Splits in Silicon Valley
Sep 13, 2010
They were college sweethearts who seemed happily married. Three years after they tied the knot, Mayuri (name changed) says she felt all knotted up. Even her husband Rakesh (name changed), an architect, felt that the duo's relationship was radically altered. As Mayuri felt that Rakesh was more attached to his laptop, the young man himself attributed the broken marriage to deadline pressures at work. Both, in their early 30s, feel they are mature enough to take their own decisions.
In fact, soon after filing for a divorce petition at one of the four family courts in Bangalore, the couple headed to the coffee joint Koshys on St. Marks Road to celebrate their separation over a quick south Indian kaapi. "It was separation by mutual consent," says Rakesh, "we couldn't make it as husband and wife, but will remain friends."
police arrested top Infosys executive Satish Gupta, 32, for killing his wife Priyanka, 28, who was a schoolteacher. The police claim that Satish, in jail now, told them they developed serious differences after she forced him to separate from his parents. When he told her he wanted a divorce, she threatened to drag him and his parents to jail with a dowry harassment case. That is allegedly when he decided to act in cold blood: strangling her first, and then slitting her throat with a kitchen knife.
Though extreme, it does reflect the kind of marital stress ambitious professionals are facing in their high-pressure jobs. As if the suicide-capital tag was not enough, officials are now grappling with ways to stamp out the new virus eating away at healthy homes.
In the last two years alone, nearly 4,000 divorce petitions were filed-a huge jump over previous years: 1,200 in 2004 to a three-fold jump in 2008 and rising. The IT sector and it-enabled services like BPOs are the biggest employer of youth, aged between 20 and late 30.
Kumar Jahgirdar and other CRISP associates including Roshni Mathan involved in raising awareness & conducting education about Mediation
Worse, there is the wait before a divorce is finalised. Stockbroker Kumar Jahgirdar, agitating for greater legal rights for divorced fathers, points out that on an average it takes four to five years for each case to be decided. He estimates there are nearly 10,000 cases still pending in the local courts of the city, some since 2008. "Our office got a call from a senior it executive working at an mnc saying his wife suddenly decided to leave him," he says, adding, "The ambitious wife in question earned more and did not feel the need for this man in her life".
Seven years ago there were less than 300 cases in the family courts. Bangalore Police Commissioner Shankar Bidari often plays marriage counsellor. He says: "While the concept of nuclear families, a direct import of the West, has steadily made inroads into our societies, we have also witnessed the lack of respect for elders or their intervention in the lives of youngsters. It is fine that most couples take their own decisions but when there are periods of social turbulence, inputs from elders or priestly figures are helpful. Sometimes both sides are adamant which leads to breaking up."
Infosys founder N.R. Narayana Murthy's wife Sudha says: "Right in the beginning Murthy made it clear that one of us can work and the other had to run the family. Not that I was any less qualified but am glad I made the decision to stay at home. The choice was intentional." Sudha is a qualified computer science engineer and the first woman to join the all-male Tata auto plant in Pune before she and her husband settled in Bangalore. With both men and women earning well, women sometimes earning more, pressures on marriage start early and often end in an early divorce.
A young globetrotting software executive says her marriage is on the rocks because she is unable to spend time with her husband. Both travel a lot and one of them has to cut down on work. And both are not sure who will do that-and that inevitably drives them to lawyers like P.B. Appiah, whose hands are full. "We simply have no clue how to deal with the rising number of disputes. Today's generation faces a new kind of challenge both in terms of work schedules, relationships and life in general," says Appiah.
Psychologists like Hannah Samuel feel stress kicks in during the early years of the marriage when couples in IT jobs have to confront the challenges of juggling two or three careers and balancing family and work. "There is simply no time to communicate. They just get married to their jobs; drag on till the D-word hits them." Bangalore's Family Welfare Centre Director Father Martin Anthony makes marriage classes compulsory for couples waiting to get married, where they are counselled on how to manage money, in-laws or work-life balance. District Judge and director of Bangalore Mediation Centre, Justice K.N. Phaneendra, whose centre has handled nearly 5,000 divorce cases since 2007, throws his hands up as couples have no qualms about divorce now.
Jahgirdar, fighting for custody of his daughter (from his first wife Chethana who is married to cricketer Anil Kumble), also blames the rising number of divorces to laws that seem to favour the women. So he and other "affected fathers" founded a group, Children's Rights Initiative for Shared Parenting, to tackle the effects of parental alienation on children due to single parent families on account of divorce or separation. He is fighting the patriarchal mindset that suggests fathers are not capable of nurturing the children.
India's Silicon Valley may be the country's showpiece sector but what's not shown enough is the troubles of young married techies trying to juggle high pressure careers, deadlines and a normal marriage. Clearly, no software has been written yet to protect them from the marital virus.
"To cope with the increasing rush at the family courts we have decided to launch weekend courts, perhaps for the first time in India."Suresh Kumar, Karnataka law minister
Forget the suicide capital tag already dogging the Indian Silicon Valley of Bangalore. Its newest problem on hand is on the family front.
Four family courts are seeing close to 30 new cases every day. In just the last two years, nearly 4,000 divorce petitions have come up before the local family courts, showing a sudden increase.
- From a low of about 1,200 divorce petitions in 2004 to a high of about 3,300 in 2008, it is almost a three-time jump.
Court officials indicate there are approximately 10,000 cases pending before the four family courts as on date.
- Mediation Centre Judge K.N. Phaneendra, whose centre has handled nearly 5,000 divorce cases since 2007 till now with the settlement rate of a high 80 per cent, is also pushing for evening or weekend courts, perhaps for the first time in India. Most are it professionals who find it difficult to balance work and marriage.