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Unending Wait
Magnificent India

Unending Wait

Vijay Sanghvi

Ramesh Arora found it difficult to hide his jubilation as he emerged from the Court of Justice Rajiv Sahai in the Delhi Court. He emerged as a liberated person from the difficult marital bond. But he had to fight the legal battle for 24 years to get liberation from his marriage.

As an ISA officer he married Dr Neelakshi in 1988. Within a week both husband and wife realized they were misled by the consultant at the Agency Companionship in adopting false pretences to project their image in order to impress the other party. The couple knew that the wide cultural differences would make their life difficult to live together. Yet they carried on for seven years in the hope that one of them would relent. Ramesh felt at the age of 35 the futility of his attempts and sought judicial separation with an appeal in the lower court in Delhi.

It was a mistake. He realized it only after the legal practitioners had taken over their life and their battle. Dr. Neelakshi hardly could find time from her medical practice to give attention to the real issue involved. The wide differences and unwillingness of both to seek compromise was at the root of their problem. The vanity of the wife and the ego of husband loomed in their path to end the battle.

Three days before each due date for further hearing, their lawyers reached them to get their signatures to file new documents. Several witnesses were summoned but none came forward to depose on behalf of them. For seven years between 1988 and 1995, their friends had come to know both of them as decent human beings. They had enjoyed their warmth and hospitality without suspecting any strains in their relationship. All were surprised to know that Ramesh sought to dissolve their marital ties. They did not know the full story as neither Neelakshi nor Ramesh had ever talked about their strained relationship. They had no reason to.

The suit was protracted as lawyers of neither side had interest in seeking an end to litigation. As both of them had no time to spare from their professional engagement, they never asked their lawyers why new applications were needed. Neelakshi was attending to her busy medical profession. Ramesh had a large friends’ circle. He often wondered why Neelakshi was determined to resist her liberation from marital ties even though their marriage had ended within a month after their marriage registration.

Neelakshi had first moved to another room. Both were living in separation for five years before Ramesh filed his divorce plea in 1995. Both had sought it and got permission to continue the court proceedings in their absence. In 2008, the magistrate who heard the case for 13 years saw no reason why both could not attempt to revive their relationship. Neelakshi had to appear in person. Ramesh had taken a plea in his original application for divorce that he wanted to live with her. Neelakshi agreed to suggestion of the court but her courage sagged at the last minute. She could not undo her 13 years spent in separation.

The court proceedings protracted for another eleven years. Finally the Delhi High Court judge, a sensitive soul who saw the agony of dragging of legal proceedings for 24 years, nearly half the married life in most other cases, took upon himself the task of liberating them from legal hassles so both could be free to live as they liked without accounting for their personal behaviour while the proceedings were goi9ng on.

In the entire battle of 24 years, neither had accused the other of infidelity or disloyalty. Ramesh had taken a plea that their temperaments were so widely different that it was impossible to carry on life tied to marriage. This was not a standard cause for the divorce plea to enable both to get a quick divorce. In most divorce applications, allegation of infidelity or illicit biological relationship with others is standard ground to seek and get quicker disposal. But incompatibility of temperaments or cultural clash is not grounds to get quick relief. Yet most marriages are on the rocks only because of cultural differences and inability of both sides to walk a few steps forward by giving up their dominance.

In olden days with parents choosing partners, there was hardly any scope for wide cultural differences. In any case the wife was expected to adopt the culture of her husband despite her intense dislike for some practices alien to her.

In modern times, when inter caste or inter religious or inter culture marital bondage and pairing decisions, in the majority of cases are based on projected images. In the courtship period both girl and boy project a different image to impress the other party. May be handsome looks, dominating personality or good nature behaviour become the base of the choice. Only after both start living together, abominable features often become irritating. A few couples make exceptional changes in their behaviour patterns but some characters are unable to make sacrifices despite their intense love and affection for the chosen partner.

Neelakshi was from Assam and had completed her medical education in Kolkata. Ramesh Arora was from Punjab though he was brought up and educated in the secular environment of Delhi. Yet he had learnt a few habits that were totally unacceptable to Neelakshi. She was not ready to make compromises on the cultural habits. She had learnt her lesson so well that she had killed her desire to share her bed.

Ramesh did find a partner while he was battling for liberation from the bondage but could not risk inviting the charge of bigamy. Of course Neelakshi was no more concerned how he behaved. For her relationship had ended within 24 hours of marriage. For seven years she had battled within to make adjustments with herself and her beliefs, but separation ended even that battle. She had not even bothered to raise the issue of alimony for she had not fought over money.

After all how much could recompense 24 long years?