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I was married at 20, and divorced within a year. Since then, I have been facing society’s tainted way of looking at divorced women. When will this change?
It was 2016, I signed a Nikah Nama, and my inbox was filled with hundreds of congratulatory messages from friends and colleagues. I was 20 years old at that time.
I remember being so nervous. My brother was continuously teasing me by cracking silly jokes. I laughed once, which was caught on a camera. A beautiful youthful laugh. My husband was a decade older. He was also happy, or at least he was trying to look so. After a year, right before my rukhsati, he sent me a document. A document that I opened with trembling hands. He had divorced me without any reason. I was dumbfounded.
Living with a label of ‘divorced’ in the subcontinent is considered as shameless, weird, available, arrogant, slut, asexual, bossy, fussy,…! These words and phrases associated with the ‘character’ of a divorced woman are uttered without giving an iota of consideration of anyone’s feelings. But while these words might be used for ‘describing us’ they would never ‘define us.’
In our region, where lives revolve around the axis of marriage, the lives of divorced women are never a fairytale. After a certain age people tend to assume that you’re married and having two (or more) kids. Even the beggars pray that “apki jori salamat rahe” when they see you sitting with a man. The whole society is geared towards that. Starting from the meal discounts in expensive restaurants to the TV advertisements, everyone shouts “two for the price of one”. No one promotes the idea of being single. Nobody bothers to think about it.
Life is not like that seen through rose-tinted lenses for us. It’s like a curse to be in our state. Every day I hear numerous questions from peers like “why don’t you get re-married”? “Why don’t you settle down once again”?
Going to family events, especially weddings, is yet another task. Relatives tease my parents with the constant refrain of why don’t you get your daughter married? “Haye bechari k sath bohat bura hua” (It’s sad what happened to her)…
I still remember the behaviour of my cousins who have stopped talking to me after my divorce. Everywhere I go, people somehow find it their duty to fling unsolicited advice at me. But they don’t want their handsome and educated son to tie a knot with me. For me, they have proposals of over-aged, bald and divorced men. Renting or owning a house is a trial altogether. My character is questionable so I should be banned from getting into their property.
I am a self-made and ambitious woman. I love my work, but the ‘key to successful life’ cannot be found in my office files. That is only visible in my wedding ring.
On a daily basis, I hear unwelcome and hurtful phrases at the workplace, from not only men but also from married women of my age. People say things “Isko tou paiso ka lalach ho gaya hai” (she has now become greedy about money) behind my back.
Mobility is another factor that creates a problem. People keep an eye on when I go out and when I return. Even in our dramas, divorced women are depicted as ‘intolerable’ and ‘headstrong’, who are responsible for their fates.
The fact is that the society doesn’t pay my bills, doesn’t sit by my side when I’m admitted to a hospital, and thus, doesn’t need to be bothered about me. I am responsible for my actions, so there’s no need to keep a check on me.
Considering me as a burden is not permitted in our religion. Our religion does not allow anyone to push someone into forced marriage. It is better to live alone than to be stuck forever in a mean and failed relationship.
I hope that someday my society learns the formula of ‘live and let live’ and accept the ‘divorced’ statuses of women. Try to be a little more sensitive, less interfering and stop poking noses in other’s businesses.
Author’s note: True story, written as narrated to me.
A version of this was first published here.
Image source: Pixabay
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Bookworm and a keen observer. Mother to two exhilarated kids so when not reading, you
Well written, Fizza!
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