Why Does India Have the Lowest Divorce Rate in the World? Because Log Kya Kahenge

Social Commentary

Why Does India Have the Lowest Divorce Rate in the World? Because Log Kya Kahenge

Illustration: Shruti Yatam


Why do most Indians pronounce divorce as “die-vorce”? Divorce is not just the death of a marriage but your passing away as the upholder of a family’s honour. It is the demise of a life your friends and relatives had envisioned for you while wolfing down kiwi halwa mousse at one of the 35 wedding ceremonies your mommy and daddy had hosted. Yet you chose to disappoint them by walking out of a marriage that made hell look like a picnic? How dare you?

If you are a adarsh enough Indian, you got to make a miserable marriage last. Because pati = parameshwar and pita = bhagwan and you can’t piss off these earthly Gods, can you? Of course, the onus to make the marriage work lies on the woman. What else were they born for? Like an ideal child you continue making your parent unit’s chest swell with pride by suffering silently. How can you walk out of this “atoot bandhan”, after lakhs were spent on the lavish staged spectacle (and the dowry… I mean the Audi “gifted” to the jamai raja)? So, for the their benefit you and your spouse will continue to stick together like glue even though you spend most of your free time plotting fun ways to kill each other.

Is it a surprise then, that in a report by United Lawyers, India topped the charts with the lowest divorce rate of any nation in the world at just one per cent? This glorious achievement could not have been possible without the steady support of “log kya kahenge” (LOKK).

For us “log kya kahenge” takes precedence over marital happiness. In fact, it is nearly everyone’s favourite reason to get married. “Fear of what others will say” is a helpful guide in making choices that are wrong 99.9 per cent of the times. But hey, who cares when it has high approval ratings from fam and friends! Later when we are in a pool of misery, at least we’ll have others to blame and not us.

Divorce is not just the death of a marriage but your passing away as the upholder of a family’s honour.

LOKK is the dull ache that keeps mothers awake all night when their adult child is happier pursuing a career than a life mate. LOKK doesn’t even bat its eyes when a girl who put nearly six years of her life and many gruelling hours to become a doctor chooses to become someone’s trophy wife instead. Perhaps she was told by “others” that girls who become too accomplished are considered unsuitable in a marriage market that seeks educated but homely brides. God forbid if she chooses to remain single, she has enrolled herself and her family for a lifetime supply of unsolicited advice and sympathy.

This mass entity called “others” that always has a clear idea on how we should be leading our lives and never shies away from sharing it, will transform into a non-interfering Yoda when it hears the woman’s screams from the next apartment and sees angry bruises on her face and body the next morning. The recipe-sharing and “beta, tumhare pass extra cylinder hai” aunty will turn into a hostile stranger when the same woman throws her alcoholic husband out of the house.

Yet even financially and emotionally independent women choose to stay on in stifling relationships. Because once she is no longer the “property” of another man, preying men will see her as an easy target. However, if she gathers the courage to walk out of a marriage (hai besharam!) and manages a hefty alimony from the divorce settlement, be rest assured she will be labelled a gold digger.

Now let’s look at the remaining 99 per cent of marriages that are upholding the glorious Indian tradition of “hum saath saath hain”. Presenting Exhibit A who claims to be so happily married that his marital bliss is his neighbour’s envy. He tells you his life is peachy because he hasn’t cooked a single meal in his life and his wife is such a catch because she not only cuts his parents’ toenails but his as well. I am sure it is her choice that she keeps her husband satisfied by fulfilling her duties as maid, nurse, and cook.

How insolent of women to be the ones setting the terms and conditions in a marriage!

Exhibit B, a young boy who is about to get married wears a perpetually martyred expression because his MIL told him that her daughter is perfect except she can’t get up in the morning and can’t cook. Exhibit C, the fully-grown man who complains that his wife had the audacity to cook him poha for breakfast on her day off from work.

A typical Indian male gets married so that he can finally claim to have found the perfect woman who will be happy to spend the rest her life in servitude of his family and will laugh hysterically at his “my wife is a shrew” jokes. A typical Indian woman’s idea of a happy marriage is even more evolved. She makes you wish the ground under your feet splits wide open to swallow you when she brags she’s free to do whatever her husband wants.

Of course, a married woman can pursue her ambitions but there are a few riders: A well-stocked pantry, hot rotis for dinner, and kids who ace their exams. Because at the end of the day when she’s nursing a splitting headache, an aching back and wondering why her life sucks so much, all she needs is her “multi-tasking diva” crown to hug and cry herself to sleep.  

But we got to watch out, our reputation is at stake. I often hear men complain about the deteriorating quality of women who would rather go out for a drink with their friends than cook a three-course meal for dinner. How insolent of women to be the ones setting the terms and conditions in a marriage! To add insult to injury they expect their in-laws to cut their own toenails.

We wear the one per cent divorce rate as a badge of honour. Our girls are so sanskari that they’d rather kill themselves than get divorced – sorry, “die-vorce”.