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In Gujarat, Covid crisis brings estranged couples together for second chance

A total of 303 cases — relating to divorce, maintenance, and guardianship of children — were resolved at a Lok Adalat in Surat; a record for a single day, family court judge R G Devdhara said.

Written by Kamal Saiyed | Surat |
Updated: July 4, 2022 10:55:05 am
Advocate Preeti Joshi told The Indian Express that the curse of Covid turned out to be a blessing for several separated couples whom the crisis reunited. (Photo: Pixabay/Representational)

She was 19 when she got married in 2011. She settled down in Pandesara with her husband, who worked in a textile factory. The couple separated in 2018, and she got custody of their two children. Elders in the family made efforts to bring them back together, but failed.

In 2020, she filed a case under CrPC Section 125, seeking maintenance from her husband. At a Lok Adalat held on June 26 this year, the couple told the Surat family court that they wanted to reunite.

During the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdowns, the man was out of work, and he would call his estranged wife and chat with her. Times were difficult, and he supported her financially. The couple — the man is 34, the woman is 30 — and their children, a 9-year-old girl and an 8-year-old boy, now live together again.

The Pandesara couple’s case was one of 332 that came before the Lok Adalat on June 26. A total of 303 cases — relating to divorce, maintenance, and guardianship of children — were resolved; a record for a single day, family court judge R G Devdhara said. And in about 30 per cent of the cases that were resolved, the estranged couples decided to give themselves a second chance of being together.

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The man talked a lot to his wife and their children over the phone during the pandemic, and that helped in the reconciliation — as did the fact that he apologised to her.

“We would talk to each other often. He learnt about our financial problems, and helped us by giving us money. He brought cakes on the children’s birthdays, and we cut them together,” the woman, who declined to be identified, told The Indian Express.

“Also”, she said, “he started caring about me, and apologised for his past behaviour. Now we feel attached to each other. In the Lok Adalat, we told the judge in front of our lawyers that we would like to reunite and the court accepted it.”

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For the woman, there was a more worldly aspect as well. “I did not have the option of thinking too much,” she said. “I am not much educated, and other than my husband, who will take care of my children?”

Things had been different before the couple decided to give their marriage another chance, the woman said. “He did not give time to me and the family, and he would periodically stop talking to me. He sometimes beat me when he was angry, and would scold the children over small things. I could take it no longer and we separated, and I filed a maintenance case against him,” she said.

Her husband acknowledged that he would lose his temper and quarrel with her when she complained after he returned home from work tired. “I never tried to understand her,” he said.

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“But during the Covid lockdown, as there was no work, I missed her and my children, and I felt guilty. I hesitated before starting to talk again, but it became easy after I realised she felt the same. We have both realised our mistakes, and we have assured the court that we want to stay together. I have also promised not to beat or quarrel with her. This is my family and my world; I have realised that whatever I earn is for them, and in their happiness lies my happiness.”

“Our court deals with family dispute cases and we have organised three Lok Adalats since March, in which 146, 246, and 303 cases were disposed of,” family court judge Devdhara said. “Of the cases disposed of on June 26, we believe over 30 per cent were those of reunion of separated couples. The rest were cases relating to separation by mutual consent and the recovery of maintenance,” the judge said.

Another case concerned a couple from Katargam in Surat, who were married in 2015. The man, 32, works in the garden department of Surat Municipal Corporation (SMC), and the couple have a five-year-old child.

Their problems began with the pressures of living in a joint family, the woman said. “Our house has just one room and a kitchen, and his parents and younger sister also stay with us. There was no privacy, and I was treated like a domestic help and given no respect. Whatever my husband brought home would be taken by my mother-in-law and sister-in-law. We slept in the kitchen, and the rest of the family in the room. My husband would be influenced by them, and I could not bear the mental and physical torture,” she told The Indian Express.

The couple separated in 2018, and the woman filed a maintenance suit against her husband in 2019.

For this couple too, Covid changed things.

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“During the pandemic, I visited her regularly. When my wife and son fell ill, I took medicines for them. I helped my in-laws a lot, and they allowed me access to their house to meet my wife and son,” said the man.

After spending long hours with each other, this couple too realised they wanted to live together again. They made this submission to the court, along with the condition that they would live separately from the man’s parents.

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“I have booked a 1 BHK flat for my wife. I assured the court that I will always keep her happy and we will move out to another house,” he said.

Advocate Preeti Joshi told The Indian Express that the curse of Covid turned out to be a blessing for several separated couples whom the crisis reunited.

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“During Covid, when people stayed at home, often without work, they missed their separated partners and children. This nudged them towards a compromise. We have been dealing with such cases (of marital discord), and this is for the first time we have seen such a prominent increase in the number of cases of reunion, which is good for society at large,” she said.

Joshi also cited the case of a Surat couple who were married in 1997 and separated in 2014. “We have come to know that apart from the monthly maintenance, the husband deposited Rs 2.52 lakh in his wife’s bank account in 2021. He told us that even though they are separated, it is his duty to help her in an extraordinary situation like the pandemic, and she should not face any financial problems. Their divorce case is pending in court,” she said.

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First published on: 04-07-2022 at 02:52:21 am

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