By: Shephali Bhatt
“DIVORCE IS FFFFFINAL,” wrote Shasvathi Siva on her Facebook timeline three days ago. It was a celebration in upper case. The 27-year-old entrepreneur from Mumbai wanted to highlight her excitement and relief.
The Ahmedabad-based journalist created a spoken-word poetry video in which she expressed her desire to help her mother get a divorce and start life afresh.
Sonaiya hails from the small town of Jamkhambhaliya in Gujarat’s Devbhoomi Dwarka district. Divorce is unheard of in her part of the world. Her poem — Second Innings — didn’t go down well with most of her extended family members. “But the response I got from friends, who had no clue about this part of my life, was overwhelming.
So many of them shared similar stories from their households and offered legal and emotional support.” (Disclaimer: Sonaiya works as a journalist with the Times Group, the publisher of ET Magazine.) Inspiration from others is a common thread among these stories. And talking, it seems, was the first step towards normalising divorce for many.
Last month, comedian Kaneez Surka did a set where she talked about how her divorce pushed her to pursue comedy as a full-fledged career eight years . It was a hobby until then. “When you’re single, people make you feel like you’re not a full person. As soon as you’re married, all your actions are validated. When you get divorced, they make you feel invalid again,” she says. To counter that, she focused on rising in her field of work. Instead of hiding her divorced status, she chose to speak about it in media interactions and often used it as material for standup comedy
“I don’t like to harp on my divorce like that is the only thing that defines me. But it was a turning point in my life and I think that is a great story to tell,” says the 35-year-old who grew up in South Africa before moving to Mumbai a decade ago. The more Surka talked about her divorce, the lesser it shamed her.
Neha Vyas channels her thoughts through poetry. The Mumbai-based theatre artist recites her verses around her divorce at open mic events. She is now working on a short film that talks about how it is okay to walk out of a bad marriage. “Taking charge of your own happiness is far more important than destigmatising divorce,” she says
Will I be able to attend every parent-teacher meeting? I realised I will have to put my foot down instead of letting them walk all over me.”She told the school authorities she will admit her son only if they cooperate with a single mother and not the other way around. Eventually, the school came around. “Kabir,” she mentions in passing, “is my son’s name.”
The notion that only someone else can be your “better half” has to be rectified, says Pompy Gohain, a Kolkata-based HR professional. “A friend recently told me that my attitude towards life gave her the strength to come out of her second unhappy marriage.”
Despite what trends show on social networking sites, talking about divorces openly is confined to certain pockets. There is hardly any creative work from India that fights the stigma around divorce head-on. Why? “Maybe because marketers think the audience size is too small,” says Babita Baruah, managing partner of GTB India, a WPP group company. She reasons that this type of communication won’t be meant for divorcees but for those who didn’t take a step to get out of unhappy marriages because of familial or societal pressure. “And that’s a huge number.”
Baruah went through a divorce in 2010 and remarried only a few years ago. A lot has changed in the last nine years, she says.
“For four years after my divorce, I would avoid conversations around my marital status.” Now, she runs a support group called DivorceConsult for women who may require legal assistance. Every little effort counts, she adds.