Stella Case No. 111, Originally Published: 1 November 2006
Even in the 21st Century, it’s not uncommon in India for families to arrange marriages for their children. And it’s a tradition some Indian families bring with them when they immigrate to the U.S.
Vijai and Lalita Pandey of Belchertown, Mass., made just that sort of arrangement for their son Pranjul, 37, with Lallan and Kanti Giri, who live in Boyds, Md. The Giris had just the girl for Pranjul: their niece, who still lived in India. The Pandeys became “heavily involved by long telephone calls to India,” and sent her some money to start the process of moving her to America after the wedding. In return, they got a photo.
Finally, Lalita Pandey flew to India to meet the girl. That’s when she found out, the family now says, that she was wasn’t quite the girl they envisioned for their boy. They were “extremely shocked to find” the potential bride “was ugly … with protruded bad teeth, and couldn’t speak English to hold a conversation.” She even has bad skin, they said. Pranjul is a handsome boy, they said, and the girl “was homely and unsuitable and no match for Pranjul.” So much for the photo.
There was no money exchanged between the Pandeys and the Giris, but the Pandeys claim the Giris promised to reimburse their expenses if the girl wasn’t suitable. So that’s when the family turned from the traditions of their homeland to the traditions of the New World: Vijai Pandey wrote up a lawsuit against the Giris, and filed it himself in Hampden Superior Court in Springfield, Mass.
The suit charges the Giris with fraud, conspiracy, and violation of the Pandeys’ civil rights, all of which adds up to significant emotional distress. “We plead not guilty, 120 percent,” said a distressed Lallan Giri in response to the suit.
Matthew R. Hertz, a lawyer who used to represent the Giris, said the agreement wasn’t a contract, but “more of an informal ‘would you like to meet her’” offer. “No money ever changed hands that would require reimbursement.” Still, the lawsuit demands $200,000 in damages.
The suit also names Lallan Giri’s employer as a defendant, but it’s unclear what he thinks they have to do with the case. Hertz apparently had to withdraw from representing the Giris after he also was named in the lawsuit, apparently for writing a letter on the Giris’ behalf asking the Pendeys to cease contact with the family.
The two families had been friends since 1979, when they both lived in Massachusetts. But Lallan Giri’s career took off and the family moved to Maryland. That’s when Lallan “started show-boating, boasting” about his success, Pandey says in his lawsuit, “with [a] BMW, [a] Mansion, and acting as a big shot in a different class.”
So is the real issue a broken social contract, or Pandeys’ jealously over a former friend’s bigger success than his own? Either way you think about it, one starts to get an idea why their boy is still looking for a bride at 37 years of age….
- “Family Sues over ‘Ugly’ Bride”, Springfield Republican, 5 July 2006.
I found one interim decision regarding the case, but no final decision, so I have to assume the suit was either withdrawn or settled. And based on one factor alone, I have to figure withdrawn. And that factor is from that interim decision:
“Attorney(s) appearing for the Case
Vijai B. Pandey, Belchertown, MA, pro se.”
In other words, Pandey was representing himself. On the other side of the room was this lineup of attorneys:
“Mark J. Albano, Dalsey, Ferrara & Albano, Springfield, MA, Deanna Peters, Jeffrey M. Schwaber, Stein, Sperling, Bennett, Dejong, Driscoll & Greenfeig, PC, Rockville, MD, Maura T. Healey, Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP, Boston, MA, for Defendants.”
An intimidating (no doubt purposefully so) show of force.
Another reference claimed a couple of years before, Pandey had filed for bankruptcy as Giri was becoming more successful (promotion at work, the BMW, “mansion,” etc.)
As for the Giri’s lawyer, Matthew Hertz, who was also sued after merely writing one letter for his client:
“Plaintiff has also offered scant evidence linking Hertz — or the Law Firm through Hertz — to this forum. At most, Plaintiff alleges that Hertz sent a single letter which subjected him and the Law Firm to this court’s jurisdiction. The court disagrees.” —U.S. District Court (Massachusetts) Judge Michael A. Ponsor
My 2022 Thoughts on the Case
Looking back, what stands out to me is a grumpy sore loser of a man who has been dealt some blows in life (culminating in bankruptcy) choosing to turn on an old friend who was more fortunate. It’s doubly foolish to involve the courts, since that costs significant money — and only his wealthier friend has the means to fight effectively. And that’s the thing: he had to gear up and fight back because he had a lot to lose.
It’s quite similar to last week’s Michael Jordan case: he’s way out of his league.
The unnoticed victim of this action is a once-great-friend’s niece, who did nothing wrong but has been described in public places — the media, the courts — as “ugly … with protruded bad teeth,” poor English, bad skin, and “homely and unsuitable.”
If there’s cause for someone to be sued here, it’s Mr. Pendrey — for defamation. Hopefully by now his son is happily married, and able to put plenty of distance between his family and his father.
Comments and Letters
I noted in this (2006) newsletter that “I’m very pleased to announce that my publisher has pushed the True Stella Awards book to paperback early to meet demand! The book again hit Amazon’s Best Seller lists yesterday: in the Top 50 of all books they sold yesterday, and in the Top 15 of nonfiction.”
Sweet! I had forgotten that.
Last, Paul, the CEO of a flower bulb exporting company in the Netherlands, writes: “Every time I read your newsletter I am flabbergasted by the way American government treats Americans and Americans treat each other. Why don’t people take their own responsibility? Why always blame someone else in case something goes wrong? There is something called common sense. Use it! The American tradition of blaming and claiming is laming society. I fear the moment we’re going into the same direction as you over there in the U.S. Unfortunately also the bad American habits after a couple of years are copied here in Europe. Who wants to live in such a society?”
I like it: blaming + claiming = laming. How sadly true.
As you note, Paul, such insanity isn’t limited to the U.S. The whole idea of the True Stella Awards is to point out the absurdity to create awareness so it can be stopped; to ask people to practice common sense and personal responsibility; and to file a lawsuit as a last resort, rather than the first.
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