The Intelligent, Young Woman – Wasted In Marriage

I read about Manjula Divak’s suicide the day before yesterday.

Excerpts from the article:

Manjula’s father said, “She was a brilliant girl. She was going to complete her thesis next month, but her husband and parents-in-law wanted her to come back to Bhopal and do household work.”

Mr. Devak told The Hindu that he had already made it clear to the family before the marriage in 2013 that Ms. Manjula would pursue her Ph.D. “They had agreed then but later started torturing her,” he said.

Her husband had allegedly asked Manjula to arrange ₹20 lakh from her father so he could start his own business. “Was my daughter going to wash dishes and sweep the floor after completing her doctorate,” asked the father.

My first reaction was why would such a brilliant woman, a PhD student at IIT Delhi who is capable of being financially independent not opt for divorce but tolerate dowry demands by her husband and in-laws?

Until I read another article which had screenshots of her whatsapp conversation with her sister. It suggested that she did want a divorce. The talk had been initiated with her father-in-law who was supposed to send a ‘rough document’. Her father-in-law had said that if she has to tolerate a couple of beatings to sustain her relationship, then what is the problem?

Manjula had said to her sister that she does not want a second marriage. These people were too horrible.  She is happy alone. Her sister said that not everybody is bad, and that life is too big. Sister had said ‘love you’.

I could not hold back my tears. I was in a similar situation few years back. I could relate to Manjula.

How much pain her parents and sister would be feeling now? And how hopeless she must have felt to take such a step?

Manjula got into an arranged marriage at 24 because the ‘horoscopes had matched’. Her story sounds much too familiar. An academically inclined young girl is married to an unknown man because her family feels this is the best thing for her. The boy wants a qualified girl who should wash the dishes, sweep the floor, whose family should provide him dowry for starting his business.

I hate the idea of arranged marriages, that too at 23-24 when girls have just finished their education. But love marriages prove no different either with spineless husbands siding with their parents.  Unfortunately, most Indian men’s families are like Manjula’s husband’s.  The state of women remains the same.

Manjula was brave enough to consider divorce. But she got scared of her uncertain future. She lost her faith in goodness. She hung herself.

When will things change? What do these men and their families think, that they have hired a life-long slave? The parents of girls in India have pathetically low standards. Their sense of ‘normal’ has been skewed for generations. They feel that all girls have to ‘adjust’. Their daughter is no exception.  And what can be worse than having a 35 year old unmarried daughter?

Let me tell you what can be worse:

A bruised daughter.

A daughter broken in spirits.

A dead daughter.

I agree that marriage is important. Being single for a girl has its own challenges. Whether the woman has been divorced, or remains unmarried, she would probably be seeking companionship. Every new relationship that would not end up in marriage would break her heart, reminding her that she is single while her friends are having babies. But here is the thing:

She would be going ahead in her career, without having to sweep the floor before going to work. She would probably have discovered new interests by now, which she would not have at 21-22 when she was busy studying for exams. She would not be hearing taunts all day about how inadequate she is. There would also be hope of finding a better man. A hope that is lost when she remains married to a loser.

It is still a much more dignified life than a life dedicated to serving an abusive, inconsiderate, man who happens to be your husband and a bunch of entitled, manipulative, greedy in-laws who are the by-products of this disastrous mistake that should not have happened in the first place.

To all the girls reading this and stuck in horrible marriages, I understand that the happy family Hallmark card may be every woman’s dream. But if yours is not, you have to get out, and find your dream elsewhere. It may or may not involve a man immediately. But by leaving cruel people and standing up for yourself you are not just doing a favour to yourself, but a favour to society at large.

The future generations of women would be grateful you did not pass on the legacy of ‘adjustment’.

 

 

 

 

The legend of the frustrated, old, spinster / divorcee

This is going to be a confused post.

Even before you start reading, I would like to apologize that I have started writing, but I do not have my thoughts organized under one subject. Basically, this post is about women’s views on other women, their choices and lifestyles.

1. Widows are humans and have needs

I stumbled upon an article recently. A widow with a grown up son writes about how she has “needs”. She says that she may choose not to remarry for various reasons but does that necessarily mean that she does not have any desires also?

I absolutely loved her brave and honest article. At first, I thought that it would be some anonymous post, by an author who is hiding her identity and yet talking about empowerment. But no, it was from a real person – a courageous woman who said what so many would not have guts to say. If we have more people like her, maybe our society will change.

