INDIA TODAY - FEB 28, 2005

Sometimes, when I see couples in the waiting area holding hands, it’s impossible to believe they are going through a divorce, ” says Madhavi Desai, principal marriage counselor, Mumbai Family Court. “I have had couples seeking a divorce come to me together. The look like they are good friends,” adds family lawyer Mrinalini Deshmukh. In India’s new divorce diary, one of the unusual trends is of former spouses continuing as friends. Difficult as it sounds, it is admirable that people can relate to their spouses on different levels. Many of these are couples who started out as good friends.

Like actor Deepti Naval and ex-husband filmmaker Prakash Jha. They drifted apart two years after their marriage. After a “period of silence”, the two resumed communication. It has been 14 years since. Both Naval and Jha had other relationships but have maintained a close friendship. “There was a time when Prakash, our daughter Disha, Vinod, who I was seeing then, and I went out to dinner together. People thought it was very strange,” says Naval. “But I have always felt if you can’t work out one equation – the man-woman one - you don’t have to lose out on the person altogether.” Prakash and Deepti keep in touch, watch films together and Naval says she is “glad to have Prakash in my life”.

Delhi-based Vibhisha and Nari, both 31, share a similar story. As they walk into a coffee shop, chatting animatedly, they appear more than cordial with each other. Nari travels 15 days a month and Vibhisha was unable to sustain the pressures of raising a six-year-old single-handedly. “I was always suspicious about him and we were drifting apart,” says Vibhisha, adding that divorce was the best way out of the accusatory pattern they had fallen into. “For the sake of our daughter we decided to put our differences behind and be friends.” says Nari. Now they meet once in a fortnight, watch movies with their daughter and eat out together.

Mumbai’s Sameera Parikh agrees that civility is the best way to cope with a divorce. Parikh and ex-husband Ravi lost each other to busy careers in film production. After five years, keeping in mind the constraints of demanding jobs, they parted ways after a holiday together. Though they felt cut up during the divorce proceedings, they managed to regain their friendship. “We can complete each other’s sentences. After we stopped hurting, we did not want to lose out on the bond we shared,” says Parikh. Another way to live happily ever after.