“Tila Naveen Hero Bhetla”: Guest post by Shilpa Anand

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Sunitabai is taking the day off on 12th. She’s been served a notice to attend her 35 year old niece Vijeta’s final ‘sodh-chitthi’ hearing at the Bandra Family Court.

What’s odd in that ? Well for starters, divorces are not common in that strata of society. For another, bypassing family bonds, Sunitabai is a witness for her soon-to-be-ex-nephew-in-law, Bhavik.

Bhavik has a permanent job in the BMC. He owns a one room flat each in Khar and Nallasopara. Vijeta is living in the latter with their two children AND her new companion.

And therein lies the rub.

Vijeta walked out of her Khar home and moved to Nallasopara some years ago. She told her family she wasn’t happy in her marriage. Flags immediately went up. Worried parents ,aunts and uncles wondered if Bhavik whom they all knew to be such a “decent” guy was an ogre, a wife beater or worse, had found another ‘wife’ .

No, said Vijeta. I never wanted to marry him – he was suitable yes but there was no chemistry. I’ve met someone else whom I rather like– he’s a peon in a govt. hospital, he’s married, also has a child, but we are in love .

“Tila naveen hero bhetla,” (she found a new lover) says Sunitabai, still astonished that her niece would desert a good man and ‘breakup’ another family.

So now, Vijeta, her kids and NaveenHero are living in the Nallasopara pad that belongs to Bhavik .

Bhavik filed for divorce ,custody of his young daughters and possession of the Nallasopara flat. As directed by the court he has been paying maintenance for Vijeta and the kids – debited from his salary account. He found support from Vijeta’s maama and aatya (mum’s brother, dad’s sister) and their families. Vijeta’s parents, while unhappy with her decision, support their daughter .

I don’t know how divorce cases work and why the extended families have received court notices. Sunitabai recalls signing an affidavit that states Bhavik didn’t mistreat Vijeta . On the contrary, she says, he showered her with gifts and jewellery.

Sunitabai feels the judge wont grant him custody of the girls. The flat though, she says, must go back to him.

Where will Vijeta go, I ask? That’s immaterial says Sunitabai. Justice must be served.

Indian women are taking control of their lives. What’s remarkable is that the winds of change are blowing across all sections of society. This isn’t about the morality of Vijeta’s actions, it about her freedom to make a personal choice.

I desperately want to know what happens on the 12th. I desperately want to hear Vijeta’s side of the story.

UPDATE: The court adjourned the hearing till next month for reasons unknown.

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