Another woman’s views on widows having needs

I also started reading the comments on the article. One lady commented the following:

“Yes its ok to have physical intimacy but With a willing partner for a widow taking due care it doesn’t destroy any home if the wife comes to know of that. I have a widow doctor friend who had same needs but she has broken three homes of her male colleagues by having extra marital affairs……

I have strong views on infidelity. It is completely unacceptable. I would never get into an “affair” with a married man. Nevertheless, I would like to say this to the lady who has commented:

The widowed woman did not break the homes of her three male colleagues. She was not having an extra marital affair. She was single. (No I do not support what she did). But the point is, it is the MAN who was married, who made the choice to cheat on his wife and sabotage his relationship. So, stop blaming the other woman!

Her second comment was as follows:

“……If sex was destined to be there in the life of this writer, God will send her a partner who will marry her, else there r so many risks involved in having that With multiple partners or unknown men.”

Her views reminded me of an episode of the TV series, Balika Vadhu. Sugna (one of the characters in the serial) had become a widow at a young age. Her Dadisaa (grandmother) was forcing cruel and inhuman rituals on her. When Sugna’s parents pleaded her to have mercy on the poor girl, the grandmother said that this was her fate…If God wanted her to be happy, he would not have taken away her husband. God destined to make her a widow, it is not like she (Dadisaa) was making this happen.

Sadly, a lot of regressive, controlling people feel that they have a right on somebody’s life as if they are carrying out God’s plan. No, God did not want her to be unhappy. People did!! Ordinary mortals who like to control other people’s lives!

2. The frustrated old spinster / divorcee

The other day, my friend was telling me that I must get married. She said that women who remain unmarried / divorced / grow into “frustrated, old, spinsters”. She gave me an example of her neighbor, a 55-year-old female professor who is always angry.

This is not the first time that I have heard stories about the “frustrated, single, old woman.” These legends are passed down by other woman. Personally, I see a lot of married women, and women with toddlers who seem very irritable all the time. I see them tired, exhausted, and perpetually yelling. Nobody says things like “Married women are so frustrated. Women with little children are always yelling.”

We accept that as normal human beings, they have a right to be angry sometimes. They have justified, valid reasons for their emotions. But single women? Their very existence probably makes them angry!!

3. I don’t want to be unmarried by the time I am your age

Last week, in office a young girl (21-22) year old joined our table (group of women in late 20s). I don’t remember how the conversation started about age, but she randomly mentioned how none of us are married despite being much older than her. One of my colleagues laughed and said thanks for reminding us. The young girl went on to say that she would get married in the next couple of years because she does not want to be “like us” – old and married.

I asked her why does she feel so. Is marriage an achievement? She said yes. My other colleagues then told her that I am a writer and that she would probably get featured in my next article!! This made her guarded and she quickly changed her statement. But the damage was done…

FYI this young woman has no professional qualification, nor does she intend to opt for further studies. Yet, she felt that it is okay to insult women who are much more well educated, and successful than her because they are still unmarried!

I ended the conversation saying that I don’t know what is the future of the country, if this is how young girls think.

Moral of the story

I really wish that the society would stop being so unkind to women who are widowed, unmarried, divorced – single for whatever reason. For some, it is their choice. For others, it may be circumstances. Either way, it is nobody’s business to judge her. Yes, she may be angry sometimes. Because she is human. Not because she does not have a permanent man in her life. Please don’t judge her lifestyle – whether it is her drinking, smoking or “affairs”. Yes, judge her smoking out of concern for her health, not as a benchmark of her morals and character. The alleged, immoral “affair” also takes two people. Don’t just blame her.

And lastly, life changes constantly. I want to ask the women who are so judgmental of these single women, what if they (God forbid) are ever on this side? Can they imagine their life in such a situation?

Please stop spreading the legend of the angry, frustrated, single, old woman. It is as stale, absurd and regressive as the witch tales!

Why there was nothing holy about this matrimony

This is a true story although names have been changed.

__________________________________________________________________________________________________

How much is your budget? asked Mr. Prakash.

I can arrange for 4 wedding functions, expenditure on arrangements 30 lakh, additionally I would give jewelry to my daughter worth 15 lakhs, replied Mr. Kashyap.

