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“I was such a big fool”! he said in a strangled whisper, with his face covered by his palms. “How could she do this to me, after so many years of our marriage?”
I was silently watching the man in front of me. He was number two in the list of richest men in India, his business was the largest conglomerate in retail, he had partnered with some of the world’s best luxury brands and was about to launch the Initial Public Offering of his company. He was a second generation businessman, who had made his father’s small venture into a worldwide known brand. He had everything going for him – fame, success, money, fortune, a beautiful wife – everything that a man wants in life.
“She was just 18 when I met her. I was the chief guest at the State Scholarship Programme where she was being felicitated for standing first in order of merit in the State.”
I stopped him. “You went there as a Chief Guest? How old were you, then?” Immediately I knew that was a very impolite question, but I had to know.
The 46 year old famous businessman answered with a smile. “I was 32 years and had received the “Most Promising Businessman of the Year” award then.” Before I could start the mental calculation, he offered the answer, “We have a 14 years of age difference, but that has never been a problem with us.” He looked at my raised eyebrows and his smile faltered. “She always used to say that she could respect me as a husband because of our age difference.” I urged him to carry on with his narration.
I was stunned at my own courage. Was I actually doing this? I looked at the lawyer sitting across me, with a reassuring smile. “Do not worry. He will always want to settle it out of the prying eyes of the media. You will get what you want.”
I could not be so confident. That man was extremely cunning. He was, after all, one of the most brilliant businessmen in the country. I had struck him where it would hurt him the most. But now that the master stroke had been delivered, I was not so sure of my chances of winning. I may just end up being an utter fool. I was also nervous at the feeling of guilt somewhere deep inside me. After all, he was my husband of 12 years. “He is my husband, still,” I corrected myself.
In the last 5 years in the profession, I have never come across such a case. When I received the call from my uncle asking me to meet Mr. Akshay Virat, I could not believe my ears. I asked my uncle again, “Is he THE Akshay Virat?” Now that the same man was sitting in front of me in my small 10 ft by 6 ft chamber, he no longer seemed to the ruthless, brilliant, super-famous and billionaire businessman, as portrayed by the media. He seemed to be just another helpless husband, whose wife had slapped him with a legal notice for divorce. “I want to keep this absolutely secret, at least for the time being. I cannot have journalists asking me all sorts of embarrassing questions. Moreover, the IPO is about to be launched. I cannot have my personal life ruin my company,” was his instant instruction to me. I knew that he had come to me not because of any superb legal acumen of mine, but because he was a close friend of my uncle, who had assured him of my integrity in confidential client dealings.
“I immediately knew that she was the person I wanted to marry. I was madly in love with the dusky, tall, lanky girl, with expressive eyes and an intelligence par excellence. She was due to join IIT, Kanpur but there was a problem.”
I looked at the man in front and realised how hard it must be for him to talk of his wife of 12 years. In one moment, she had turned all those tender moments into painful memories.
I still remember the day he came to my house. Initially, I was surprised to see the renowned businessman standing at my door. Then I became acutely aware of my one-room small flat, an ailing father on the sofa and a toiling mother in the kitchen. My mother had just then, started one more of her tirades against father about how he was responsible for all our sufferings and how her daughter, despite being intelligent could not afford engineering studies. The look on his face told me that he understood everything all at once. “You should go to college. You are too intelligent to stop higher studies now,” was his confident take on my problems. I could not help but feel resentful towards this rich businessman, who did not understand why I took the decision of working instead of studying, thus dashing all my dreams by my own hands. “While you study, I shall take care of your family.” I was shocked, “But why would you do that?”
I still shudder when I remember his answer that sultry afternoon, “I love you and want to marry you. So I shall take care of your family just like my own.”
I ordered for tea and asked my client to take a break.
“I was crazy about her those days. After I proposed to her in the heat of the moment, I knew that there was no going back. I had to have this girl. She was everything I wanted in my wife.”
I asked, “So when did you get married?”
“She took some time to say yes. She completed 4 years of engineering college and right after she passed out, we were married. I urged her to go for Masters in Business Administration and the next year she was off to Harvard Business School. She had an independent streak in her personality and I respected that. So, she never joined my company. She was busy climbing up the ladders of success in her organisation and I was busy consolidating my empire. We had the perfect life together.” He paused to gulp down the rest of the tea.
