Indian Ladies UK deals with a depressingly wide range of stories of abuse of women both here in the UK and in India on a daily basis – From the overtly physical domestic violence that leaves victims physically bruised and mentally scarred for life to more subtle mental and emotional abuse meant to deconstruct a woman’s very psyche.
The story of Kiran is one that falls into the latter category and illustrates – yet again – how not only abusive men but their families conspire to use and abuse women.
It also brings to the spotlight the shocking extent to which – despite legislation and national awareness campaigns – Non Resident Indians living in the west continue to exploit young women in India who aspire to improve the lot of their lives.
Kiran’s story of desertion and abandonment begins in September 2016 when she met Kabir Jagwani, a second generation migrant Indian, Mathematics Teacher at Cumberland School in East London via an online marriage portal.
Kabir had reached out to Kiran’s mother after spotting her profile on the portal and the duo began talking on the telephone and exchanging messages with a view to exploring if marriage was a possibility.
Things began to move very quickly and soon after their initial conversations, Kabir and his London-based parents travelled to Kiran’s home town of Indore for the first formal meeting of the two families.
According to Kiran, Kabir’s parents made a decision during that very first meeting that an Indian marriage ceremony should be held in December 2017 – a wedding for which Kiran and his family would have to bear the cost, in keeping with Indian “tradition”.
Following consultation with a priest, the two families decided on the 29th of December 2017 as the date of the wedding.
Soon after, Kiran claims, that Kabir’s parents mysteriously decided that the couple needed to register their marriage in the UK prior to the wedding. It appeared to be an unusual request as the usual practise for NRI’s marrying women from India is to have the marriage take place in India before applying for a dependent visa to the UK.
Nevertheless, Kiran and her family agreed and she began the process of applying for a visa to come to the UK.
“I told Kabir that because marriage is a once in a lifetime thing, I wanted my parents to be there at the marriage registration ceremony in London. And that’s when the first signs of trouble began”, Kiran says.
She claims that Kabir’s mother began protesting the need for Kiran’s parent’s to come to the UK, at one point even suggesting that she could arrange for “fake parents” to be present at the ceremony.
Despite the protests, a determined Kiran applied for visas for her parents and obtained them and the family travelled to London for the marriage registration at Newham during August/September 2017.
Kiran claims that during her visit to London, Kabir’s mother’s personality began to unravel to her as the first signs emerged, an unravelling that would manifest itself alarmingly over the coming weeks and months.
During the registration at Newham registry office for instance, when one parent from either side was required to read and sign the marriage certificate, Kiran claims she suggested that her mother do it as her father was not fully conversant in English.
“Kabir’s mother exploded at this saying why the mother has to do it”, Kiran says.
Soon after, what Kiran describes as the “insidious” behavior of Kabir and his family really began.
Everything was going fine till the registered marriage took place.
A day after the registration ceremony on August 29 2017, Kabir’s mother demanded that the invitations for the December wedding – the cost of which would be borne by Kiran and her parents – needed to have Kabir’s name first. When Kiran’s parents suggested that they could have two sets of invitations made – one leading with Kabir’s name for his side of the family and another similar for Kiran’s family – it was rejected outright by Kabir and his family as an “affront”.
The discussion, Kiran claims, escalated with both Kabir’s parents becoming verbally abusive towards her and her parents leading to Kabir walking out of the family home in East London.
Kiran also adds that one of these days before the registered marriage took place Kabir along with his mother and Kiran’s family went to a mall, Kabir’s mother changed a 50 pound tag to a 1 pound tag for a sweater. Kiran and her family was shocked to see that Kabir’s mother was shop lifting and Kabir was watching, as this must be an everyday thing for them. And even for grocery when we went to Morison’s and Marks & Spenser she was shop lifting. We were flabbergasted looking at these things.
The atmosphere had become febrile, Kiran says, with Kabir’s mother frustrated with her family and unable to compromise – repeatedly claiming that her demands must be met because “she was from the boy’s side”.
“At this point my mother actually asked Kabir if he wanted to go through with the marriage and he said of course. He asked my family to continue with preparations”, Kiran says.
So Kiran continued to make preparations for the wedding and her impending move to London – including taking English language tests and preparing the vast trove of documents required for a settlement visa, all at her expense and with little help from Kabir or his family.
It was then arranged that Kabir and his parents would arrive in Indore in mid December for the wedding on the 29th of that month. Kiran – who had already exhausted all her life savings and a considerable chunk of her parents’ savings on the wedding – was then asked to book a hotel for Kabir and his family.