Mr. Prakash: Okay. We are very liberal people. We don’t believe in dowry. We just want grand wedding functions. After all, we have some status in society.

Mr. Kashyap: Yes, ofcourse, it is our pleasure and pride.

Mr. Prakash: You could give 6-8 lakhs cash also, or a car. After all it is for your own daughter. We are not those dowry types. We don’t want anything….

This was the first meeting between Mr. Prakash, father of Akash and Mr. Kashyap, father of Kriya. Six months later, Akash and Kriya were married.

Akash and Kriya were the youngest in their family and had been spoilt badly. Kriya had to move cities and change jobs to join him but Akash and his family were brutally insensitive to the what she was going through. While Kriya was trying to transform herself to a good homemaker, and manage a new job in a new city, Akash was too oblivious to her struggles. He wanted a good looking, presentable, intellectually stimulating and earning partner (the exact opposite of what his mother) who should behave and treat him like his mother.

A man like Akash had never had a long- term relationship in life and was not capable of being in a marriage. But the advantage of arranged marriages is that everybody ends up getting married! Even people who would not even survive an entire date.

Akash was the youngest brother who at an age close to 30 was showered with money from his elder brothers and parents and in return he used to obey everything they said. Kriya practically got married to a 14 year old man-child. The wife of Akash was also expected to an obedient servant who would pay her salary to her in-laws for providing her services. Her mother in law could have been a caricature like the evil, exaggerated ones they show in television. But she was not fictional. She was very much real, and unfortunately the dictator of Kriya’s life.

Akash and Kriya never got along. Akash along with his parents and brothers abused her verbally throughout on her failure to be a the ideal bahu (doormat).

Kriya was not the subservient kinds and was vocal about what she felt was right. Akash who was initially verbally and emotionally abusive soon became physically abusive too. His family did not care about Kriya but they were afraid that Kriya and her family could file a case of dowry and domestic violence against them at any time.

The family thought of a plan. They went out of their way to send their useless, good for nothing Akash to do Masters in the US, hiding the plan from Kriya until the last minute. The first part of the two-fold plan was to leave Kriya all alone for a year and a half as a punishment. Second part was that if the couple gets settled in the US, Kriya who would have been miserable and alone for a year would become financially dependent, away from her family and friends’ support system and therefore would break down and be easily controlled.

Kriya asked for a mutual consent divorce immediately. She did not file any criminal cases because Akash and his family had threatened to prolong the divorce process. She did not take a penny of alimony. While she was taking this step, people warned her that marriages are made in heaven. Once she is married, no matter what she has to make things work out. There is no other option. And how will becoming a divorcee help her anyway? She thankfully did not listen to anyone and was strong with her decision.

Kriya is divorced now. She is happy after getting rid of the garbage from her life.

Kriya’s marriage was not made in heaven. It was made by a Mr. Kashyap and Mr. Prakash whose conversation started with “How much is your budget.” Mr. Prakash for whom his son was an investment, and his greed was a privilege he was not interested in forgoing. Mr. Kashyap was following tradition and was mentally prepared for this moment since 25 years ago when the doctor had announced “It’s a girl.”

Kriya got no alimony. Yes all the men who cry about women getting alimony, please increase your general knowledge. Hindu marriage act does not grant any automatic alimony. Cases have to be filed, and litigation goes on for years if there is no agreement between parties. A lot of women choose to walk out with zero alimony because they don’t want to prolong the litigation. They don’t care about money, and are just happy to get their life back.

Abusive men and their families can go to any extent and their life revolves around planning things to torture the victim and yet keep themselves secure legally. Please get out of such relationships immediately. It is not worth even though society may tell you that once married, you should “adjust”. You can choose to remarry or stay single, your choice. But why let yourself be treated this way and put up with such horrible people who don’t deserve you?

Self-love is the most underrated love. We are never taught about it. It is something we learn when we live with people who are beneath humanity. We may not punish them legally. We don’t know if karma works or if God will ever punish them. But what we can do, is not punish ourselves.

She saved her marriage. But what about her life?

Would like to share the story of a family friend, changing the names for protecting their privacy.

Mr. and Mrs. Agarwal arranged the marriage of their daughter, Purvi to Anil. It was a lavish wedding, just the way we like it.

