Divorce Notes from INDIA
The land of no divorce(well almost!)
Last week, a silver Mercedes just parked outside my gate, blocked the entry to my house. On getting down and enquiring about the owner of the car, so that he could move the car, I found an extremely unapologetic belligerent guy, who, instead of moving the car, so that I could enter my own house, insisted on arguing with me about my lack of patience in wanting to get inside my own house. After a brief war of words, he ended the argument by calling me ‘a divorcee’ and I went from a state of shock to raucous laughter. In his own narrow minded world, he had won, by publicly claiming that I was a woman of fallen virtues because I was a divorcee and couldn’t stick with one man. When the divorcee tag is hurled at you like a slur, by a so called hip guy in his 20s, wearing low slung hipsters with the mandatory boxers on display prominently, leaning against his silver Mercedes in Mumbai city-you know that being a divorcee is still a stigma in India.
The rates of divorce in India are on the rise almost 1 in 13,000 in comparison to 1 in 1000 about ten years ago, yet the rates don’t reflect the actual mind-set of people towards divorce. It’s denigrating and condescending towards those going through a divorce and the ones who are married, happily or not, have a superior know-it –all attitude. Worse still, if you don’t want to know about the joys of married life, you are made to feel guilty as though you’re the newcomer in school who doesn’t want to belong to ‘the cool group’. After all, married people are a group unto themselves and have the right to censure you for not continuing to remain married and opting for freedom, oops I meant, divorce.
The reason for going through a divorce must be deep rooted and mysterious to justify the breakdown of a marriage. A simple reason like ‘we outgrew each other’ or ‘can’t get along with each other’ or ‘I married the wrong person’ aren’t reasons acceptable in India-both by society and by law. The law in India does not allow irretrievable breakdown of marriage as one of the reasons for divorce. When the proposal was mooted in the Parliament- it was routed. So the above reasons can be submitted in a petition for divorce, to somehow fit the legal concept of cruelty in a marriage, which is one of the most frequently used legal sections for filing for divorce.
Since divorce is frowned upon so the battle for getting a divorce can take anywhere between 6 months, if you are lucky, to up to 10 years-like it did in my case. During those 10 years I entered the Family Court as a litigant, went on to become a counsellor, and finally studied law to become a divorce lawyer. Somewhere along the way of my personal journey to get a divorce I also started India’s first support group to provide non-judgemental support to those going through divorce and wrote books like 360 degrees back to life-A litigant’s humorous perspective on divorce and Ex-Files-the story of my divorce.
10 years seems so long to be going through a divorce, but those are the realities of divorce in India. It’s a decade in which you go through your ups and downs emotionally, financially and physically. The law provides hope but in India divorce is a socio-legal battle where you are constantly judged and the judgements by those outside law are definitely harsher. After all we are a society in which marriages are celebrated for days and months on end so when a divorce happens your punishment also lasts forever or …. till your next marriage when you have redeemed yourself and your old marriage scars have been Kim Kardashianed-plastic surgeried without a trace.
Till next time…keep living life Queen Size