I have have a faint memory of Rina’s wedding(who is my second cousin) around 18 years back. She is 38 today and was married off at the tender age of 20. It was fixed in a typical set up where boy’s family visits girl’s place parents talk and decide things. The couple didn’t even have a conversation about anything at all and simply obliged to their parents wishes. It was a jolly wedding, full of laughter and ceremonies. Not long after the wedding friction started between my sister and her husband. Her primary complaints were that he wasn’t earning anything, used to go to some pandits and black magic experts who were supposed to solve his problems and that the home environment was way too restrictive. He was never physically abusive but my sister felt emotional abuse plenty. This went on for around 2 years and it was never a happy marriage, there was no baby till then so eyebrows started raising. The boys family got her to visit plenty of gynecologists. She had to undergo endoscopy and plenty of other tests. Mostly she was healthy and whatever small deficiencies showed up were being treated with supplements. She had an idea that she wasn’t responsible for not being able to bear a child and suggested that her husband also goes for the tests which was opposed at first. Everyone had just assumed that if there is no child then she has  problem. She still insisted and got her husband to take the tests. It turned out that he was impotent.

Despite this shock and initial friction Rina decided to take help of modern medical science and considered her options via surrogacy and test tube baby. Despite all this she felt that all accusing fingers are pointing at her and one fine day decided to call it quits. She was living in her uncle’s house at that time(her birth parents never took care of her and she had spent her childhood and pre-marital life at her uncle’s place only). Her husband came to the uncle’s place to push her to return but she had made up her mind by now. If only it were that simple. The court case went on for about 14 years in Indian court and the husband wanted to prevent her to remarry so he didn’t agree for divorce and kept dragging the case. It was typical tareeq par tareeq(getting court dates repeatedly with no end in sight). 

She told her husband that she doesn’t want a single penny and is even willing to give him some money as remuneration if he just agrees for a expediting the process. Nothing helped , finally when she was free for the legal battle she was 34 and still living at her uncle’s place. She has tolerated numerous taunts for the step which she took and to add salt to wound , the moment her divorce was final her parents started forcing her to remarry to “save their honor”. She did not check up on her all this while and sprung into action now. One day she did say,” Now I am very sick and have a poor health in general, I no longer have the desire or courage to marry someone who already has kids and will expect me to take care of household work and kids both”. Her parents even invited a match for her and warned her to “not reveal her health conditions to them”. She went ahead and told them anyway.

Today she lives with her relatives only(not parents) and is working to rebuild her life with a teaching profession. My whole point of this post is only this that it didn’t have to be this way. If a woman decides to end her marriage in India, its as if the whole society stacks the odds very high against her making the choice all the more difficult. Even the legal structure is against it. Instead we should be building a support structure of such non working women who can rebuild their lives after taking such a difficult and tiring step.

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Sonia Kataria

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