Family

Married to a cheater and three-time convict, yet she forgave

by Gracia Lee // October 16, 2020, 4:01 pm

Despite having to endure years of her husband's unfaithfulness and crimes, Sangita Devi stuck by him long enough to see how God would redeem their relationship – and their lives. All photos courtesy of Sangita Devi.

Despite having to endure years of her husband's unfaithfulness and crimes, Sangita Devi stuck by him long enough to see God redeem their relationship and their lives. All photos courtesy of Anil David.

The first time her husband was thrown into prison, Sangita Devi did not have a clue what he had done wrong.

“Anil is a person who doesn’t share things easily, so I never knew much about his life. (His arrest) was really shocking to me,” said the 51-year-old, who goes by the name Gita.

True, he had been unfaithful in their marriage for the past four years. But she never imagined that he would be the sort to end up behind bars.

She was just 26 then, with a daughter who was barely a year old.

A dream, crushed

She had left her whole life to be with Anil, who had come to India to wed her in an arranged marriage. This was in 1991 when she was 22 and he, 23.

While she “didn’t fall in love with him straightaway”, she found that he was a decent man who respected her.

He was also quite sweet, she noticed. “He would take care of me, listen to the small things and share about his family and work,” she said.

Gita and Anil in 1992, a year after they got married, with Gita's younger brother.

Gita and Anil, with Gita’s younger brother, in 1992, a year after they got married.

When he returned to Singapore first after six months of marriage – her passport was not yet ready – he made sure she knew she was on his mind.

“He was always calling me. Every day, at least 10 to 20 times,” she recalled with a laugh.

“It was like somebody had thrown me into a dark place. It was too tough for me.”

But when she finally came to Singapore, things were starkly different. Anil barely paid her any attention and often came home late.

She was terribly lonely. “Many things were gone,” said Gita, the only daughter of three children who had come from a close-knit family.

“I’d left my family, and I was very attached to my family. I’d left my country. I couldn’t speak much English. I had no friends. I had no one to share things with, because he was always out. It was like somebody had thrown me into a dark place. It was too tough for me.”

It was her sister-in-law who had urged her to question Anil about his whereabouts. But when she did, he just said he was out working.

“I never came from a family culture where there were lies. I never knew that, in a family, people could lie to your own family members. So I believed whatever he said.”

Still, she could not shake off a sense that something was amiss. 

Betrayal

Then came the day Anil asked her to meet a girl.

“I’d left everything because of this one person. But when I came, I didn’t have anybody.”

She declined to elaborate on the details, only revealing that there were “many lies” that eventually unravelled to show that he was having an extramarital affair.

Holding back tears, she said quietly: “It was very painful. I’d left everything because of this one person. But when I came, I didn’t have anybody.”

They stopped talking and decided to separate. She gave him the freedom to leave her if he wanted to, but did not want to be the one to call for a divorce.

“In those days, in my culture, if someone divorced, not only would the girl suffer, the family would also suffer shame. I didn’t want to do it because I love my family,” she said.

But in the years that followed, he did not leave Gita. Neither did he stop having his affairs, even after they had their first daughter, Anishah, in 1995.

All alone

When Anil, the family’s sole breadwinner, was whisked off into prison for committing a criminal breach of trust, Gita was left to support the family and raise Anishah alone.

“When we went to visit him in prison, she would ask,’Why everybody’s daddy can go home, but my daddy is here?'”

“I was very lost,” she said, adding that she had not worked a day in her life. “I didn’t know if I could do it or not.”

But spurred by the need to support her daughter, she found a job as a production operator in a factory.

She liked that it allowed her to work night shifts from 9pm to 7am, so she could take care of her daughter in the day and go out to work only after her little one was asleep.

Though she was hurt by what her husband had done, she committed to visiting him twice a month, the most often she was allowed to, and occasionally brought their daughter along.

Her visits were mainly spent venting her anger, disappointment and frustrations on him, though she noted that he always listened to her quietly without retaliating. 

As Anishah grew up, Gita struggled to answer the questions her toddler started asking about her father.

“She always asked, Where is daddy? Where is daddy? When we went to visit him in prison, she would ask, Why everybody’s daddy can go home but my daddy is here?

“It was very painful that I had to lie to my own child, saying that he’s working in prison. But no choice.”

“I could do it myself”

Gita had hoped that things would change when Anil came out.

But when he was released in 1998, their relationship did not improve. He rarely shared things with her and continued having affairs.

He was arrested and jailed again in 2000 for another criminal breach of trust. And again in 2004 for colluding with his then-girlfriend to steal $800,000.

Gita was resigned.

By then, she had become a mother of two young daughters and was saddled with the responsibility of caring and providing for them on her own.

As a result of his jail terms, Anil missed out on the growing up years of his two daughters, Anishah (in red) and Sushma. Photo courtesy of Anil David.