“What does she want now?” I wanted to cut the long love story short and get to the point. “I mean, apart from divorce, what are her demands?”
I don’t know whether what I am doing is right or not. When I got into this marriage, it seemed to be the only right thing to do, then. I was young and ambitious, but from a lower middle-class background. I had dreams in my eyes but no means to fulfill them. Akshay came to me with promises to make all my dreams come true. He was all I had in front of me, to escape the drudgeries of life. I didn’t realise that even if I respected him, I didn’t love him. I thought I will learn to be a good wife and be the perfect woman he wanted me to be. But I was wrong; I became his wife, but never his lover. I simply failed to love him, despite all the love that he showered on me.
But I never thought I would be able to break free from my marriage, until the day he abused and hit me for making him look like a fool in a business gathering, when I mentioned my humble government schooling background to his business associates.
All hell broke loose after the party. I knew he was ashamed of my poor background, but never realised how savage he could be. In those moments of torture, I realised that I hated my husband. He was attracted to my intelligence and looks, but could not accept my past. He started on how I should be grateful to him for providing me with a good life and I immediately knew that there was never any love for me, but only a sense of achievement in winning me. I wanted to break free and live my life again. But I was also determined to teach the egoistic man a lesson.
“I can’t believe that woman wants 30% share in my total wealth, two of my bunglows in the hills and one flat in the city! What audacity for a girl who could not even dream of such things a few years ago! I absolutely refuse to give her any of these.”
I added, “Not to mention all the jewelleries you had bought for her and 2 crores in cash.”
“Do you think the court will give her all these? She herself earns a lot.”
I nodded my head, “Her earnings will obviously have an impact on the amount of alimony that she is entitled to. But the problem is elsewhere. You will have to contest her demand and that means a long-drawn court battle. From the feelers given by her lawyer, she will not settle for less. So that means publicity and trouble for you.”
“No, young man. I cannot afford to have this being made into a huge issue by the media. They will eventually come to know of the divorce, but by that time, my IPO would be launched. Can’t you do something?”
I smiled at him, “Relax, sir. You won’t have to pay a penny to her.”
I never had the scope to breathe free in this marriage. I was always made conscious of my humble background, his favours in the guise of his love and his expectations for me as a wife. I was not living a life, I was just living my days. At least he should pay the price for my mental agony for the past 12 years.
“Why don’t you call a press conference and announce that you are divorcing your husband. This publicity will surely pinch him like hell, especially now that he has his IPO looming large,” my lawyer advised.
“No, I won’t do any such cheap stunt. My private life cannot be made fodder for gossip in the media. Just make sure he gives me the divorce fast, along with my alimony.”
I looked at the lady and her lawyer sitting in front of me. I had just told them that my client was willing to give his wife the divorce she wants, but not a penny as alimony. “Then, we have nothing else to discuss. We shall meet in court,” was her lawyer’s reply. I requested them to sit down and think hard, since the consequence would not be pleasant for his client.
“What do you mean by that? What consequences of mine are you talking of? Only Akshay will suffer if he goes to court,” pat came her reply.
I called a constable inside my chamber. “One statement from this man will send you to jail. So please reconsider your alimony part and just settle with the divorce.”
Her lawyer was looking at me with narrowed eyes. “Do you think we are fools here? Listen, young boy, you are new in the profession and do not know what you are talking of. May I know how this constable can send my client to jail?”
I kept my calm and replied, “If this constable lodges a complaint that your client intentionally caused or attempted to cause disaffection towards his profession by any act or conduct of hers, she can be booked under the Police (Incitement to Disaffection) Act, 1922 and thrown into jail for minimum of 6 months.”
The lawyer jumped up. “What nonsense! What is this law that you are talking of?”
I handed over a copy of the enactment. “Please have a good read. I hope you can then understand the grave consequences, sir.”
The lawyer was staring dumb-found at the few pages of the archaic law which is little-known but still prevalent. He looked like he had just been made a complete fool. The lady quietly spoke to me, “I withdraw all my alimony claims.”
Its time for me to celebrate my first successful case.
Disclaimer: It is fiction and NOT based on any client of mine.