When Kiran provided Kabir with the details of the hotel, she claims he complained that the property was “merely” a 3-star hotel and demanded that a 5-star be booked.
When Kiran tried to explain the importance of trying to limit unnecessary expenditure, Kabir and his parents insisted of going and booking a 5-star hotel and demanded that Kiran’s parents go and pay the hotel.
All the while, Kabir’s mother’s greatest concern was how many suitcases she should bring to India for the gifts that she expected to receive as the “boy’s parents” as well as gifts that will be received during the wedding reception.
Once the groom’s family arrived in India, Kabir’s mother’s bizarre behaviour went up a few notches, according to Kiran.
A day before the traditional Ganesh pooja that precedes the wedding ceremony was to be held, Kabir’s mother allegedly called to “reschedule” the whole thing as she needed to “rest”.
According to Kiran, later the same day, Kabir’s mother invited her and some of her family members to a local shopping mall where perhaps the most bizarre incident occurred.
“In the evening Kabir was with me and my family and Kabir’s parents called us at the mall. I along with my sister and Kabir went to the mall. None of their family members who were also there spoke to me or my sister but it was something that I was fast getting used to. But then out of the blue Kabir’s mother began punching me in the chest in the middle of this public place while repeatedly asking if it hurts. Then she tells me that that’s how much it hurts because I’m taking her son away!!”
“When I told her that she would always be his mother and that she would be my mother as well, it enraged her even more.”
Such melodrama is not uncommon in India and adds to the extraordinary stress placed upon the bride to be and her family.
The groom-to-be meanwhile, stands apart impotent in the face of the overbearing mother.
And as the icing on the cake – as it were – the demands for dowry came the day of the Ganesh pooja. Among the demands were a house in London and more than £200,000 in cash. At one point the groom’s family refusing to leave the hotel until their received a firm commitment about the dowry – which, incidentally, is now outlawed in India.
Family affairs can be fraught anywhere in the world but particularly so India, made worse by the secondary status that is automatically granted to the bride-to-be and her family.
According to Kiran, these are just a few examples of the horrendous behaviour that she was subjected to in the run up to the actual wedding. And it would only get worse.
After the wedding, the couple even went on honeymoon to Goa. After their return to Indore, Kiran says that Kabir and his parents hurriedly gathered up gifts and cash and gold that had been given to the couple before returning to London.
“At least I thought that the drama was over and we could start a new life together and put any bad feeling behind”, Kiran says.
“During our honeymoon he had promised me that we would live separately from his parents and that things would be far better. I believed him. I truly believed that we could make a life together.”
The drama then turned into a nightmare for Kiran. She had booked tickets to travel to London in March 2018. The day before she was set to travel, she tried to call Kabir but was unable to get through.
Frantically, she and her family tried Kabir and his parents but were blocked. They were then sent messages that Kabir had “lost interest” in Kiran and that she should not travel under any circumstances to London.
As an added threat, Kiran’s father was told that the Indian High Commission in London had been informed and that Kiran would be arrested on arrival if she attempted to come to the UK, although what control the Indian High Commission has over UK immigration is unclear.
But the sinister nature of the threats and the affect it has on the vulnerable is evident from the fact that Kiran is in fact a Singapore passport holder, meaning that she doesn’t even need a visa to travel to the UK. But the extent of her fear and loathing and uncertainty is evident in the fact that she has refused to travel to London.
A year and a half after the wedding, Kabir and his family continue in their refusal to talk to Kiran and her family.
She is in limbo – much like the tens of thousands of women who have been abandoned by their NRI husbands who arrive with all the world’s promises and leave having shattered the dreams of innocent Indian women.
Kiran claims that the expenses that she and her family incurred have almost bankrupted them. She has exhausted all her savings, lost her job – having resigned a month before she was scheduled to come to London – and has left mentally, emotionally and psychologically shattered.
When initially contacted by Indian Ladies in UK, Kabir told us that he had nothing to say as everything was being handled “legally”.
This week, after a year and a half he has sent a decree nisi – a divorce that ultimately Kiran is unable to contest and a decision that means that she cannot fight for justice.
“A part of me is glad that I won’t end up spending my life with a coward. But at the same time, I have not only had my life shattered into pieces but I am unable to move on because he refuses to communicate with me even to discuss a divorce. It is insidious what these men do to women and how they continue to believe that they can get away with it”, Kiran says.