Conjugal life on the cross
Will society wake up to stem rot?
Humid and sweltering weather at Delhi made us sit up. There is no escape from the weird ways of the Nature. Even science has surrendered before the weather god. Man looked aghast helplessly to the cloud-bust and resultant Uttarakhand holocaust that cost thousands of innocent lives. TV news channels disgorged incessant live scenes of tall buildings, being devoured by the daughters of Himalayas that join hand downward to make the Ganga, the holiest of the holy rivers.
The air got thicker than the thick. Apparently, to get over the moribund situation our talks sauntered to Bihar and Jharkhand from the unparalleled human tragedy in the land of Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu. We did not discuss the no-love-lost tale of Nitish Kumar and the BJP. Nor was the horse-trading to give an elected government to the nascent tribal state of Jharkhand a focal point. It was the tragedy man has gifted to himself; now-a-days the lengthening shadow is eclipsing fast the man and wife knots.
The conjugal bliss is in peril. Nuptial knots start crumbling even before the mehadi and mahawar colours fade out. The vow to be man and wife for seven births is being forgotten like a horrid dream. The trend is catching up fast. Why is this holocaust tearing asunder the time-tested values India is known for? Where have Savitris and Satyavans and Rams and Sitas gone? Why is Bihar (Jharkhand included), the land of enlightenment, entering the dark tunnel? Why is the number of divorce cases in Bihar and Jharkhand mounting by leaps and bounds?
This worst social tragedy is an outcome of dismantled joint family system, where three to four generations lived peacefully and jointly carried the family chariot. The joint family syndrome used to be a strong shock-observer against bumps and tides. Now in a nuclear set-up only man and wife make the ‘suitcase family’, where even children occupy the secondary slot. And a little bit of storm tears the two components of the ‘suitcase’ apart. With the joint family umbrella and social pressure gone with the wind, the clash of egos and one-up-man-ship rock the family boat to sink in a shallow river. In majority of such cases, the newly-weds lack love, respect and tolerance for each other.
Why this rot?
The faulty education system and distorted family scenes presented in cinemas and TV serials add fuel to the fire. Gone are the days when ‘vidya dadati vinayam’ (education sobers a pupil). The old dictum, that fruit-bearing trees bow downward, no more holds water. The worst victims of this tragic situation are the children. Their childhood is fractured in law courts. They grope in the dark for moms and dads.
A leading lawyer of Sasaram Vijay Kumar Upadhyay finds little substance in majority of divorce cases. Known in the legal circle as ‘’samajhauta vakil (expert in thrashing out compromises), he opines that “ego clash, distrust and lack of understanding tend to wreck the family boat”. A popular lawyer practicing in Patna family court, Ajay Mishra had identical views. He said that he came across petitions citing reasons for divorce that he never dreamt of in the past. “What noticeable is that majority of the petitioners are the love birds, who tied the nuptial knot later”, he said and hastened to add: “but it doesn’t mean that tradition marriages are not in danger”.
Anupama, a member of the counseling centre (family court), cited intolerance among newlywed couples as the reason behind rise in the divorce cases. “Ego clash is the most common factor among life partners seeking separation”, she added. Noted sociologist Hetukar Jha said that the trend was noticeable mostly in upper class and to some extend upper middle class families. He attributed the reasons for break to couples’ self interest. “Earlier the partners in life talked about their family. Now they think more about their self interest than the family. This is all about short term and long term interests”, he added.
Now family courts all over the twin states of Bihar and Jharkhand are virtually drowned in divorce petitions. There is no authentic estimate of separation cases in the two states; that may be in thousands. The two family courts in Patna received a total of 640 divorce petitions in 2007. The number escalated to 775 in 2008, 814 in 2009, 863 in 2010, 953 in 2011 and 965 in 2012 respectively. Thus there has been over fifty per cent increase in the petitions seeking divorce from their life partners in the past five years. A total of 233 petitions seeking maintenance (sustenance allowance) were filed in 2007, which went up to 384 in 2012. Similarly, the court received 31 complaints related to guardianship of the off springs in 2007. The number of such petitions went up to 51 in 2012. These days the two family courts in Patna are flooded with matrimonial related complaints. On an average five to six cases are filed every day. A senior advocate Prem Kumar Verma said that the rate of disposal of such complaints at the two family courts is very slow, leading to piling of the cases.
Tales of woes
A just married woman came to the court when she found her dreams shattered like a sand wall. She had not dreamt that her conjugal life would come to an end within a year of her wedding. Frequent quarrels over trivial issues made her life a hell, she said. A post graduate in social science from the Jawahar Lal Nehru University, girl was lucky to get divorce from the family court in Patna. She was not in a position to comprise with her businessman husband, who was academically not sound as she was. Similarly, a senior deputy collector has sought divorce from his wife, who is a mother of three children aged between four and eight years. The petitioner said that he wanted to divorce his wife, a daughter of a retired senior official of the Bihar government, because she was not ready to stay with him and always preferred to live with her parents in Patna. The petitioner has moved the court for separation after almost eleven years of their marriage.
But, all are not lucky to get justice fast. Kalawati Devi (name changed) is a broke today. She could enjoy conjugal bliss for just three years and now she is struggling for justice for more than a decade. She is keeping her 15-year-old daughter and herself on a paltry maintenance of Rs.2500 per month. Now she wants divorce to get rid of her deputy collector husband and begin a new life. But justice has been eluding her for all these years. The woman’s plight can be gauged from the fact that she at times starts shouting in the family court causing embarrassment for the judge and also for her counsel.
“I have been watching her for the last 12 years. She never misses to appear before the court on scheduled dates. She comes to the court in the morning and leaves the court in the evening. It seems that she spends half of her time in the court every month making pairvi in her case”, said a tea vendor near the court.
The 35 year-old Kalawati was married to Ravindra Kumar, a resident of Bettiah in West Champaran district in 1997. Her marital life was satisfactory till she gave birth to a girl child in 1998. A dispute cropped up in the family after she expressed her desire to stay with her husband, who was then posted at Biharsharif in Nalanda district. According to the complaint filed by her, she was assaulted by her husband and even sent to jail for three days. A complaint was lodged against Ravindra but no action was taken as he happened to be a public servant and enjoyed the blessings of senior police and administrative officials. She filed a case of torture with Bettiah police station under section 498 (A) of the Indian Penal Code. “I want all the three cases pending against Kumar to be transferred to Patna for speedy disposal. At the same time I am finding it difficult to continue the study of my daughter, who is a class IX student”, she said.
Will justice ever be delivered to the victims of matrimonial disputes? is a million dollar question. Will the opinion-makers and the society at large wake up to halt the rising trend of conjugal train fast running into dark tunnels?