NewsApp (Free)

Read news as it happens
Download NewsApp

Available on  gplay

Rediff News  All News  » Getahead » 'Marriage, like life, is always complicated'

'Marriage, like life, is always complicated'

Last updated on: February 19, 2014 18:30 IST

'Marriage, like life, is always complicated'


Bhavna Bhavna

Excerpts from The Diary of a Reluctant Feminist Bhavna Bhavna's cheeky-yet-poignant book on getting divorced

Getting married is one thing, staying that way is something else altogether.

And divorce? Ah well, that can be a way more complicated business.

In her first book, The Diary of a Reluctant Feminist, Bhavna Bhavna, documents the journey from being 'good' to being 'divorced' in middle-class India.

We bring you exclusive excerpts from the cheeky yet poignant book.

When I tell you that we are a 'God-fearing' family, what I actually mean is that God is in fact a member of my family.

The only distinction between God and the rest of my family is the fact that God doesn't actually butt in and advise me, but He, like the rest of my family, has to be a part of everything.

He has to be the centre of all attention and my life has to revolve around Him. God spends most of his time watching over me to make sure I don't get into any mischief (also known as fun) and that I have a blamelessly dull and miserable existence.

He is a cross between a protector, a provider, a punisher and an all-seeing, all-knowing person; something like my mother, but with elaborate headgear and props.

Even though I refer to God as a 'Him', in our religion, God is an equal-opportunity employer. In fact our gods of money war and knowledge are all female.

But the God who lives with my family and watches over us, is a right-wing fundamentalist.

You will be happy to know that our friendly neighbourhood God shares the same low opinion on divorce and my struggle for divorce as my parents.

Even though neither God nor my parents will ever buy my 'unhappy marriage' theory, the truth remains that after twelve years of a miserable marriage I had finally had enough and I really, really, really wanted a divorce.


The most important weapon of mass destruction in a parent's 'win every argument and control your children' war is illness; parental illness, that is.

The simple rule is that all illness in India is directly attributable to your children and not due to lifestyle or genes.

In fact, blood pressure can truly be considered to be a gift from the Gods; a handy tool in bringing up your troublesome and wayward kids.

This is why it is the fastest-growing disease in India; blood pressure is not caused by too much salt, too much stress or too much tension, it is caused simply because all patients of elevated blood pressure have children.

In my family, my mother suffers from high blood pressure.

It is obviously genetic as all my mother's siblings suffer from it as well.

Not surprisingly, the onset of the disease in all their cases had coincided with the year their daughters attained puberty.

My father doesn't want to be left out and although he doesn't have a blood pressure problem he nonetheless threatens us with it on a daily basis: 'If you don't listen to me, you will give me blood pressure.'

So every time any of us siblings seems to be winning an argument or isn't listening to the parental high command, out comes my parents' blood pressure machine and an ever-increasing list of medical ailments to bring an abrupt end to all discussions.

Based on the many accusations leveled at me during the numerous 'conversations' I have had with my parents since my separation, I suspect that my parents have a written list of all their medical ailments and problems -- each one attributable to a particular child of theirs.

I somehow think that my parents may consider me to be directly responsible for the largest number of ailments on this list.

Therefore, in all probability, I should assume that the list of assets I am likely to inherit from my parents will be the shortest.

Maybe, all things considered, I should probably consider myself lucky if my parents just leave me their blood pressure machine.

In a way, I do understand my parents being upset with my broken marriage and their extreme reluctance and opposition when I told them that I wanted to get divorced.

As far as my family was concerned, it had taken them so much time and effort to get me married in the first place that a divorce would just wash it all away.

No, I do not lie when I tell you that I am pretty and since I am also interesting, you must be wondering what superhuman efforts my long-suffering family could possibly have needed to make to ensure that someone as wonderful as myself got married.

Okay, full disclosure: I was too tall, a little on the plump side and I, too, was afflicted with the family tendency towards non-stop talking.

But really, my looks and personality had absolutely no correlation to the 'supposed' time and labour required to get me married.

