Sugar And Spouse
The other day the man came home. “So now you are married, and I am a bachelor! Ha! Ha! Ha!” I don’t know whether his laughter was tinged with bitterness or relief, but I could not help being amazed at the games fate can play. Today I have a wife by my side, while he is alone. The subjects of conversation remain the same — existence of God, movies, people and places — except for an addition: his sudden divorce. I had worshipped their togetherness for six years, but their divorce came through in precisely six months.
If it can happen to them, it can happen to anybody. And it is happening. I am not sure about the figures, but I am told that in Chennai alone, there were over 3000 divorces in 2005. And in 2006, the number of cases crossed the 3000-mark by the middle of the year. Why?
Getting a divorce is not easy. In the court, your (as in you and the spouse) name is first called out so that the judge is sure you are present. Then you are asked to wait. Imagine two people, hitherto partners in life, in bed and in everything else, sitting separately and killing time. Then the judge calls you in, and if the divorce is sought by mutual consent, he gives you six months’ waiting period. If it is not by mutual consent, then you might just as well join a course in the Art of Waiting. For the moment let’s stick to couples that fall in love and get married and then get divorced by mutual consent — as has happened in the case of my friend.
In the beginning they wait interminably in bus-stops, bookshops and cafes for their loved ones to appear. “Oh darling, I am so sorry, did I keep you waiting for long?” And then the coffee and/or the movie and/or the holding of hands. The desire is single and simple: When can we start living together forever!
And then they wait in the courts — the mission is single and simple: When can I get out of this marriage! So what is it that changes overnight? Perhaps the change in perception. Things that appear cute and adorable during courtship tend to become irritating and unbearable after marriage. Ego then lights a fire and impulse adds fuel to it. Finally, the fire goes on to burn the strongest thread of marriage: tolerance. Gone are the days when tolerance was expected only out of the woman, who would seek to save her marriage even at the cost of her dignity. She would be haunted by uncomfortable questions: “Where will I go?” “Who will feed me?” “What will people say?”
Today’s woman usually finds the answers before taking a question mark-raising step. And that’s bad news for men who think they can still ape their fathers and grandfathers, and it’s bad news for the institution of marriage. If two people can wait for and woo each other for years just because they can get married, why do they need to wait for hours in courts to get divorced? Surely they had liked something about each other, and that is why they had decided to get married in the first place. So while waiting in court, can’t they draw a mental list of the things they liked about each other? Or try to remember the first time they had met? Or the very first time they had made love?
Marriage doesn’t come with a warranty card: it is a commodity you buy purely on trust, like you buy a book. You can’t discard it just because you don’t like it beyond three chapters. Who knows, the fifth chapter could be interesting and the sixth even more? Coming from someone who has been married barely for seven months, all this might sound presumptuous, perhaps even hollow. But let me tell you, I take great care of my books once I’ve bought them — no matter if they are disappointing in places.
(Published on 30 November 2006)