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…
“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.