This is because in India, marriage (like life) is always complicated.

Kindly click NEXT to continue reading...

Purchase a copy of The Diary of a Reluctant Feminist here!

Excerpted from The Diary of a Reluctant Feminist by Bhavna Bhavna Rs 299) with kind permission of Hachette India

Photographs: Parivartan Sharma/Reuters


If they didn't see the divorce agreement, it wouldn't exist

Prev     More


In line with the national bi-divisional disorder that all my fellow Indians suffer from, there can only be two kinds of classifications for everything: right or wrong, good or bad, vegetarian or non-vegetarian, north Indian or south Indian, etc.

Similarly, all marriages can be classified under two categories -- arranged and love.

The technical difference between the two is whether you fall in love with your spouse 'before' or 'after' you marry them.

Of course it could also be the case that you never fall in love with your spouse, but that is nothing to get alarmed about since love has no meaning in the larger Indian marriage context; love, while helpful isn't necessary.

No, marriage is more of a social duty to your parents in particular, to society in general and to your unborn children in the future.


The family had started introducing boys to my sister when she was 17 years old and she finally got married at the ripe old (in Indian marriage years) age of 27.

For those ten years all ailments and wrinkles my parents and larger family suffered and all calamities that the world at large endured, were attributed to my sister not getting married.

But, personally speaking, it was the most fun and enjoyable phase of our lives -- we, the younger generation, didn't feel the panic and pressure my parents went through and it was a lovely carefree time before marriage changed our lives completely.

My sister's wickedly funny and vivid descriptions of the men who came to 'see' her and the very bizarre situations she encountered in her arranged marriage escapes were so hilarious that the next day the phone lines would be abuzz with all my aunts and cousins calling to get the low-down.

In the quest to get my sister married, nothing she asked for, or demanded was considered too frivolous to be rejected.

She would make pompous self-made millionaires take her in their fancy cars to downmarket street-side Punjabi-Chinese restaurants and she had meek tech geeks serenade her with raunchy Hindi film songs.

But they all ended up being rejected by my sister.

Soon my desperate parents began asking my brother and me to talk to my sister and try and make her see sense and persuade her to marry the latest boy on offer.

We would discuss the said proposal with my sister but always supported her in her decision o turn him down, regardless of my parents' views.

And when my sister ran out of rejection reasons for a particular boy and had to resort to the kill-all-arguments phrase: 'He looks gay', both my brother and I would back her up and say, 'Umm… yes, he… walked funny.'

Yes, we had honed our survival instincts in the micro-managed, control freak, authoritarian jungle that we called home.

The first stage of grief is always denial and my parents refused to believe that their now super-favourite son-in-law who was dearer to them then their own son (he had surpassed their daughters in the popularity sweepstakes a long time ago) had sent me a divorce agreement.

So they did the smartest thing possible, they refused to open it, or see it, or think about it or do anything about it.

They thought if they didn't see the divorce agreement, it wouldn't exist.

My parents instead accused me of sending a divorce agreement to my husband.

That is why the 'poor chap' had no choice but to send me an agreement back.

My parents obviously had an unrealistically high regard for my abilities because I am ashamed to admit that although I had my own version of an agreement freshly drafted by my lawyer lying with me, I had not been able to muster up the courage to actually send it.

Yes, yes, go figure!

No matter how bad things got or how shell-shocked my parents and siblings were, just to prove that they have amazing God-given presence of mind, they never forgot to repeat their three pet phrases to me in, you guessed it, no particular order:

-- 'See what you did!'

-- 'We told you so!'

-- 'Are you happy now??'

The first phase of grief ended with my parents and siblings repeating these pet phrases continuously while shaking their heads from side to side.

Purchase a copy of The Diary of a Reluctant Feminist here!

Excerpted from The Diary of a Reluctant Feminist by Bhavna Bhavna Rs 299) with kind permission of Hachette India

Photographs: Cover of The Diary of a Reluctant Feminist

Prev     More