Rani Mukerji’s much-awaited Mrs. Chatterjee Vs Norway hit the theatres on Friday. By now, many of us would have known that it is based on true events—a mother’s fight against an entire nation to reunite with her children. The film is an adaptation based on Sagarika Chakraboty’s autobiography, The Journey of a Mother, which was released in 2022. For those who plan to catch the film over the weekend, read on to know the heart-gripping yet inspiring real story.
Sagarika Chakraborty, a woman who hasn’t stepped out of Kolkata, is married to Anurup Bhattacharya, a geophysicist. The couple moved to Norway in 2007 for Bhattacharya’s career. In 2008, Sagarika gave birth to a boy, Abhigyaan, who later showed signs of autism. In 2010, she had a daughter, Aishwarya. In 2011, the Norwegian Child Welfare Services, known as Barnevernet (Child Protection), took away both children to place them in foster care until they turned 18.
Mrs. Chatterjee Vs. Norway Real Story
After a few months of observation, Norway’s Barnevernet deemed the couple unfit for raising the children due to “improper parenting.” The authorities had received a tip-off that Sagarika had slapped her son for some mischief. Hitting is considered corporal punishment in Norway. The other allegations against Sagarikha were that she fed the children using her hands, which is considered forced feeding in Norway. It was also claimed that the children slept on the same bed as their parents and did not have proper toys or space to play.
Despite receiving no support from her husband, Sagarika remained undeterred in her quest to get back the custody of her children. After losing two custody battles with the Norwegian government and with her visa nearing expiration, Sagarika sought the help of the Indian government. During the legal battle, Sagarika was deemed mentally unfit to raise her children. Sagarika’s lonely battle, inexposure, unorganisation, and unpunctuality were used against her by the government.
After two years of legal battle, the Norwegian government handed over the custody of the children to their paternal uncle, Arunabhas Bhattacharya, and their grandfather. All this led to the end of Sagarika’s marriage to Anurup Bhattacharya. However, she remained resolute and fought alone to get back the custody of her children.
In December 2012, Sagarika approached the Calcutta High Court. In January 2013, Justice Dipankar Dutta ruled in Sagarika’s favour, and the children were reunited with their mother. The uncle and grandfather were granted visiting rights.
Hitting children is wrong, period. That is legitimately a worrisome issue in Indian culture. Hitting children for misbehaving is a deeply embedded habit in Indian society and can be stopped only with the collective effort of all parents. The issue is gradually being addressed, with more people promoting gentle and respectful parenting, which is progress.
That being said, hand-feeding the children, which was another charge held against Sagarika by the Norwegian authorities, is considered to be an act of love in India. Although we do have new parents today who are encouraging self-feeding, it was pretty much an alien concept back in 2011.
The majority of Indians belong to lower or middle-class groups. So, obviously, most of us cannot afford to provide a separate room and bed for our children. Hence, parents and children sleeping on the same bed is almost inevitable in India. Co-sleeping with children is also considered an act of love in Indian culture.
Also, we Indians try to save up on toys and clothes. We save up the elder child’s clothes and toys for the younger one, but that doesn’t mean we love our children any less or don’t know how to parent. Given that India is a developing nation, not all of us can afford to buy high-end toys for children to play with, let alone provide them with a play space.
This is a classic case of a foreign country’s lack of understanding of India’s social, economic, and cultural practices. Mrs Chatterjee vs. Norway is the story of a mother’s unconditional love for her children that gives her the strength to fight against an entire nation on her own. As Agatha Christie once quoted, “A mother’s love for her child is like nothing else in the world. It knows no law, no pity; it dares all things and crushes down remorselessly all that stands in its path.
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Views expressed by author are their own