The 10 Commandments for the Divorced Indian Woman


The 10 Commandments for the Divorced Indian Woman

Illustration: Shruti Yatam

Every 20-something Indian can tell you of the pain that comes with being single. “Shaadi kab karni hai?” is every parent’s clarion call because of a fear that their progeny might run out of time and never procreate. Or worse, seek sex and happiness in friends and casual partners. The Indian version of Maslow’s Pyramid has a fourth level at its base that reads “Marriage and children”. You could be starving, penniless, and living from hand to mouth, but you always need a spouse to command some social credibility. Your mind, heart, achievements, nothing matters. Someone’s need to want you in their lives and bank account will determine the respect you command.

The Cambridge English Dictionary defines a divorce as “an official or legal process to end a marriage”. Very simple, no hidden clauses. The reality, however, is a set of Russian Matryoshka dolls designed to confuse and harass even the most patient people. Every time you think you have unearthed the final layer, there is another layer waiting to be discovered,  only to destroy your sanity yet again. A divorce is messy even if it is mutual; it becomes its own heady cocktail of mad rage, weird customs, misplaced righteousness, and tunnel-vision perspectives when you add family, friends, and social customs to the mix.

As with every change, the crumbling institution of marriage has opened up a new debate in every family court in India: What are the rules for a divorced Indian woman? Lord knows, single women have it tough with the constant policing. But the voice of the divorced Indian woman remains mysteriously silent. A look across popular Indian social media pages reveals trends – the mother is the holy cow, the wife is a witch or Maa Sita (depending on the page you are on), the sister is a cuddly cushion, and the divorced woman is a ghost. She doesn’t exist in the popular narrative. In this scenario, what are the rules of engagement? What are the goals? Ladies and gentlemen, presenting the 10 (Unsaid) Commandments for the Divorced Indian Woman:

1. Thou Shalt Avoid the Ex like a Plague

Every time you bump into your ex, the room will fill with an awkward silence and perverse glee, much like a teenage boy who has stumbled upon porn for the first time. Nobody wants to watch but it’s so hard to not look. If you want to meet other humans without making them nervous about your life decisions, avoid the ex like a plague.

2. Thou Shan’t Dream of Dating Other Men Casually

Even in the age of Tinder, a divorced woman cannot dream of letting anyone know she’s casually dating and not looking for the next swayamwar. Meeting men alone even for work will now be classified as hooking-up opportunities. If you want to go out and explore the world, you do it in private. You never know who might be stalking you.

3. Thou Shan’t Bump Uglies

Your gynaecologist will still pretend like you don’t need cervical shots or a monthly map to keep the uterus functioning normally. It is taken for granted that your sex life will be nil from this point onward.

4. Thou Shalt Make Moping Your Daily Job

A divorcee is not a good divorcee unless she hasn’t broken down a couple of times in public. If you don’t mope and fit into the definition of a victim, are you even divorced? “Channa Mereya” was written for you: Rant, scream, cry, make your ex look colder than the Arctic but for God’s sake, don’t look upbeat.

5. Thou Shalt Make Everyone’s Opinion Your Priority

“Log kya kahenge, beta?” Your happiness will always be the sum total of other people’s expectations and desires of how your life must look. Your opinion didn’t matter to your ex-husband and it won’t matter to anyone now either.

6. Thou Shalt Rush into Your Next Marriage

Women in India come with an expiry date. There’s an age until she’s a catch, later she’s simply suitable, but eventually she turns into an adjustment. Divorced women come below that last level. So, if a man is nice enough to want to marry you, it doesn’t matter if you even want marriage or want to conquer the Everest. You are getting married.

7. Thou Shan’t Possess a Mind or a Tongue

You will never fully be a part of your family to have a say in family matters, but are not even considered “outsider enough” to make your own life choices. The only way to go about it is to not possess a mind that can think or a tongue sharper than glass.

8. Thou Shan’t Be a Gleeful Divorcee

You can’t be happy about your divorce; the element of heartbroken, moping behaviour must be present at all times. If you are happy about leaving that spendthrift, cheating, manipulative, abusive other half, keep it to yourself. Being happy is not everyone’s aspiration in life, especially in a society where “settled” is the ultimate status symbol.

9. Thou Shan’t Be a Witch to Protect Your Happiness

You can never, ever cut off your toxic friends and family to protect your happiness. Emotional manipulation in the form of, “We supported you when you needed us,” can and will definitely be used against you. Calm the truthful woke witch down.

10. Thou Shalt Accept Every Rude Analogy Nicely

We all know that one person who will call a divorced woman a second-hand car. And, since our mythology only hints at women as sacrificial beasts at the altar of family values and sanskaar, the divorced woman will often be lumped together with the widows. Welcome to the modern-age half-widow.

Try and join this party, eh?