couples and their issues
The fun-loving Nooyi
Still haunted by tsunami
With more and more couples going in for live-in relationships, the family courts of urban India are gearing up to safeguard maintenance and custodial rights of such couples in case of a separation. Vimla Patil reports
TIME was when an unwed mother was naturally left to care for her children, when her partner left her. More often than naught, the father of her children refused to shoulder responsibility and the single mother was left to fend for herself and face the social stigma alone. She would be branded a ‘promiscuous seductress’ or a home breaker.
Life, at least in urban India, has changed dramatically. Not only do celebrity couples live together without marriage, but they also have children in today’s more open and liberal society. Many recent examples illustrate the increased visibility of ‘live in’ couples in the celebrity world. Actor Aamir Khan lived with now-wife Kiran Rao for a long time before he married her. Actor Saif Ali Khan is at present living with his girlfriend Rosa though he talks now and then about possible nuptials. Several television stars openly live in with their partners.
Tennis ace Leander Paes and Art of Living trainer Rhea Pillai have recently had a baby from a live-in relationship. Some time ago, wild life expert Valmik Thapar and Sanjana Kapoor, daughter of actor Shashi Kapoor, had a son called Hameer from a live-in relationship. The lifegraphs of such celebrities are seen everyday on television and in the print media and their private lives are public knowledge.
Following this trend set by celebrities, thousands of middle-class couples too choose to live together today for various personal or social reasons. Some of these reasons are: society and families no longer frown upon ‘live in’ relationships as much as before and couples who do not wish to make lifelong commitments prefer to live together before getting married. Others say they need to know each other better before they tie the knot of permanence. Yet others live together due to circumstances such as work requirements or for saving money by keeping one house rather than two. Lastly, young men and women live together because they no longer believe in the traditional sanctity of marriage.
Whatever may be the reason behind the fast growing trend, with its proliferation, problems of another kind are emerging. For instance, when a live-in couple decides to have children, who should have the custodial rights in case of a separation? When a ‘live in’ couple decides to split, what are the rights of the woman regarding maintenance? What is the legal scenario when the relationship sours? With so many couples — mainly from the educated, affluent middle class — choosing to live together, the family courts in metros like Mumbai have decided to step in and help resolve disputes.
For instance, the Mumbai family court is now poised to hear a case of child custody where two professionals — one Punjabi and one Keralite — have lived together and had a son. It is reported that both parents are seeking the custody of the child while the mother has approached the court for a declaration that the child is born of the couple; therefore the custody should be given to her and that she would seek no maintenance after the split. In another case, the unwed parents of a daughter are fighting bitterly for her custody. In the latter case, both parents are highly educated engineers.
Lawyers like Nilofer Akhtar say that family court laws in metros can hear a petition from a partner in a live-in relationship to seek legitimacy for the children born to her. Further, she says that such a court can, within its jurisdiction, decide who will have the custody of the child/children in case of a separation. "Conventionally, the court prefers to give custody to the mother in such cases," says the family court lawyer, "but this arrangement is usually for the first six years of the child’s life. Then the court can decide which parent is more equipped to offer the child a better and secure life. What emerges out of the recent cases is that more live-in fathers are now interested in fighting for the custody of such children because they feel that the children of such unions can have better opportunities to live a full life under their care.
"In general," continues the lawyer, "Couples who live together without marriage avoid having progeny. In some cases, children are born of a relationship out of wedlock but not in a live-in relationship. Many who have affairs clandestinely — though they are partners in regular marriages — have children. Workplace or college romances often result in the birth of children. Invariably, in every case of separation, divorce (where couples are married) and in cases where children are born out of wedlock, the most passionate court battles happen where child custody is concerned. If the children are not infants, each partner tries to pressurise them to choose him or her in preference to the other. What happens in regular divorce cases, is repeated in cases where live-in couples choose to split. Children are used as pawns to force partners to negotiate in the bitter battles that follow."
"Though only some cities in India have full-fledged family courts in place, it seems that in metros like Delhi and Mumbai, the legal issues concerning the union of live-in couples and the status of their progeny will increasingly come under the scanner of law because such cases are proliferating and have become an accepted part of the urban social scenario," say social activists and women lawyers.
WHILE her colleagues have reportedly labelled her an ‘iron woman’, new PepsiCo boss Indra Nooyi’s teachers in Chennai remember her as a fun-loving person who enjoys singing, playing guitar, a game of cricket and Tamil movies.
The Indian American’s appointment last week as new chief executive of the global soft drink giant has done her alma mater, Madras Christian College (MCC), proud.
"I always remember Indra as a bubbly and smiling girl, joyful, very articulate, hard-working and focused," said MCC principal V.J. Philip.
"When others shied away from a task, she would come forward to complete it.
Indra is someone who grabbed all opportunities that came her way with both hands," he said.
For example, she helped get advertisements for the college magazine, her teachers recalled.
"I believe that the college groomed her, giving her a liberal, wholesome education which allowed her to grow to her fullest potential," Philip noted.
Situated in Tambaram on the edge of Chennai, MCC has been named among top 10 colleges in the country in an independent annual survey. Nooyi’s rise to the corporate top has added to the glory of the college.
Nooyi graduated with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics, physics and chemistry from MCC in 1976. She later joined the Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Kolkata, earning her MBA degree in 1978.
She worked for a short while at Mettur Beardsell and later at Johnson & Johnson where she helped in launching ‘Stayfree’, a brand of sanitary napkins.
Wishing to learn more, Nooyi enrolled at Yale University in 1980 for Master’s in Public and Private Management.
