What is in a name? The English Bard was absolutely right. You may call a rose by any name; it will spread its fragrance!
Swati’s parents had rightly named her Swati. As I got to know Swati during her court case I realized that she was a perfect description of a person born under the Swati Nakshatra. The word swa means “self” and Swati means self-going. Swati’s other meaning is “sword”.
Swati’s husband Manohar had filed for divorce against her on the grounds of cruelty and adultery. Just because these grounds are available to pray for a divorce under the law, can anybody file a case for divorce?
Swati was a double graduate and was holding a Managerial post in a huge Corporation. Manohar too was employed in the same Corporation as a clerk. He had started as a clerk and till date he continued to remain on the same post.
Swati had started as a clerk but with her intelligence and hard work coupled with her ambition she had not only completed her higher education, but also reached the managerial cadre.
Theirs had been the traditional arranged marriage between two lower middle class families. Swati’s mother was dead, her step mother wanted her out of her life as soon as possible so she had forced Swati’s father to settle for this mediocre boy against Swati’s wishes.
Swati loved her father dearly and she did not want him to be further traumatized by her hard hearted step mother, hence she agreed to marry him, thinking that after marriage she could motivate Manohar to study further and rise in life. However that remained only a dream!
Manohar was very suspicious by nature and doubted everything that Swati would tell him. He lived in his own narrow paranoid world of mistrust and suspicion. Swati had pulled along with Manohar, sincerely trying to take him forward with her, but that was not to happen.
In the meanwhile she had given birth to a pair of twins Rahul and Anuradha. Swati had taken everything in her stride. She used to keep the twins in a crèche and go for evening classes and had thus completed her M.A. as well as the Company exams for promotion. Manohar was just a piece of furniture in her house.
Swati had thus risen from a clerk to a Manager. Her children too were very intelligent and were a joy to her troubled heart.
Not once did Manohar appreciate their intelligence, nor did he complement her on their upbringing. In fact he never missed a single opportunity of putting down Swati and insulting her in front of the children. He had become very bitter and paranoid over the years and would constantly find faults with Swati.
He would be constantly watching her and keeping tab on her in the office. She had to give account of every minute that she spent in coming home late. Being a manager entailed more work and sitting late in the office and completing deadlines.
Every evening at 5.30 Manohar would apparently leave for home, but would be waiting for Swati to leave office, at the corner of the street, hiding behind the tea stall. Many a times some senior colleague would join her up to the train station. Swati enjoyed the short walk to the station with a normal human being making intelligent conversation.
She used to look forward to this simple human interaction.
According to Manohar this was the proof of adultery! Whenever she returned late, there would be fireworks in the house; the twins were thoroughly disturbed by Manohar’s baseless allegations.
Initially there would be duel of words between Manohar and Swati, then it escalated into calling all her relatives for meetings and making Swati admit her guilt that she was having an affair with her office colleague!
Her step mother was the first to join Manohar’s camp! Swati was so disgusted with the entire episode that she refused to say anything in her own defense in the meeting. Manohar was adamant that if she did not apologise in the meeting she should leave his house with the children.
Every weekend there is used to be a meeting of a group of her relatives and the whole farce was repeated.
People born under the Swati Nakshatra generally live smooth life due to their flexible and adjusting nature. They believe in going in the direction of flowing river instead of swimming against it, however they do not compromise with their goals and objectives; rather as they grow older their knowledge improves considerably and their presentation and communication skills could be as sharp as a sword. They are generally highly ethical, intelligent and loyal. They rarely repeat mistakes in life.
Manohar would keep on tapping on the table and would insist that she give in writing before her relatives that she was having an affair with her office colleague.
Never! This was it! Swati had suffered all the miseries in her married life silently hoping and praying that Manohar would change, there would be some light at the end of the tunnel, however she was never going to admit some adulterous affair which she never had, just to satisfy Manohar’s adamant insistence!
Swati decided to leave her matrimonial home. She had two children to take care, their final exams were round the corner, no roof over her head, but she was fired with a righteous anger. It is written in the shastras that where there is righteous anger there is strength.
Swati approached Mr. Pestonjee the General Manager of her Company. He was a very benevolent Parsee gentleman. She told him her predicament and requested him to allow her to stay temporarily in their Company Guest House with her children until their exams were over and in the meanwhile she would search for an alternative accommodation.
Swati’s good conduct in the office, her intelligence, hard work, honesty bore her rich dividends. Mr. Pestonjee made a special case for her and allotted a small room and pantry to Swati with immediate effect. Of course she had to pay a small compensation.
This was such a big relief for Swati. To live peacefully with her two lovely children away from the taunts and demeaning language of Manohar was a dream! She immediately packed her bags, took all the children’s belongings and without uttering a single word left Manohar’s house for good.
She would never go back to him; that was the writing on the wall.
She settled in the guest house with her children. She had some breathing time, luckily she was financially sound and she could look around for a residential accommodation. Mr. Pestonjee had given her six months time.
Manohar had not expected this turn of events. He used to always shout at her to get out of his house and she actually had got out! What next?
Manohar filed a case for Divorce in the Family Court against her alleging adultery and cruelty. That is when Swati came to me for representing her in the Family Court. The courage and conviction with which she was instructing me was simply amazing.
Her thought process was very clear and well formulated. She gave me a vivid description of her married life. It stunned me to hear such degradation and see the tolerance of an Indian woman.
There is a provision in law for a Counterclaim wherein you can ask your own relief in the very Petition against you. I advised Swati to ask for a divorce from Manohar on the grounds of cruelty and desertion giving all the facts of the case in the Counterclaim. He had dragged her to Court, now he was going to get a taste of his own medicine.
This step was also going to be helpful to Swati on another account. As per their office rules she could only apply for a housing loan only if the Court had granted her a divorce at her instance.
It was a fight for her honour and Swati fought tooth and nail. It was very easy for Manohar to shout at Swati at home to make her admit her adultery in front of her relatives, but in Court he could not get a single witness to testify to her adultery, nor prove any cruelty.
The children were interviewed in the Chamber by the Judge, and they too told the truth. Manohar cut such a sorry figure in Court that the Judge passed a very strict order against Manohar, dismissed his Petition and granted a Divorce to Swati and not to him. The Court also directed him to pay a monthly maintenance for the children.
Hats off to Swati, she fought till the end, with the only goal which was to protect her honour, dignity and fair name. She did make an application for a housing loan and managed to buy a small flat in Dadar where she lives with her children.
Indeed where there is righteous anger there is strength!
The Author, Ketaki Jayakar, is a well known Advocate in the Family Court, and is also a prolific writer on Women’s Issues.