My pals Shivani and Shekhar got divorced recently. (Divorce, usually pronounced, ‘die-vorce’ in our city).
Shekhar is a ranter, “Oh man, to be a divorcee in Bombay. You think small mindedness resides in our small towns. Bombay, man, think of repression, regression and ridiculousness of the highest order.
Starting with the Family Court in Bandra Kurla. What a monumental disaster! At least the Brits gave us some some Gothic magnificence, with the Supreme and Small Causes courts — it’s like with the Family Court, some junkie architecture college drop out built it — his brief — ‘Married couples are splitting up, high emotional trauma, so let’s make this building as aesthetically traumatic as possible.’ Empty Parle-G packets, and mounds of dust, dating back to Mohenjo-Daro, still not swept, adding to the unpleasantness.
And attitudes towards separation — For some reason people feel they must take sides — they’re unable to objectively accept that two consenting adults decided to call it quits. One life, why endure a lifetime of suffering.
But they will justify their preference — ‘No no I’m siding with Shivani, it’s always tougher for the wife, ya. Men have no feelings, he’ll find some other woman, if he doesn’t already have one. Take it from me.’ Take it from you, who are you, Marjorie Or meets Dr Freud? Divorce is like some transferable disease, like the HIV virus: ‘Stay away from Shekhar, or else you’ll get Divorce Dengue’
And the pretence, the ‘dikhawa’ — in our society, we must keep the notion of matrimonial bliss and ‘happy parivar’ intact, at any cost — for the benefit of the extended family in Ludhiana and the neighbours in Lokhandwala.
So I’m looking at this family, on my daughter’s school open day — The wife, white with anxiety and angst, the husband abusive, the son high on acid, the daughter, anorexic, and they have the gall to judge my singlehood.
In the corridors of my building society, the gossipy whispers ‘You know those people in Flat 63, haan haan Sindhi husband aur Gujarati wife, I heard they are getting (voice lowered, head forward), die-vorced. I always knew, woh aise hi log hai...bahut modern samajte hai, apne aap ko.’
They look at me like I’m from the fifth rung of the caste system — Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas, Shudras and Die-vorcees.
To be pitied, but pushed away for fear of contamination. Divorce just seems to upset some sociological applecart. Like men-women, once they are betrothed. The wedding band is like a chain. Man, try getting a new passport as a divorcee. The double police checks, court verifications, you are a pariah at the passport office, you’re at the top of the queue, the officer will shout, ‘Hey Tawde, woh divorcewala file dena’.
You know, bro, the Madras High Court has decreed that pre-marital sex constitutes marriage. What’ll constitute divorce for them...? Celibacy?”
Rahul da Cunha is an adman, theatre director/playwright, photographer and traveller. Reach him at email@example.com
The views expressed in this column are the individual’s and don’t represent those of the paper.