Author Topic: Some feedback,pl  (Read 1214 times)

Offline abhijit

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Some feedback,pl
« on: April 28, 2006, 07:48:16 PM »

I have written a story on single parenting by fathers ( a first person account) in the just launched OneUp magazine, edited by Jenny Shelley, from London. It takes a different look at this issue since the story is sourced from Calcutta, India. May be, you could give me some feedback?

A single father in India on divorce in the East
by Abhijit Dasgupta

There are certain mysteries you wish you would not have to take to the grave. However, almost all of us have one thing which we fail to crack during our lifetime. I do and, at 45, I do not think I will be able to find the answer to the question which has troubled, quizzed, provoked and finally left me exasperated. 

I can definitely answer why my wife left me but I am still to fathom why she did not take the kids with her or even ask for custody something which by our laws in India is usually automatically granted to the mother. The chances are usually slim, if not non-existent, for the man to be able to live with his kids in India after a divorce. However, I managed exactly that. 

During that crisis-ridden point of my life around a decade ago, a time when I should have been busy bringing up the family together with my wife, I managed to simply survive for the present, which moved on and became my future. My present Buddha-like disposition has evolved over the last nine years after my divorce, which was after 13 years of marriage preceded by six years of courtship. Those years gave me two lovely children, a daughter now 21 and a son in his mid-teens taking rapid strides towards adulthood. 

From my point of view, in the context of our Indian culture, the advice of friends and relatives when a marriage has finally reached breaking point is the last thing you need as it will inevitably be to 'get back together'. For all their good intentions, friends and relatives cannot know the extent of the damage that has already been done and in trying to patch things up once again the couple may just be giving failure one more try. Counselling is best left to the professionals. 

Once a marriage does come to an end, in India the whole of the extended family gets involved. Relatives and friends will huddle in a corner and may even go to the extent of holding a meeting with the family patriarch taking the chair. Endless arguments will follow as to who was guilty, how the jewelry ought to be divided between the partners, what the dad should do to ensure his kids and their mother get a fair deal. Finally, the solution that is thrown up will probably be 'Let's meet another day and take further stock'. All this may be well meaning but when others are judging your very personal crisis, not funny. 

I have managed to balance a very busy career as a senior journalist in Calcutta and the demands of kids growing up with incessant demands for quality time, not to forget the toys, chocolates and splashing around in the rain. However, for me life has been a joy since my divorce, I have my own space and I have had the great fortune of having and successfully bringing up two doting children. Not too many men have been that lucky in life. 

I have seen friends hitting the bottle, throwing up careers and some even attempting to end their lives after being unable to cope with the crisis brought about by a divorce and, finally, separation from their kids. In India, the way things are, it would seem rather intriguing for the Western world from the outside; we, who belong to the country, however, find even social laws governing relationships between men and women funny at best and downright cruel at its worst. Let me give you a personal example. 

After I had been divorced and was leading a life of my own with the family, consisting of my kids, my mother and myself, and was slowly adjusting to the new situation, a call came through from one of the top hotel chains of Calcutta. They were offering a two-day, all expenses paid holiday at their proposed new resort on the outskirts of the city. I gladly agreed. Next came the question, 'And how many members would that be?' I said, 'Three,' not counting my mum who wasn't interested anyway. 

The other end of the phone was quiet for a second. Then there was another question, 'Your wife won't be able to make it, sir?' I replied that I did not have a wife and asked whether I could just bring my kids along, thank you. The voice sounded apologetic and somber as if he was announcing the death of a family member. 'Sorry, sir. But this scheme is open only for families ' The rule in India remains: a family must have a wife. From that day onwards, I knew that I would have to live my life as a second-class citizen as long as I lived in the subcontinent. 

After the divorce, solemnized in front of a judge who seemed to be in a hurry and our respective lawyers waiting for their fees, we signed the papers as if this was a business deal which needed attestation. Even in the courtroom, when the judge asked whether the mother had her full sanction for the father to get custody, my former wife nodded in the affirmative. 

