It may just be the stuff for a Bollywood potboiler. For a court in New York’s Nassau county, however, it is a real life situation of having to grapple with the belated fallout from a purported child marriage in Andhra Pradesh, dating back to the ’50s.
Rukinamma Madireddy, now 66 and based in Michigan, has filed for divorce from her 70-year-old husband—a doctor based in Long Island, New York, whom she has not seen for more than four decades.
The doctor, Subba Reddy Madireddy, acknowledges the relationship with Rukinamma and fathering her four children but insists he never married her. So no question of divorce, he says. “She was 10 or 11. I was 15 or 16. We were kids,” he told the New York Post.
But the “child bride” is undeterred. She has filed more than two dozen affidavits from people who said they were guests at the wedding that took place in their Andhra village in or around 1955. The priest who reportedly presided over the wedding ceremony, relatives and village elders are among those who have made sworn statements about the marriage that the doctor denies vehemently.
Sure enough, the case is not without its financial dimension. Rukinamma, now living on a paltry $360 a month in social security benefit, says the doctor stopped supporting her and their children 30 years ago. Madireddy contests the assertion, saying he had continued to support the children and even sent two of them to medical school. He claims that he “allowed people to believe” that he and Rukinamma were married in order to “protect her from dishonour”.