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[Sadia Dehlvi shares her experience of ending a marriage online]

   Nidhi Taparia Rathi


Two weeks ago, Sadia Dehlvi received an email that was both saddening and liberating. It signalled an end to one relationship and gave her the freedom to enter another. The author, scriptwriter and actress became perhaps the first person in India to receive a talaq or divorce electronically.

"My relationship with Reza (her ex-husband who is based in Pakistan) had broken up long ago and we were separated. I did discuss with him over the Internet my intention of remarrying someone else in great detail. He was unable to come to India and I could not go to Pakistan either. Our marriage was finished in any case. We needed to formalise it and it was done via email," she says.

"Islamic law stipulates that a man can divorce his wife by either speaking or writing the words 'I divorce you' three times, if certain conditions are met... Islam is based on intent," Sadia claims. "It (divorce by email) is a legally binding decision. It was only after getting the email; I was free to marry again."

Dehlvi married Reza Pervaiz 12 years ago in Delhi. The email two weeks ago allowed her to marry 45-year-old Sayyed Karamat Ali, whom she met at Hazrat Shah Farhad, a Sufi shrine in Delhi, which she has been visiting for the last 20 years.

"It was a quiet nikah ceremony. I met him at a dargah and barely knew him but it was like my soul was searching for him. We had no romance or courtship, we just got married. The bond is deep and spiritual. I've even changed my name. I had always said, I may change husbands, but I will never change my name… But I am now Sadia Sayyed Karamat Ali."

Rediff Guide to the Net spoke with Sadia Sayyed Karamat Ali. Excerpts from the conversation:

Do you use the Net extensively?

Sometimes for research and while travelling to keep abreast of the news, mostly Indian news-oriented Web sites

As a writer and media person, what do you usually use the Internet for?

I usually write to friends, email articles locally and internationally and for research. I used to do a column called Sadiasense for a Web site that has been temporarily discontinued. But I don't like chatting… I find it quite a strain. I haven't made any friends online and I don't intend to, because I have enough friends and it's difficult to find time for the ones I already have.

What do you think of the Internet?

I think it's a revolution that has made the world an easier and fun place to live in. I am an email person and wonder how we all survived so long without it.

How did the Internet help in your long-distance relationship with your ex-husband?

I used to communicate with Reza in Pakistan via the Internet because it's an easier and cheaper option than calling. He is not Internet savvy but his office is wired so he usually had some one download my emails and then would type out a reply to me, which would then be sent by some of his assistants. He doesn't really understand the Internet. He just knows that it is an easy way of communication and uses it.

In fact, the Internet has made communication easier in our relationship. I am a writer and I find it easier to articulate my feelings in an email. I prefer writing to talking on the phone. I am more focused and more poetic in my emails. Reza's emails, on the other hand, reflect his profession. As a marketing person, his emails are always bulleted and numbered, crisp and to the point.

But, nonetheless my husband and I will remain friends exchanging emails once in a while…

But my best Net relationship is with my stepsons. In fact, they are my email buddies, forwarding jokes, funny one-liners and engaging in continuous Indo-Pakistan bashes! Email and the Internet have played a role in sustaining the warm bond I have with my stepsons (Reza's sons from an earlier marriage).

I shared my decision to remarry with them in detail via email, also reflecting my concerns about their father. Just yesterday, they emailed me a warm and lovely letter saying "how happy they are for me. And they know that their brother Armaan (Sadia and Reza's son) needs a warm and contented mother for a happy family". I was so touched that I saved a copy of the email and even took a few printouts.

But for my son, the Internet is a boon. He started using the PC at the age of four. Today at nine, Armaan emails his father regularly and it's a great support to him. In fact, he is the one who will keep emailing his stepbrothers in Pakistan, sending them birthday cards and New Year greetings. He is terribly proud of his one-year-old nephew and the fact that he is a chacha (uncle). He waits for monthly updates of his nephew's pictures and puts them on his desktop.

How did the divorce via the Net happen? Was the email just a culmination of a thought out decision? Were you expecting it? Or were you surprised?

My relationship with Reza had broken up long ago and we were separated. I did discuss my intention of remarrying with him in great detail over the Internet. He was unable to come to India and I could not go to Pakistan either. Our marriage was finished in any case. We needed to formalise it and it was done via email.

The legal verdict, which in Islam is a written or orally pronounced divorce with two witnesses, was needed. When I decided to marry my present husband, Sayyed Karamat Ali, I asked my ex-husband to send me an email writing that he is divorcing me three times.

I gave him the choice of either phoning me with two witnesses on either side or just emailing me. He preferred the written version and he copy-pasted the entire line three times. The verdict is legal and final under the Islamic law.

How do you feel about such an end to a relationship?

An end to any relationship is always sad. But, I am a deeply religious and god loving person and believe whatever happens is with his will.

Does your husband, Sayyed Karamat Ali, use the Internet?

Just before we got married, one evening I taught him how to use the computer and the Internet. I created an email address to demonstrate its usage. He is extremely sharp and to my surprise the next day he emailed me to say 'hello how are you'.

Has the Internet changed your relationship in any manner?

Not really as we both live in the same city. But it converted him into my student for computers. He barely knew anything about me and in that session when I was explaining him what a search engine is and how one can use the Internet for information, I punched in my name at Yahoo! Search. To our surprise, there were lots of pages on me and even some articles authored by me online.

I felt completely exposed because I didn't know what articles or what comments and quotes were online… and I shut the browser. But, Karamat who had never been to a cybercafé went to one and read up all the information about me. In that sense, he did learn about my work through the Internet because Karamat didn't know who 'Sadia Dehlvi' really was. He is not a part of my world or the 'Page 3' crowd. He is a completely different person. And he used the Internet to find out more about my work and me.

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