Within the first year of marriage, it was detected that Purvi had a cyst in the ovary. Anil and his parents complained that they had been deceived into marrying a ‘defective’ girl who was not good for doing any household work. Purvi along with her parents were taunted for hiding her condition prior to marriage. Her parents explained that they themselves did not know. Why would they not treat her daughter and instead marry her off, if they had an idea. She was their beloved princess after all. But it was of no use.

Purvi was operated. But she continued to be in pain. Few more visits to the doctor and some tests revealed that she was suffering from cervical cancer.

Chemotherapy started. Purvi was in terrible pain. She used to wash her own clothes, cook, clean and even go grocery shopping. She was just like an any other Indian daughter-in-law, the expectations, the taunts, the humiliation were not spared. The fact that she was suffering from cancer did not matter. Empathy and care was too much to ask for.

Her parents would come to visit at times and stayed with her. Anil’s parents had a list of grievances from the good for nothing daughter in law – how she sleeps too much, is always tired, does not cook and clean well. They were also disgusted with the fact that her parents came and stayed with them shamelessly during the chemo sessions.

Purvi’s parents were also not able to understand how grave the situation was. They were hoping their daughter would get better. One of their friends suggested that they bring her daughter to their home, in another city for the treatment. But the thought of the married daughter not staying with her husband was unthinkable. They did not want her marriage to break-up. It was a new and delicate relationship and they did not want to aggravate the already tensed situation by hurting her in-laws.

Finally, Purvi’s mother mustered some courage to have a candid chat with her doctor.

“When will my daughter fully recover?”

“There is nothing that can be done now Ma’am. I am sorry.”

Purvi’s parents took her daughter to their home, by humbly requesting her in-laws that she has become a burden on them, and that they volunteer to take care of her.

Purvi died within six months. Her husband and in-laws did not bother to visit her at the time of her death or at the funeral. However, Anil received the sum under the life insurance policy in Purvi’s name. After all he was the lawfully wedded husband. Till date, Purvi’s jewelry is still at her in-laws’ home. Her parents feel that they don’t care about materialistic possessions when the most precious part of their life is gone.

When I imagine Purvi struggling from cancer, undergoing chemotherapy and trying to please her husband and in-laws, physically torturing her already weak body, I feel pained. She was trying to save her marriage, more than she cared about saving her life. Nobody could save her from cancer probably, but she could have lived the last couple of years of her life in peace with loved ones, and not inhumane and greedy people who just viewed her as an incompetent maid.

I do not understand what is this pressure in India for girls to stay in absolute horrible marriages. Why do we bring up our daughters with the mentality that marriage is the sole purpose of their life? What kind of fear / hesitation / respect stops parents from protecting their daughters from such evil people who think that their cancer suffering daughter should mop the floor more neatly? Because these unkind people happen to be her in-laws / husband?

Marriages are not made in heaven. They are made right here on earth. Purvi was not married to a God. She was married to a selfish, undeserving human – who did not love her or care for her.

It is okay to end a chronic marriage. It will not be the end of a daughter’s life. Sure, it will bring sadness. But not for the whole life. For some time. She will recover. She may find happiness.

As long as she is alive and healthy.

The Myriad Of Emotions I Felt During My Divorce

When I filed for divorce, I knew that life would not be easy. It all seemed too unfair and surreal, as if watching it happen to somebody else. I felt cheated by God, by life, the universe, and everything positive that I ever believed in. I felt betrayed for all the goodness that I ever had in me. I am no therapist. But I would like to share the gamut of emotions that I felt during this time and whatever little I have learned.

In the initial days, every morning that I woke up, I wished the thought did not strike me, but it invariably did:

It’s over. The marriage is over!

I am alone. I will be alone.

I am getting divorced. I have become a divorcee!

And that was it. Nothing else mattered.

A lot of my well-meaning family and friends asked me to count my blessings. People were rushing me to get over my grief and although they had the best intentions, it seemed like they were undermining my suffering. I was not in the right frame of mind to appreciate their insights, even though what they said was true.

Be happy, at least you are healthy.

You have a good job.

You have supportive parents.

You are young, and could always remarry.

I did not know at that time that one day I would count my blessings indeed. The marriage turned out to be a big mistake, but the divorce did not. I am proud of myself for choosing to be out of my misery instead of sentencing myself to a life of misery. I am grateful to God for all that I have and recognize that it was just a failed relationship, in my otherwise holistic and fulfilling life.

