“After 37 years of marriage, I am getting divorced.”
The noise made by the fan rotating above suppressed his voice. Probably it was choked by his emotions, too. Those eyes were reflecting helplessness. At first glance, when I saw him sitting on the bench before my advocate’s table in Alipore Court, I thought he might be there for a property-related dispute with his brothers. Normally that is what we see for elderly people in Bengal.
It was a hot humid day in Kolkata and the fan above my head was hardly functioning and creating more noise. It was difficult to hear him.
“I was married in the early ‘70s and for about 37 years I was happily married. I never knew that I would see this day. Today, I am out of my own house in Alipore, the premium land at new Alipore that I bought in 1984 is usurped by my wife. She says, her father paid for it when in reality it was me and only me who paid for it in 1984.”
He was controlling his tears forcefully, “It is all my fate, my fault. I could never imagine that my happy family and people closest to me will turn against me one day.”
“I was a fool who trusted his wife in 1984. I would say to all married men not to repeat the mistake I made 30 years ago. When I bought the New Alipore land in 1984, my wife lovingly urged that I registered the land in her name and at the last moment I did so without even thinking twice. Today, she didn’t think twice before throwing me out of my own house, claiming that land as her father’s property.”
“She wanted the land that as a gift from me. We were still happily married and I could never imagine the future implications of my decisions. I thought property owner names didn’t matter within a family. But today, that is a reality. She completely denies that the land was purchased by me. She told in the court that it was her father who purchased the land and gifted to her. But her father was very poor didn’t have the means to afford that land.”
I was looking at his face. He didn’t know how to react to a stranger. He didn’t know that I was an MRA. I was just another person waiting for the same advocate to turn up in court for the hearing. Initially, when I saw him waiting at my advocate’s desk, I thought he had come for some land registration or property dispute. But when he said, he was there for divorce-related cases, I thought it could be his son’s case. But later I realized, it was his own case.
All through his life, he worked as a manager in a public sector Bank in Kolkata. He was a refugee in Kolkata in ‘60s and then he built a good house in a posh South Kolkata locality Alipore. He bought a fairly large plot in another upmarket locality New Alipore but made a mistake of registering the land in his wife’s name.
“I was carried on with my emotions. When you have your young and beautiful wife by your side, you can hardly think right. Also, at that time everything was perfect in my life. We could never imagine of a divorce or my property going out of my hand, ever.”
I asked him about his children. They might be well-established too. Yes, they were. He had two sons. The elder son lived in the US and younger one lived in Kolkata, near Ruby General hospital (another posh area in modern Kolkata).
Why don’t your sons interfere or keep you with them? I inquired.
“Even my sons support their mother. My younger son wants to keep me with him, but his wife doesn’t like me. I am a burden to them. So, I live in my ancestral home in Bankura. That dilapidated home is no good for living, but I have nowhere else to go.”
“The house that I built investing my life’s savings is taken by my wife. Now I need to fight to get access to that. I can’t sell the land worth crores because I foolishly registered that in my wife’s name, now I have nothing. Now I am no better than a beggar, despite working as a manager in a public sector bank for life and taking all care of my family. If you are married, don’t make the mistake I made.”
I didn’t tell him why I was in court in the first place. He was so overwhelmed with his emotions he didn’t feel like asking as well.
“Who takes care of you in your ancestral home?” I was curious to know.
“There is no one. I take care of myself. Even though it is not a good house, I get peace there.”
He had relatives in Bankura, but there was no one to take care of an elderly person. He lived in an almost broken down room that was not worth living.
In such situations, it is the grown-up and established children who are supposed to help such elderly parents. But today’s sons are helpless too. They can’t go against the wishes of their wives as otherwise, another problem will start in their families. Ultimately these elderly men who have given their everything to their families remain unattended in their old age.