When Anil was in jail, Gita was left to single-handedly care and provide for their daughters Anishah (in red) and Sushma.

She barely had time to focus on anything else as she “worked day and night, day and night, day and night” throughout the eight years Anil was in prison. It cost her precious time with her young daughters, something she still regrets today.

She also could not afford to return to India to see her family, whom she dearly missed.

“If you ask me, I had given up already. I felt that I didn’t need men.”

Nevertheless, she faithfully visited Anil in prison twice a month. Even though he had caused her so much pain, she could not help but feel sorry for him.

“Nobody from his family visited him because everybody was very angry. I felt he was all alone. So never mind, I just go and visit him, and bring my children also, so they know that this is their father,” she said.

“I also didn’t think that he was a bad person. His choices were just always wrong. But later I understood that nobody had guided him when he was younger.”

Still, she doubted that he could ever change.

“If you ask me, I had given up already. I felt that I didn’t need men. I didn’t want men. I could do it myself.”

Deep love

But when Anil was released after his third sentence, she noticed that he was different.

“I found what I was looking for in the Bible.”

“I saw he paid more attention to the family and spent more time with us. He was more caring to the children, more caring towards me,” she said.

She knew he had become a Christian in prison. He had even told her stories from the Bible during her visits, though she never paid much attention to them.

But after seeing the changes in her husband, she decided to follow him to church.

On her second visit, she received a vision of God holding her hand and walking with her along a river. It brought her a sense of peace, something that had long eluded her.

“When you love, you have to make sacrifices. I saw that the Lord sacrificed so much for us!”

During the sermon, she was struck by the intimacy she could have with God.

“There is no long list of rules to follow. You can pray anytime, the Lord is everywhere and He gives us unconditional love,” she said. “I found what I was looking for in the Bible.”

She was also gripped by the depth of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross.

“Growing up, I always believed that when you love, you have to make sacrifices. Then I saw that the Lord sacrificed so much for us! That touched me so much,” she said.

That day, she put her trust in Jesus.

New peace

While she used to be fearful and anxious about many things, knowing she has a Heavenly Father gave her a newfound sense of peace.

“Whenever these kind of situations come, I feel: No, He’s there. He will take care of things. After I started knowing Him, many things changed,” she said.

The most stark changes were in Anil, who began to invest more time in the family. He made an effort to establish a relationship with his daughters, was more open with them and stayed faithful.

After the Lord convicted Anil's heart, he began spending more time with his family and rebuilding his broken relationships with daughters Sushma (left) and Anushah (right), and Gita.

After the Lord convicted Anil’s heart, he began spending more time with his family and rebuilding his broken relationships with daughters Sushma (left) and Anishah (right), and wife Gita.

She noticed changes in herself too.

“After knowing the Lord, forgiveness became a bit easier for me. I can’t explain why. But when I forgive, I feel peace. I don’t feel the hurting pain or bitterness inside anymore. Without God, it’s not possible.”

“Pray for yourself. He will give you the strength. He will soften your heart.”

Conceding that forgiving is not an easy thing to do, she added: “The first thing you need to do is to pray for yourself. He will give you the strength. He will soften your heart.”

She takes everything to God in prayer, knowing that He hears and answers. As she goes about her day, she prays for her husband, her children and even neighbours who come to mind.

“Without prayer, it’s not possible,” she said. “I’m human, Anil’s human, everyone is a sinner. But believe in Him and prayer will change a lot of things.”

Redeemed relationship

Today she partners with Anil in the social enterprise they set up together, Agape Connecting People, which employs ex-convicts, people with disabilities and single mothers.

About 70% of the staff are women, so Gita makes an effort to spend time with them and mentor them.

She draws from her experience of being left to fend for herself in a foreign country to inspire these women to persevere in the work that they are doing, no matter how difficult.

“They are looking for a bit of time, respect, love and encouragement that they can do it,” she said. 

Gita and Anil now share a closer bond after both came to know Christ. They are pictured here with their family dog.

Gita and Anil now share a closer bond after both came to know Christ. They are pictured here with their family dog.

Looking back on her journey, Gita is confident of God’s guiding hand in her life, even before she knew Him.

“Whatever sacrifices I’ve made, I can say it hasn’t gone to waste.”

“I had no family, was from a different country, had language problems, no husband support. But I’ve come until here because of His plan. Without Him, it’s not possible,” she said.

She and Anil now share a closer bond than before, though she admits they still have quarrels like all couples.

“But whatever sacrifices I’ve made, I can say it hasn’t gone to waste,” she said, adding that she is grateful that she came to know Christ through him.

Breaking into a hearty laugh, she teased: ” This is the greatest good thing he has done for me.”

About the author

Gracia Lee

Gracia is a journalism graduate who thoroughly enjoys people and words. Thankfully, she gets a satisfying dose of both as a writer at Salt&Light. When she's not working, you will probably find her admiring nature or playing Monopoly Deal with her little brother.