Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Being Indian: Divorce

“My parents are divorced”
“Oh I'm so sorry to hear that”
The story of my life. Everybody is sorry to hear that my parents are divorced but they don't bother to imagine what life was like before that or what lead to it. People don't usually get divorced for no reason or selfish reasons (which I will discuss in future), especially when their children are in their late twenties and early thirties. Today, in conversation, a friend of mine said “Obviously you would have gotten over it by now!”

It's true I am definitely over it. But not only because it was a sad or bad experience in my life but because having been in relationships myself I can understand that it may not always work between two people. Especially if they have been given the permission to marry after their sun signs have been matched. Here, in India, it is imperative that the stars pronounce you married regardless of whether you're ready for the responsibility or not. Why, even in Mumbai, you are responsible to marry by 18 or 21 but responsible to drink only by 25. Why do we look at marriage as such a simple threshold to cross while it is in fact such a humongous responsibility?

I'm not a fan of arranged marriage. The legal binding of two people for life, normally decided by stars light years away. The story of one of my uncles goes like this. He fell in love with a woman and asked her to marry him. She said yes. After this, he went to his parents with her horoscope and they said “If you've already said yes then why check the horoscope?” But not everyone is that lucky. And so my sister and I are now children of divorced parents.

Yes, growing up at one time was tough. Yes, there were times I felt like I was the parent with two children (my parents). But I realized that the decision was good for all of us and once the dust had settled, we really started to look like a family again, even if it was a dysfunctional one. The point is that there is a social stigma attached to divorce and those with divorced parents. What with the Delhi police making an assumption that we will go wayward and therefore asked to be raped?

The recycling guy down the road asks every time he comes home to pick up the newspapers, “Aunty yelli (Where is aunty)?” I can never bring myself to tell him the truth, so I say “Oor ge hogidare (she is out of town).” I am scared of the very same reaction that the Delhi police had.

I had heard of divorce before it hit my family. I thought of it as common. But after having gone through it, I realized that it wasn't that common. I may not feel the need to think twice before telling people that my parents are divorced. But they need to think a few times before they can respond to it. Even if I'm okay with them just not having a response. Or even joking with it saying “Explains why you're so bad with relationships!” No, I have never had that response, but it sure would give me a good laugh.

People sometimes like to give me some comfort and say “We also went through the same thing, but just that our parents never got divorced. I know what you went through.” Recently, I took a friend up on this just to see what they meant. He said his parents too had problems. A bunch of questions followed.

“Did you ever ask them if they were happy?”

“Did you ever talk to your sister about it?”

All of the responses were negative. Well, then I'm sorry but you don't know what I went through. The journey to now was hard. It was bitter. It involved a lot of soaked up tissues. It involved a lot of messed up conversations and even a plate flying across the room. But it ended for the best.

Being a child of divorced parents, I can honestly say that divorce, as much as it is in the papers, on TV, in the movies and more is still a rare event. One that calls for a lot of sympathy and a lot of unnecessary pity. Yes, my parents are probably more liberal than yours because they have had to face the stigma of being divorced. And there is a section of society that still doesn't understand what being divorced means. I recently had to explain to a saleswoman that we do not need a romantic holiday for two (which you can only avail if you're married) because I am single and my parents are divorced. She asked about three times after that because she just didn't get it.

Divorce is not a bad thing. It may require years of thinking but in the end it can be fruitful. I see posts on Facebook that show two old people holding hands saying “In our time, if things went wrong we fixed them.” This just makes me realize how regressive even young minds are about divorce. Statistics show that children of divorced parents are more likely to get divorced themselves. Does marriage petrify me? Certainly. I will probably think a million times before I commit to someone on a long term basis. Do I think divorce a convenient way out of a bad situation? No. I would rather spend a whole lot more time making a decision about the enormous responsibility of marriage than spend time later worrying if I need a divorce.

As a child of divorced parents, have I lost faith in the institution? To a certain degree, I do believe the institution of marriage is a meaningless invention. And I would certainly not choose it at this point or in the near future. But it has worked for some people and is working for several friends of mine. Marriage is a personal choice; it is a huge responsibility that will affect you and your future offspring. If you do decide to take it, give it your best. But, in the end if the institution is making either of you unhappy beyond repair, there is no harm in getting a divorce.

When my parents were about to get separated, my friends assured me that it was a passing phase and that all marriages had problems. Nobody geared me up for the divorce that was coming. And I wish they had. It took me a lot longer to accept that it is okay for my parents to get a divorce than to accept that my parents were unhappy. I just don't get the logic. First we match people up based on the sky and then we look down on those marriages that didn't work. I, for one have no pressure to get married and I am lucky. But it's high time we stopped looking at getting married as just another milestone in life. Think a million times before you tie the knot. And double that before you plan a family. With that big fat wedding, comes great responsibility.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for writing this. It's always good to meet someone from the club. :)

    Often, when I tell someone new, the response I get - "Is there any way to patch them back together?" Lol. Then I have to explain that this is really a much happier situation. Really.

    Also. Recently (since I am open to arranged marriage), a proposal boy said to me that he wondered if this meant that I would look at divorce as an easy exit. Nonsense.

    Keep writing. This blog resonates with so many people. Thank you for expressing what we think and feel and never have the time/guts to say.