She often recalls how she went for her first job interview in the US "in a $50 suit from a budget store" and failed. For her next interview, though, she preferred the saree and got placed with a prestigious management institution, Boston Consulting Group.
Nooyi’s father worked for the State Bank of Hyderabad and her grandfather was a district judge. She is married to management consultant Raj Nooyi and has two daughters.
Born Indra Krishnamurthy, the 49-year-old has an entrepreneur brother in the US, Narayan Krishnamurthy, and a sister, Chandrika Tandon. Her aunt Aruna Sairam is a noted singer.
"In MCC, she formed a girls’ band," Aruna recalled. She played the guitar, which she still plays, Aruna added.
When the "iron woman" was chosen to lead the soft drink major, it was her sister Chandrika who called their mother Shantha Krishnamurthy and told her there was some good news. Then it was Nooyi herself who called her up, asking her to watch television when her name was being flashed on many channels.
"As a mother, I am very proud of her accomplishments. It’s all God’s blessings," Shantha told mediapersons who thronged her T. Nagar house.
"Indra is a Tamil movie buff and a big fan of old comedies starring Nagesh. She likes to visit India in December," Shantha added. — IANS
DO you know TV actor Ejaz Khan danced with Amrita Arora in Dilli ki sardi item song in the film Zameen? Now he gets fan mail by truckloads but has no time to go through them.
Ejaz is one of the busiest and most loved TV stars. He is presently doing Kya Hoga Nimmo Ka on STAR One and is pretty happy about his career which took off with Ekta Kapoor’s Kavyanjali.
"Before Ekta Kapoor and Kavyanjali happened to me, I used to look down on television. Now I see soaps as serious commercial entertainment," says Ejaz.
"Now I just want to act, whatever the medium. Right now television is offering me so much. In Kya Hoga Nimmo Ka, I play a completely different character from Kavyanjali."
Ejaz comes from a family of engineers. "Television was the last thing on my mind. I grew up in a church in Chembur. I was motherless and not on good terms with my father. My brother and I were close to the anglo-Indian community. I couldn’t even speak Hindi properly." Before trying his luck on screen, Ejaz did modelling for a while.
"After a few ad films and music videos, I did some dance numbers. I danced with Abhishek Bachchan, Aishwarya and Gautami Gadgil for the Tumhein aaj maine jo dekha number in Rohan Sippy’s Kuch Naa Kaho. Then came Dilli ki sardi in Zameen."
However, then the biggest tragedy of Ejaz’s life happened when during the shooting of Sohail Khan’s Maine Dil Tujhko Diya, he broke his shoulder. "After the surgery I fell on the same shoulder. I was bedridden for eight months. I thought it was the end of my career. Those months made me stronger, though the movement in my shoulder is forever frozen."
Then came Balaji Telefilms. "I wanted a film career and met Ken Ghosh for Ishq Vishk. When I was leaving Balaji office, Ekta Kapoor offered me an exclusive contract."
Ejas says, "I tell my fans that I’m not Kavya and that they must not waste time watching soaps. But I’m glad about the popularity TV gives. I get lots of e-mails. Most of my fans are kids."
"After two years of no work, I enjoy being crowded with work and no time for anything else. I’ve seen my friends working while I was in bed recovering. I used to wonder, why me? Finally though, God has been kind. Now I’ve two dailies on my plate." — IANS
Still haunted by tsunami
CHILDREN in India’s the Andaman and Nicobar Islands who lost their parents and dear ones in the December 2004 tsunami are yet to get over their trauma, says a new report.
"Battered Islands" — the report of a fact-finding committee comprising researchers Shivani Chaudhary and Enakshi Ganguly Thukral — says a large number of children continue to suffer because of poor rehabilitation efforts.
Bhushan, now a healthy boy, was barely a few days old when the devastating tsunami hit the Andaman and Nicobar Islands in the Bay of Bengal. He was found floating on a piece of thermocol and was adopted by a family in Nicobar.
But not many children were as lucky. Bhushan now lives in Campbell bay.
Selvi, another resident of the islands, lost both her parents in the disaster and now lives in South Andaman with her uncle and aunt, who allegedly ill-treat her. Selvi broke down one day in the church and said she did not want to live with her uncle and aunt.
Thukral says: "The sufferings of the tsunami-affected children in these islands are not yet over. There is an urgent need to take care of their rehabilitation." "Selvi and many children who lost their parents started behaving abnormally after the tragedy," the study says.
The government and to some extent even NGOs have been insensitive to the requirements of children while carrying out the rehabilitation work, the authors of the report say.
For example, in a large number of cases, toilets have been constructed far from the shelters where children stay. In some cases it is a five to eight minutes’ walk from their shelters.
The children find it difficult to use the toilets at night because they are scared to walk in the dark.
The report also points out that the education of these children has been disrupted. "There are complaints that teachers do not take regular classes and the quality of teaching is also poor," the report says.
Cheating in examinations has become an accepted norm for most students.
The study, conducted on behalf of the Housing and Land Rights Network, an NGO, has recommended: "Special measures to address children’s needs, especially of those who have lost one or both parents in the tsunami, should be incorporated in all relief and rehabilitation plans.
"Adequate psycho-social support services and long-term counselling programmes for children should be integrated into school and play activities." The study indicates that the large number of NGOs working for rehabilitation of tsunami-affected children in the Andamans often compete with one another.
"All agencies working on children’s issues in a particular shelter should coordinate their activities and work closely together to prevent competition and duplication of efforts," it has suggested. — IANS