What I Learnt Being Indian, 25 And Divorced
I had the picture-perfect Indian wedding. An arranged marriage with an NRI guy whom I’d known since I was young; his parents proposed to mine in an email. Exactly what every girl dreams of.
The wedding was a big, shiny affair as all Indian weddings must be. Hundreds of people, four ‘costume changes’ for the bride and rituals spread out over ten days.
At the time, I didn’t think anything could be a more tedious and lengthy affair than a wedding. That is, until I got divorced.
The divorce took a year, a whole tree worth of paperwork and a lot of complicated legal jargon that I pretended to understand in front of my lawyer. But what I dreaded more than getting legally separated from my husband was what was to come after that.
I knew I had to come back to India and face all the people I’d left behind four years earlier. I had no idea how I was supposed to act or what to say to people I hadn’t seen since my wedding day. My biggest fear was I would be looked at differently by the people I once knew and loved. That I would be the typical, soap opera outcast.
Of course, that wasn’t the case. I wasn’t shunned from the minute I stepped off the plane. People didn’t point and stare at the imaginary, big, red stamp on my forehead that said ‘DIVORCED’... though I did get a lot of quick glances looking for the sindoor, mangalsutra, bangles, ring and other symbols of marriage.
I discovered people go through different stages when they hear of my legal break up.
First comes shock.
That is quickly followed by pointed, sometimes invasive questions. “Omg what happened?” “But you guys looked so perfect together on Facebook!” “Was he abusive?” “Are your parents supportive?”
And finally, when they get all their answers, comes the proclamation. “Good you got out of it yaar.” “Thank God you didn’t have kids!” “I never liked the match, I just couldn't tell you back then.” “Now just forget about it and move on.”
Adults (I still don’t consider anyone under the age of 30 as an adult) give me advice. They are full of stories about their husband’s cousin or niece's friend who’s been divorced and is now happily settled abroad with partner number two. I guess they think they’re giving me hope for my future. They're all focused on finding me another mate. “All is not lost beta.” "You're still young. This is the age when most people are getting married for the first time."
But the biggest thing I’ve learned is that people may or may not judge me for my choices but it doesn’t really matter. I recognize my privilege of course… I know not many women have the same acceptance and there’s still a great deal of stigma attached to divorce.
But I have been lucky in that I eventually just realized people around me don't really care. They may say something mildly offensive or gossip about you to their friends when you’re not around, but it's all idle and empty. After everything, they get on with their lives and you get on Shaadi.com for husband number two. Just kidding. (Not really).