The year saw a record number of divorces across cities. Ketan Tanna on the consequences of wealth, empowerment and other demons
In blocking traffic, marriages are second only to God. The pomp and scale of marriages in 2006 were probably unmatched in the past. But the year also saw an alarming number of divorce suits and an unprecedented number of verdicts. Some of the reasons for divorce in cities include snoring, incompatible eating habits, dress sense and other things that may, at first glance, shock readers. But it is easy to fathom that in the metros, where affluence and independence are on the rise, both the young and the old are not viewing marriage as an inescapable bond. Tolerance, that vital side effect of love, is vanishing.
On an average, 40 divorce petitions are filed every day in the eight district courts of Delhi. In Hyderabad and Secunderabad, 100 divorce cases are filed daily and the annual growth rate in the last few years has been 15%. Chennaiâ€™s three family courts are currently dealing with over 3,000 divorce cases. Last year, these courts successfully dealt with about 1,500 of them. Between January and September this year in Mumbai, there were 8,941 divorces, many of them residual from previous years. Between July and September, 2,932 divorce applications were filed. In 1995, there were 1,446 divorce cases pending in the Bandra Family Court. The data for the last quarter has not been compiled yet, but the figures are climbing. In 2001, the figure was 2,877. In 2004, it shot up to 3,400 cases. In 2005, the number touched 6,000. Now, 20,265 divorce cases are pending in the city.
According to Madhavi Desai, a counsellor at the Family Court in Mumbai, about 60% of divorces are consent cases. This means that both husband and wife want to end the marriage. According to counsellors, there is an increasing trend across the country of couples not seeing the point in working on their marriage. At the first sign of trouble, they reach out for the terminal solution. â€œA fair majority of the couples who want divorce are under 30 years of age and very often they want to walk out within a year of marriage,â€ says Desai.
Equally, such divorces are generally amicable with both sides
opting to divide the assets and child custody peacefully. Some of them are so amicable that they come holding hands, chatting, laughing and exchange jokes when they sit on the wooden table in the reception area outside the courtroom. But during the mandatory counselling session, they are vehement about the need for divorce. As far as they are concerned, they can be good friends for the rest of their lives, but they would rather not have the obligations, responsibilities and the constrictions that marriage entails. Some of them even continue their physical relationship after divorce.
Divorce is today a lot easier than before. Not because courts are more efficient, but because the society does not pretend to be shocked anymore at marital discord. â€œAs the stigma of divorce has reduced, often, people do not give much thought to the very step of divorce. Also, increasingly, more women are opting to have a divorce, especially if they are earning,â€ says Desai.
Some of the major reasons for divorce are temperamental differences, the need for having a career at the cost of marriage, adultery and sexual incompatibility. Also, despite the rise in nuclear families in Mumbai, the influence and the role of other family members is a critical factor in marriages breaking up. The poor too, are increasingly taking recourse in divorce. NGOs and other samaritans are giving impoverished women the confidence to take the step. The surprising aspect of the divorce scenario in Mumbai is that even old couples are opting for the split. Recently, the family court here had an unusual case of a 72-year-old husband coming along with his 71-year-old wife and saying that he wanted a divorce. He said that he was fed up with her. In the last few years, about 5% of the divorce cases that are filed in the Bandra Family Court are from senior citizens. These are usually couples who have suffered in their marriage for decades just for the sake of their kids and once the children are settled, cannot bear to spend a day more with each other.
Aggressive parents of couples too are increasingly becoming potent splitting agents. â€œOf course, there are parents who do not want their kids to divorce, but many times, they are the ones who aggravate the marriage of their children,â€ says Desai. There is a case of a young doctor who had eloped with a man of another caste. Her furious father was adamant that she divorce the boy. The fatherâ€™s contention was that he had invested both financially and emotionally in his daughter and that she had no right to run away with someone.
The couple was brought to the family court and when the aggressive father was holding forth on his ungrateful daughter, some employees of the court helped the couple run away a second time. TNN