Speaking of close family and friends, they always try to help someone going through a divorce. But they do not know what to say, what not to say, when to say or how much to reveal to distant relatives, neighbours and other acquaintances. Sometimes families find it shameful to update society on the newly acquired marital status of their children / siblings. It had been painful for me to meet relatives at social gatherings who were blissfully ignorant of my separation and I had to be the one gratifying their curiosity.

Where is your husband?”

You are glowing, is there any good news?”

Suddenly, something as simple as getting out of the house and meeting people became a matter of mustering up courage. I wished my near and dear ones had been sensitive and considerate enough to inform people instead of putting me in the spot. It is one of the things that they could do that would have helped. Their embarrassment was nothing compared to the distress that I felt.

I also traveled outstation to attend a cousin’s wedding few months after my separation. I was dreading the occasion because it would be the first wedding in the family after mine. And yet, I did not want to miss it because it was a very dear cousin. I put on a brave face and told myself that I could not stop meeting the numerous people who loved me because of one worthless person from my past who did not.

I was surprised to see how much I enjoyed that wedding! I would not say that I was not reminded of my own, but the reminiscence of some bad memories was miniscule compared to the countless beautiful memories that I created during that trip. The late night conversations with cousins who I was meeting after years, the dressing-up in colorful saris and jewelry, watching little nieces and nephews and drunk old uncles all shake their legs to the catchy Punjabi numbers, everything was completely worth it.

While some experiences have turned out to be surprisingly fun, others have also turned to be depressing. Talking to some people always triggers negativity and hopelessness. Initially, I tried to appreciate their good intentions and stayed in touch. But after a point, I realized that it is okay to cut people out of my life who have been making me feel unhappy. We continue to seek new and meaningful friendships. But is equally important to get rid of the toxic ones.

Yes, some days did pinch. Friends and younger siblings getting married. Couples from peer groups celebrating anniversaries, getting pregnant and having children. They were all reminders that the world was going on, despite my life being stagnated (temporarily). It’s not like I was not happy for them. They were with me through the best and the worst of times and I genuinely wished them well. It is difficult to comprehend such feelings and I felt guilty for feeling sad while others were moving on with their lives. On such days, I let myself acknowledge my feelings instead of denying them. It is okay to feel fearful of the uncertain future. I need not be a super woman. Everybody feels low about something at some point. As long as the feelings are temporary, it is perfectly natural.

The next obvious step, after getting out of my shell and socializing was the decision to date. A lot of divorced people I met swore to be so scarred that they had decided to shun relationships completely. Atleast for some time. I was being judged if I admitted that I wanted companionship and had not lost my faith in love and marriage yet. How could I be ready to give love another chance already?

Dating was also tricky because I felt that potential boyfriends perceived me as a lonely, desperate, vulnerable yet experienced prey. Let me clarify that this is not something they told me. Neither did they behave in a way that made me feel like that. This is something I thought they would feel. Of course, some regressive men probably do think like that. Chances are such men have very low respect for any woman. But that should be their problem, not mine. Why should I hold myself back?

Whether it was the outstation wedding or dating, I did not know how I would feel and assumed things. That is another problem with divorce in India. Nobody talks about it, nobody shares how they feel. Families also have no point of reference to deal with such a situation. The actual experiences that I have had infact have turned out to be pleasant, contrary to my anticipation.

I have discovered that unless I stopped pitying myself, the society would not. I became willing and open to explore. Once I started respecting myself and my choices, the universe accepted and cooperated as well. While I do encourage dating after divorce and to not be bitter about the past, I have also learnt that I do not need a man to complete me. The very expectation is flawed. There are many facets to my life -my family, my social circles, my career, my hobbies and interests that all contribute to my happiness. Relationships could be one of them. But I should never believe that a partner would equate to all of that. Pursuit of personal goals is essential, rather than seeking love as a prerequisite for happiness. I would like to get my own life first, and then share it, with somebody who is worthy of it.

Originally published at www.womensweb.in on January 13, 2016.

Divorced At 25: How I Rebuilt My Life And Triumphed

I have read so many articles and watched so many movies that revolve around the idea of “turning 30!” These listicles on social media enumerate “10 things to be done before you turn 30,” with high definition glamourous pictures. The “to do” list includes traveling around the globe, having worthy sexual encounters, discovering your passion and other exciting things that make your life worthwhile. The other kind of “turning 30” stories revolve around the tragedy of still being single at 30. Remember the episode of Rachel’s 30th birthday from Friends?