This was the beginning of a long, arduous but immensely enriching experience for me. I didn't know until then what it was to be a father; all I knew was that I was the man of the family who worked pretty hard to bring home the bacon. It was so amazingly satisfying carrying my toddler son on my shoulders to the school bus or playing games with my growing daughter. For any overworked father who has not done that yet, my advice to them would be: just do it.


Mornings were tough. The first thing the kids obviously missed when they woke up was their mother. Although at six and 12 years old they did not show any outward signs of tragedy we understood the pangs of separation that they were going through. Added to this were personal intrusions and questions from people who should have supported them as they grew up. My son began to become something of a recluse while my daughter was becoming increasingly irritable. 

I was not prepared to allow this to happen and I devised ways to make them comfortable. First, I called up my wife and asked her to visit her children as often as she wished to, irrespective of the court's diktats on mandatory weekly meetings. Secondly, I firmly asked all those around me not to advise my kids on ten steps of how to manage life without a mother. In the process, I lost some well-wishers and had to meet my former wife almost daily something that sent chills through me as memories rushed past me at the very sight of her with the children in her arms. However I soon outgrew this by sheer determination and a purposeful indifference.  My sundry affairs with other women helped in the meantime sometimes the worst perceived vices of men can come quite to their rescue. 

For the last nine years, these two decisions seem to have been the best I have made to date. For one, the children were spared the trauma of two once-loving parents fighting like cats. Now they are assured of their mother's company almost daily as well as the father's. Second, they have realised that is much better to have a small set of relatives and friends who understands our position and lets us be. 

Incidentally, it must be said here that television soaps have helped. Everybody finds fault with them but, without much of an alternative, I encouraged my children to watch them. The reason was simple. Almost all the soaps on which India is hooked talk of divorce and separation. For me, this was acclimatisation. The more you see the stuff, the greater is your feeling that you are not alone and that you are no exception. My children, having weaned themselves off the soaps now have greater interests like boyfriends and girlfriends, cricket and parties, not to forget school and college, and are a sober twosome. 

My daughter, Ujjaini, has opted to study at college in Delhi and comes top in her English major as well as in her Salsa dance classes. My son, Vinayak, is getting increasingly serious about his studies, taking care of his 80-year-old grandmother with forceful possessiveness, so much so that his Dad has to compliment him on his sense of responsibility. I fare poorly against my son at dinner table comparative analysis regarding responsibilities at age 15. Their mother now visits us every day and we are good friends, sharing problems with more than token happiness. The split family has remained a finite whole. 

(Abhijit Dasgupta is the former launch editor of the Calcutta Times and senior assistant editor of the Times of India Group.)
This article, courtesy OneUp magazine, London

Offline patriciak

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Re: Some feedback,pl
« Reply #1 on: April 29, 2006, 02:56:05 PM »
Hello Abhijit,

I found your article riveting.  I am English and it was fascinating to get a glimpse into another culture.

You write extremely well (which is hardly surprising as you are a journalist of many years standing) and I was impressed by your attitude. What came across in the piece was your selfless love for your children. So often divorce turns life into a battleground for the children so it was very commendable of you to arrange a truce with your ex-wife for the sake of your son and daughter.

It is a very powerful and moving article.

Good luck to all four of you (five, counting grandma!),


Offline caliban1

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Re: Some feedback,pl
« Reply #2 on: April 30, 2006, 12:40:11 AM »
Hi Abhijit,
Like, Patriciak, I found your story truly interesting. You have done well by your children.  I have been through a divorce, but my daughter was 18 at the time and I live in Canada.  Very different and much easier, I think.  However, your story also interests me because, through a strange series of events, I have been in the business of providing horses for Indian Weddings.  I have seen many weddings, but I don't know anything about divorce in Indian, except for a bit of a conversation I had with a Sikh gentleman who was living separately from his wife. 

I don't suppose that I will ever fully grasp the complexities of your culture, but I continue to find it facinating.  I think there is something about your ability to deal with adversity that I have seen in many of my clients.

Thanks for the story,
It is all a metaphor.