Partha Bhadra, a small-time businessman, rang in his son’s third birthday on Sunday with a cake topped with three candles and a handful of fellow fathers for company. But the ones conspicuously missing from the quiet celebrations were his son and wife.
A deep sense of longing is what typified Bhadra, a divorced husband, and his kind from across the city and suburbs, as they observed Father’s Day with him on a lazy Sunday afternoon.“I have not seen my son since I separated from my wife more than a year back. It’s his third birthday today and I dearly wished to see him, even from a distance. But my wife would have none of it and reminded me of our date in court instead,” Bhadra said with misty eyes, as he held up a photograph of his son Batan in one hand and a piece of cake on the other.
The trader, along with ten fellow divorced husbands, is a member of Hridaya, an NGO striving to restore men’s rights and uphold family values. While ruing their fate, Bhadra and his fellows at Hridaya called for wider implementation of the shared parenting concept, so the likes of them don’t have to spend their days longing for their sons and daughters.
“I toured the city all day with a tableau of our NGO to raise awareness about the plight of divorced or estranged fathers and send across the message that fathers too have the same rights as mothers when it comes to taking care of their children. I wouldn’t even wish my fate on my worst enemy,” Bhadra said.
Amit Gupta, an estranged husband and the secretary of the NGO, sought to highlight how rampant misuse of Section 498 A of the IPC (pertaining to excesses by husbands over dowry) has had an adverse impact on the lives of children. “Studies all over the world have shown that children of divorced or estranged couples are five times more inclined to commit suicide and 20 times more likely to turn to crime,” Gupta said.
Moulinath Ghosh, a share broker and a member of the NGO, has endured an agonising wait for his son’s company since 2010. “My wife doesn’t allow me to go near my son, fearing I might cause him harm. I am not even sure if my son uses the name I gave him— Soumalya,” said Ghosh, showing a picture of his son that unbeknownst to his wife, he took with his mobile phone.
“We demand equal access to children for both parents after divorce, as fathers too have an important role in their lives. The custody cases too shouldn’t drag on for years and should be settled at the earliest in the interest of the children,” Gupta said.