And then there are some like me who have been divorced by the time we were 30. My marriage only lasted for 6 months, after an even shorter courtship (and yes, arranged marriages still happen in India). The dissolution of the same took one and a half years. And all of this was happening when I was about 25, at an age when most of my friends were not even engaged, I had earned the stigma of being a divorcee, a term that I find extremely regressive and judgmental. It is a noun, like man, woman or a porcupine, an inherent definition of who I am, with a strong sense of catastrophic permanence. A more appropriate term would be “divorced,” which is a point in time. Yet, in a country like India, the former is used commonly so as to categorize people who have chosen these socially unacceptable paths.

I had earned the stigma of being a divorcee, a term that I find extremely regressive and judgmental. It is a noun, like man, woman or a porcupine, an inherent definition of who I am, with a strong sense of catastrophic permanence. A more appropriate term would be “divorced,” which is a point in time. Yet, in a country like India, the former is used commonly so as to categorize people who have chosen these socially unacceptable paths.

In my journey, from being newly married to separated to divorced, all within a span of 2 years, I have heard all the following clichés being thrown at me:

“You are too immature, you should not have married so early.” Brutally honest family member.

“I saw it coming. You guys fought in the very honeymoon period.” Former brother-in-law with psychic powers.

“You should give yourself at least 3 years before taking such a decision. Your marriage seems workable.” Well meaning and optimistic marriage counselor.

“You are filing for divorce at such a young age, what do you plan to do with yourself now?” Wise mediator at the court.

I got my chance. I chose to be out of the misery, and out of a potentially ruined life. And today I get to do what I want, to discover who I want to be. It is liberating and exciting.

But this story is not about the not-so-progressive Indian culture, or the world’s perception of me. It is about my triumph. It is about what I have learned from the experience and trust me, I am a more sorted and mature person. And why? Picture this:

You are in a ship alone with a sailor you don’t trust anymore, and the ship has caught fire. You feel trapped. You want to be free. But you are afraid because you don’t know if you will be able to swim to the shore all by yourself. You think about all the things you would want to do with your life once you are out of here. If only you could escape! One chance…

I got my chance. I chose to be out of the misery, and out of a potentially ruined life. And today I get to do what I want, to discover who I want to be. It is liberating and exciting.

Today I know myself so much better. I know what kind of people I do not wish to be with, the kinds who have violated my principles, and I avoid them. I know who are my true friends, because they were with me, amidst all my mood swings, confusion and loss of direction. I have made new friends, who have liked me as a person, and have not let the failure of one relationship define me. I have the support of a loving family, although I live alone. I forgot to mention, I had moved to this unknown city, after my marriage and I chose to continue living here. No, it does not bring bad memories.

It is here that I learnt to drive, travel and explore new places. I developed new hobbies like Zumba. I became more open to taking risks, because I know that even if my dream castle breaks as easily as a pack of cards, I will be able to survive and rebuild it. I am not protected anymore. I am strong as a rock. I don’t depend on anybody and especially not for my happiness.

I became more open to taking risks, because I know that even if my dream castle breaks as easily as a pack of cards, I will be able to survive and rebuild it. I am not protected anymore. I am strong as a rock. I don’t depend on anybody and especially not for my happiness.

I write. I write a lot. I would have never had the confidence of sharing a personal story 3 years ago. Today, I do. I could hide from the world. Or I could share what I learned.

I am not trying to advocate divorce as a new age liberation, or the instant solution for bad marriages, or the path to self-discovery, or a blessing in disguise. I don’t even know if I have the power to influence or curate anybody else’s life. All I am staying is that if you have found your reason to opt out of matrimony, don’t be afraid. You survived the wound, you will survive the healing as well.

Originally published at www.womensweb.in on October 19, 2015.

Being divorced in India

I was waiting in a queue at the passport office. The Officer at the counter glanced at my form, and circled the most vital piece of my identity: “Divorce!” he exclaimed. “I want to see the divorce papers.” He demanded. I complied, directing him to the page of the order, while he sneaked through the pages with the mediation report and other parts of my personal life I would have rather buried.

You remarrying?” He asked.

