Father’s Day: Spare a thought to those suffering from legal battles over child custody
18 Jun 2010
As usual, the doctor appeared quite confident of his success. And why wouldn’t he? One of the perks that came with a professional life that boasted of successfully handling thousands of such ‘critical’ cases over the last 10 years or more was confidence.
Only the place and predicament were different this time. Standing firmly in the witness box, he was used to the public gaze that never unnerved him. But there was somebody sitting in the front row of the room, constantly staring at the him; quite discomforting for him.
Finally, the judge delivers the verdict. The doctor has lost the case. Standing stunned for a few minutes, he suddenly turns into a picture of contrast.
Confidence gave way to anxiety; hands, which were always firm in wielding the scalpel, started trembling; eyes, which had never exhibited emotions, became moist. He collapses and breaks down in tears.
The ‘somebody’ sitting in the front row seat was his daughter. Dr Anand Parekh had not met Shruti for a year, and had been fighting for her custody since last six years.
Now, he has lost all—his daughter as well as interest in life. While the world will celebrate Father’s Day this Sunday, for many like Dr Parekh it will be a day to mourn. “What’s the point in being a father when you are deprived of your child,” said a devastated Dr Parekh. “Just because I didn’t give birth to her, doesn’t mean I can’t bring her up properly. A father can also be a mother.”
Fast-food culture, fast-paced life and fast disintegrating families — India has seen all in the last decade or so. The only two things that have not changed perhaps are the excruciatingly slow pace of justice, and a notion that man can’t play the role of a mother.
“It’s an old notion and goes back to the time when women didn’t have a professional life and took care of the family,” said S Susheela, a Bangalore-based advocate practising in the Karnataka High Court.
“So, it was thought that she could bring up the children in a more proper manner and spend more quality time with them. But now such a notion no longer holds true.” These days both the parents are working and can equally bring up the child, she adds. “For a child, both the parents are equally important and his/her isolation from either of them should be condemned.”
Most of the child custody battles in the country, unfortunately, have become a man versus woman fight, a fight in which the child is used as a pawn.
“We had a divorce by mutual consent and it was decided that my five-year-old son would stay with me. But after seven months, my wife files a case in the court saying that she is the natural guardian and court grants her permission to take away my son,” says Sunil Dabas, who works as a manager in one of the MNC banks in New Delhi.
“I used to bathe my little son, prepare his school lunch box, drop him to the school and play cricket with him every evening. And one fine day I am told that I can’t bring up my child properly because that can be done in a better way by a woman!,” says Sunil with a choked voice.