Leaving Home With Half A Fridge [Book Review]

Posted: March 31, 2015
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Leaving Home With Half a Fridge is the author’s story. It takes the reader though the various aspects of a divorce and the journey involved.

Divorce is now an acknowledged fact in modern India. Many urban marriages tend to break up almost as quickly as they came together; courts are struggling with the increased number of cases they have to deal with. While the society at one level has become more liberal about relationships, divorce seems to be the fallout.

Leaving home with half a fridge by Arathi Menon, tells the story of her divorce and the post-divorce trauma that she and her ex learned to survive. What is unusual is the fact that she gives no dramatic reasons for her divorce. Her ex was not abusive, the in-laws were not a problem, they married for love and seemed to share many interests. Over five years, however, the marriage fell apart; Menon accuses the ex of breaking her heart, until she was finally forced to declare that she wanted the big D.

Her ex was not abusive, the in-laws were not a problem, they married for love and seemed to share many interests.

Neither she nor her ex was really happy about the decision, but they agreed to follow the rules. They began with the trial separation, complicated by the fact that Menon found a new flat for herself in the house next door, and that her super cook was the one she had employed while she was still married. She continued to cook in both the homes, borrowing vegetables and sugar from either employer to fill a cooking gap when she needed to. Every detail reminded Menon of the marriage she had been forced to leave behind.

Through the pages Menon takes the reader on a journey through the various aspects of her divorce making no attempt to hide the reality of the grief on both sides. When it came to relying on someone, her ex was the first person she turned to. He was the one who knew her likes and dislikes better than her friends. If it was a romantic novel of the chick lit kind, and it does read like that in its easy flow and down to earth detail, one would have expected them to get together again. They met over coffee and found they had nothing to say to each other – a meeting at their favourite pub over beer was easier, but Menon was convinced that, despite everything, she did not want to give the marriage a second chance.

She had thrown away five years of her life in the marriage. Neither does she blame her ex, nor does she make the journey of getting over a divorce sound like an easy one. The road was lined with depression and worries about what people would think. Memories lingered in all the little things that they had accumulated together, and now were forced to divide all of it. She even slipped into their once-shared home with the key that she still kept, trying on the ex’s shirts, knowing that he was not home, until he returned and caught her at it one day. Those descriptions are the ones, which linger because they imply that a happy ending might have been possible if it was another kind of book.

Memories lingered in all the little things that they had accumulated together, and now were forced to divide all of it.

Most of the descriptions, of course, would apply to any couple who divorced by mutual consent and did not indulge in recrimination. So would the petty jibes at family weddings, since traditional Indian society still does not take kindly to divorce amongst its daughters.

Occasionally, the reader is tempted to wonder why exactly they broke up in the first place, because there seems to have been no clear-cut reason, barring the ex’s workaholism and silences. However, for the recently-divorced and the about-to-be-divorced, the book is a useful read, while for everyone else it is an entertaining page turner with nuggets of handy wisdom.

Publisher: Pan McMillan India

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Anjana Basu: Anjana Basu was born in Allahabad and started schooling in London. She works as an advertising consultant in Calcutta. She has also worked on a couple of scripts with the director Rituparno Ghosh and has subtitled several of his films. Her byline has appeared in various magazines, and she reviews books for publications like Wasafiri and Outlook.

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