 1992 when they called it quits.
Trump” second wife, Marla Maples, is a glamour puss with an India connect. She stayed at the Brahmakumari Spiritual University at Mount Abu in Rajasthan to learn Raja Yoga and has made a video of herself doing off-the-floor Asanas to keep her lithe and maintained. A baptised Christian, she claims to be adept at Kabbalah and other occult practices. Her only child, Tiffany, like Dad Trump, has dumped many boyfriends.
And like Lyudmila, the Russian President’s ex-wife, Ivana Trump wants her peace and privacy. She learnt of her husband’s flame during a holiday at an Aspen ski resort when “this young blonde woman walked up and said: Hi. I am Marla Maples. I love your husband, Donald. Do you?” Ivana writes in her book. She told Marla Maples to “get lost.”
But the wily Marla Maples got Trump to dump Ivana before she married him. Trump settled for millions of dollars with ex-wife Ivana before he dumped Marla Maples and settled with his current wife, Melania. But the screaming New York Post headline: “Best sex I ever had” was supposed to have put Ivana in her place. Neither she nor her three children with Donald Trump attended the splashy wedding with Marla Maples. And after her marriage broke up in 1999, Marla Maples reached out to Ivana to apologise for breaking up her family. Ivana, with her heavy Czech accent, refused to accept Marla’s apology. She contemptuously refers to Marla Maples as “the showgirl” in her book relating how she reared her three children.
Unlike Lyudmila, who married a man 20 years her junior, the Chinese President, Xi Jinping’s first wife, Ke Lingling, emigrated to the UK after her three-year marriage to Xi Jinping ended in 1982. Like Donald Trump’s second and third wives, Jinping’s second wife, Peng Liyuan is a glamour queen and singer whose marriage is held up as the ideal one in propaganda songs telecast by the couple’s only child, Xi Mingze, who studied at Harvard University in the USA under a pseudonym.
Her real identity was known to less than ten Harvard professors. She was portrayed as very quiet and “a bookworm” who shunned parties and kept to herself. This 27-year-old girl is surrounded by security 24x7 in Beijing, and unlike Ivanka Trump or Donald Trump’s glamorous daughters, she is wrapped in a cocoon of secrecy.
Her song broadcast on national tv “Papa Xi loves Mama Peng” was supposed to advertise the ideal Chinese couple for the billion couples who are told to have not more than a single child. Her song appears childish and little more than a publicity stunt after her return from Harvard.
The inescapable conclusion is when you are rich, handsome and famous, you can get any woman you want. Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan proves he is not inferior to Donald Trump by having the same number of ex-wives as Trump. And like Trump, one of his ex-wives, Reham Khan, has written an explosive book which describes Imran Khan as a drug addict, given to orgies where he had sex with men as well as women, and having five love children, a few of them from Indian women who were thrilled to be impregnated by this legendary ex-cricket captain.
Jemima Goldsmith, married to Imran between 1995 and 2004, has taken Tyrian White, the love child Imran fathered with British heiress Sita White, under her wing. This girl, the same age as Xi Mingze, was devastated when Imran refused to recognise her as his daughter until a British court gave her relief. Her mother, Sita White, disturbed and distraught, died at the age of 43, leaving Tyrian to fend for herself until Jemima Goldsmith described her publicly as her “stepdaughter.”
Reham Khan was married to Imran for only ten tempestuous months before divorcing him. Imran’s third wife, Bushra Bibi, is a Pir, which means a religious scholar. She is deep into spirituality which is what attracted Imran to her.
And finally, we have Ri Sol Ju, the 31-year-old wife of North Korean President Kim Jong Un. His father, Kim Jong Il had several wives tucked away from the public gaze. Ri Sol Ju visited China with her husband in 2018 and received Xi Jinping with Peng Liyuan in North Korea in 2019.
So, unlike India where we believe in sticking to one wife in one life, to avoid strife, the Presidents of the USA, Russia, China and successive Pakistani heads of state like Zulfikar Bhutto, Pervez Musharaff and Imran Khan have had no such qualms.
Nearly 55 per cent of US citizens marry for the third time - so accepting Donald Trump who dumps his wives is passé. What Indians hold in great esteem is the RSS ideal of brahmacharya exemplified by Narendra Modi who has not lived with his devout wife Jashodaben even for a day. India’s second most powerful man, Amit Shah, has been faithful to his spouse Sonal Shah for decades, and like China’s Xi Jinping, has only a single child, Jay Shah, from this union.
And whether their ex-wives married Donald Trump and Imran Khan for love, money or power, the fact remains both world leaders are three wives short of equalling Henry VIII of England (1509-1547) but will never rival the Great Mughal Akbar, born in 1542, who had just three favourite wives, apart from over 200 not-so-favourite wives (as widely believed). But Modi and Amit Shah, like Shaikh Hasina Wazed of Bangladesh and Nepali Premier KP Sharma Oli, know pomp, power and pelf are a deadly triumvirate which may ensnare them and prove detrimental to a spouse.
That is why Modi and Oli like Shah believe one wife for one life avoids strife. But Trump, Putin and Imran Khan may disagree.
Until we get them all on a single platform to debate love, sex and marriage versus power and pelf, we will never know what they prefer.
This is a light-hearted article. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author’s.