The Great Indian Divorce Brigade

Vandana Shah
Dec 30, 2016 · 3 min read

How Aunties breakup your marriage in India

Indian Aunty getting ready to destroy a marriage

Is divorce contagious?If you are to believe my mother’s sister, her daughter, their daughter’s sister-in-law, their sister-in-law’s cousin, their aunty from the village and well, her grandmother’s uncle. As marriages in India dominate our subconscious, you are constantly evaluated by the ‘marriage you make’ and the most stringent evaluators are your ‘beloved relatives’.

They are the ones who wield the power to arrange the marriage between the bride and the groom in every sense of the word right from the customs and rituals to be followed to the money and gifts to be exchanged between the two families. So it’s not surprising that they easily slip into the same role in a divorce. In fact, since they have been an integral part of the marriage they feel the same sense of entitlement to assume a magnified role even in the divorce. It is quite common to see the relatives accompany the litigants for a legal consultation and even accompany them to the Family Court. The reason for accompanying them is quite clear-emotional and moral support –but what is left unspoken is- to also call the shots in the divorce as in the marriage.

It’s not uncommon to see the relatives air their views about the way the case is progressing, what the other side’s spouse ought to offer as a settlement figure as alimony, what should be the role of the warring spouses as parents. If it was limited to airing their views it would be fine but the shocking truth is that they actually enforce their views on the way a divorce proceeds in court. All this of course done outside the legal purview but their influence is almost a stranglehold on the divorce proceedings in court.

Relatives may ‘make a marriage’ but they also cause a divorce’. For someone who hasn’t grown up in India,it is difficult to fathom how ‘a relative’ can actually break up a marriage, but almost every Indian knows that behind the ‘happy aunty’ façade lurks a plotting politician whose underhand tactics would put Machiavelli to shame. The machination is so ingrained in their nature that it’s almost like a reflex reaction. The sad part is that these supposedly harmless happy aunts are the ones who cause or engineer or contribute to the breakup of a marriage and add fuel to the fire even in the divorce.

As they did in mine.

Why do we let them do it? In my case, I didn’t grasp the hidden meaning behind their well-intentioned advice which was actually a veiled barb at my husband (now my ex-) his family or their various quirks. I still don’t, but now I’ve become smart, I guess a broken marriage does cure you of your dumbness, and stay away from their advice,comments,opinions,recommendations,guidance about the way to live my life. Our social fabric may bind us and our blood may relate us but nothing compels me anymore to let relatives be the guiding light in my life. The ethos of the country is such that we may never be able to turn around and tell our relatives to completely back off from our lives because ‘hey, we are still in India’ where our social fibres still dictate the way we live our life. Whether we like it or not relatives will continue to be a part of our lives –married, divorce, in sickness and in health till death do us apart.

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