Had I not planned that vacation in Singapore the following month, I would not have entertained his questions. But, desperate for a passport, I gratified his curiosity. “No”, I replied.

He probably thought that I was trying to regain my lost social repute by remarrying, my ultimate redemption. Why else would a divorcee want a passport in tatkaal (emergency) anyway?

It is amazing how in a country like India, a very short-lived marriage of few months or even few days earns you a heavy-burden of a lifetime label: “Divorcee”. I could never comprehend that term. It is a noun: like man, woman, cat, elephant.

I am a woman…I am an Indian…I am a teacher… I am a divorcee!

It has an inherent definition of who I am, with catastrophic permanence. Was I born a divorcee? Will my grave read, “The divorcee?”

But ofcourse, we are so obsessed with marriage, how can we accept its termination! I remember an episode of Satyamev Jayate where a homosexual person narrated his horrified parents’ reaction upon his revelation:

“Who will marry you?”

In India, since birth, every decision strategically revolves around marriage. A girl is born. Father starts depositing money in FDs for her marriage. A boy is forced to be an engineer, so that he gets a handsome salary (and a good wife). A girl’s “honour”, her most prized possession, is safeguarded from rumored affairs to hidden cameras in the trial-room — all to attain the prime objective and purpose of life, and validation of one’s existence — Marriage.

What is even more ridiculous, is that a wedding is given more importance than marriage itself. Remember what the lawyer outside the court tells Manu Sharma’s character in Tanu weds Manu Returns:

Shadi-biyah ka khel mehanga khel hai. Divorce ka kya hai — 50 Rupaye mein paper ban jayega.”

Similar sentiments were echoed by my lawyer as well, and other custodians of society: “Are you sure you want a divorce, your father had spent a lot of money on the wedding!”

Yes, I am sure that I have made the right decision. Money can come back. My life won’t. My youth can’t. I know that many find me ‘tainted’. So be it. I am blessed that their very reactions condemn them. They spare me the time and energy of getting to know them. They give away their mentality, instantly. And it is worthless.

They frown upon the rising divorce rates in western countries, and boast of how our wonderful culture still binds together people in holy matrimony? Is this statistics really something to be so proud of? It’s not like we are in Denmark — The world’s happiest nation as per the UN’s World Happiness Report 2015!

Speaking of statistics, I am not even quoting the cases of domestic violence, dowry deaths, forced abortions, marital rape, abandonment, adultery, and other atrocities that people suffer in bad marriages. Why should anybody need to justify that they were victims of the former list of acceptable grounds of divorce?

Why can’t we be progressive enough to accept that sometimes two people, even good people can just somehow not build a good life together, and in such a scenario it is best to part ways, rather than sentence themselves to infinite misery? Do we not have the right to make a choice for our own life, peace and happiness?

Infact, the stigma attached to divorce is so horrible in India that there are separate matrimonial sites for divorced people, who are outcastes from the discriminatory mainstream marriage market. As the well-meaning Shukla aunty summarised to me with much sympathy and consolation, “You will find somebody else, but not a “fresh” guy!”

Am I stale? Like a perishable, used, food product? Does one failed relationship define my character? My existence? My life?

No wonder many divorced people’s matrimonial profiles describe them as “Innocent divorcees”.

As opposed to what — Guilty divorcees?

Am I guilty? Because I violated the sacred institution of marriage and disembarked from the very social fabric of society?

An online article from a leading newspaper reads as follows:

“Marrying a divorcee is a tough proposition, but does it always conclude in bitterness? In a marriage where one or both partners are divorced, the couple has to deal with blame games, suspicion and contempt.”

I would like to ask this relationship coach:

When marrying a non-divorcee, do you know everything about that person? They could be liars, cheaters, bullies, abusers or worse. They could have committed other sins. Sins more serious than unsuccessful previous marriages.

You would not know. You do not know the past, or the future of your partner in any relationship. You just know that you like them in the present and go ahead with that conviction. But just because you know that somebody has been divorced, does that give you the right to judge them, mistrust their past and be skeptical of their future?

It is not the divorce that is shameful, but the burden to live in a detrimental marriage for fear of society –

Till death do us apart…

Author’s Note

“Divorce isn’t such a tragedy. A tragedy’s staying in an unhappy marriage…” — Jennifer Weiner.


Originally published at akkarbakkar.com on October 20, 2015.