Many estranged couples keep in touch, sharing the warmth of each otherâ€™s friendship despite the pain of divorce. Some even continue their physical relationship, reports Ketan Tanna
It is often said that a divorce creates an Indo-Pak situation between a couple. There is familiarity and contempt. Subterfuge and parleys. People would rather read the telephone directory than even talk to the ex. Yet, there are many couples, separated legally, even bitterly, who keep in touch and some even sustain a physical relationship. In the relief of divorce and since the wounds have healed, they discover that the proximity of marriage, however turbulent, has bequeathed them a friend more valuable than anybody else.
Last year, 37-year-old filmmaker Shrikant Gupta got a divorce from his wife Rekha. She left Mumbai but every time she visits the city, she lives with him. That disturbs Shrikantâ€™s girlfriend, Seema who fears that the estranged couple is so comfortable with each other that the old spark may be rekindled. Meanwhile, Seema herself is separated from her husband Rajesh, though not formally. She confided in Rajesh about her insecurities and it was he who convinced her and Shrikant to go to a counsellor.
If the above paragraph is confusing, it is because the triangles and rectangles of the new age are so. In the cities today, where acquaintances are many but friends are rare, even divorcÃ©es are not willing to say goodbye easily. The person you woke up with on many sunny mornings is hard to let go of. Sometimes love, no matter what Karan Johar says, is a habit.
Psychotherapist and counsellor, Minnu Bhonsle describes the final phase of a marriage as an â€˜emotional closureâ€™. When this part is not settled clearly, couples continue to maintain a relationship, its nature nebulous. â€œWhen one hears of cases where the couple reignites its physical relationship post divorce, it is evident that there is no emotional detachment despite the divorce,â€ Bhonsle says.
There are pragmatic reasons for divorced couples to stay in touch, like their children or financial matters. But far more compelling and poignant is the fact that despite all the curses they flung at each other in their bedrooms and on the legal documents, they probably still like each other.
Thirty-two-year-old Loveleen Advani and Neel Mitra who is two years older, broke off their marriage due to serious incompatibility. Neel is a pilot with a private airline. Loveleen works as a corporate trainer with a multinational. They had fallen in love and were married for over six years. Neelâ€™s flying job meant that he would not be home very often. â€œThere were times when I would get an important assignment or make a deal and there would be nobody to share my feelings with because Neel was never there,â€ says Loveleen. When he was there, he had the tendency to sleep, especially on weekends. Often, he would be home when Loveleen was not. She was not sure if she could bear the child of a man who would probably be an absentee father. Eventually, their marriage ended.
Loveleen has remarried and, recently, became a mother. But Neel and Loveleen keep in touch and they share their joys and sorrows like old friends. No one understands you better than the person who once loved you and still wants to know honestly if everything is alright with you. Neel and Loveleen, their picture frames of smiling photos now dismantled, would never give up a bond that was once their common fate.
Photographer Jagdish Maali separated from his wife Preeti two and a half decades ago. â€œBut Iâ€™m on the VIP list for any function at her home in Mahim,â€ he says. â€œThereâ€™s no malice. In fact we can actually laugh about a lot of things.â€ Jagdish is also happy that Preeti shares a happy equation with his ageing mother. And when he misses a good home-cooked meal, he picks up the phone and asks Preeti to send him a dabba.
Sometimes, children build a bridge between their estranged parents that begins as a road of convenience and ends as something more than a utility. Wedding planner Divya Patel who lives in Mumbai and Ajit Bhonsle who lives in Pune, parted ways 27 years ago. After the divorce, the logistics of loving their daughter made them keep in touch. A few years ago, Ajit underwent major surgery and Divya was there attending to him despite the presence of his current wife. Fifty-five-year-old Divya recounts, â€œOur marriage fell apart not because he was unfaithful. It was because of a classic ego struggle. Ajit was younger than me and less successful. That created friction.â€ The clarity of an obituary is always cutting.
â€œAruna (Ajitâ€™s current wife) and I are polite to each other,â€ says Divya. â€œI have a slightly better equation with his two children from this marriage. In fact when I celebrated his 50th birthday in my home, his children were very much a part of the celebrations.â€ She invited Aruna who did not come.
Sometimes, in-laws, usually perceived as a divisive force, keep estranged couples together. Twenty-eight-year-old Sunita Kapoor hails from a lower middle class background. She was once married to Harsh, who belonged to the elite South Mumbai circle. His parents liked Sunita and thought she was the best bet for their son. Soon after the marriage, Sunita discovered that Harsh was into substance abuse. Their relationship became strained. Along the way, they had a daughter, but their marriage was always unsteady. In time, they separated but she says that her in-laws work very hard to ensure that the two are in touch. â€œHe still sounds weird on the phone,â€ she says.
For those with children or financial issues, the interaction is not a matter of choice. But counsellors insist that there should be an emotional closure after divorce. Itâ€™s called a clean break. As though there is such a thing. TNN
(Some names have been changed)
â€”With inputs by Meena Iyer