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Life as a divorcee in India is not an easy one. And it's even harder if you're trying to remarry. The author went on to try and remarry and this is her story!
Life as a divorcee in India is not an easy one. And it’s even harder if you’re trying to remarry. The author went on to try and remarry and this is her story!
Life has brought me to a strange point. Here I am a 42-year-old with a reasonably satisfying but unstable career. I am a woman with no partner or children, but ageing parents. And I feel like I am staring into void that’s my future.
I had never imagined my journey panning out like this. I had another vision for my life when I was younger. Like most of the girls, I also dreamt of having a good career, a loving husband, and a few adorable kids. In short, a perfectly balanced life.
But life had other plans for me. Married at 27, separated at 33 and divorced at 35, I took my own sweet time to recover from this personal set-back. The age-old patriarchal issue of undervaluing and suppressing women was the cause of my divorced fate.
‘What was the point in continuing in a relationship which made you miserable and unhappy?’ I thought to myself before calling it quits.
At 40, I learnt that my ex-husband had remarried and was the father of a child. Meanwhile, I had spent the last seven years healing from my wounds, investing in self-care and developing my career. It seemed that I had hit a mid-life crisis. On the one hand I was professionally pleased but on the other, I felt a sense of deep personal loss at the lack of a partner. I decided to act and start my quest for a suitable partner.
So, at the age of 40, I created an account on a popular matrimonial website and began my groom-hunt all over again. My expectations were simple- I just wanted the person to be respectful towards his better-half. But I guess that’s the most ridiculous expectation to set in a world where people have forgotten to respect themselves.
The last two and a half years have been full of (mis)adventures. Talking to strangers on phone, meeting a few of them. Being judged by them and finally being rejected or rejecting them myself. It has been a strange journey that left me exhausted and withdrawn from the marriage market.
The strangest thing about this strange journey is that it began with a word- “hello.” It was followed by an attempt to explain myself to a stranger and try to piece them together with the information they revealed about their lives. A difficult feat indeed.
How can one understand what is going on in another person’s (especially of the opposite sex’s) head? So here I was, clueless in understanding men, harbouring the lessons from my past relationship mistakes and trying to move ahead in life.
I exchanged notes with my other single female friends. Some of them cautioned me about the ill-effects of meeting random strangers online.
A friend of mine cautioned, “You know another friend of mine fell in love with a man on this matrimonial website. Later she discovered that the man was already married and had children. He was doing this to have some fun in life. Be careful! There are many such psychos online.”
Indeed, her words had wisdom since I had heard similar horror stories from others. But then, how does one proceed? Being over-suspicious hampers the attempts to any meaningful dialogue and trust-building that are essential in building a relationship. Where does one draw a line? How much information should one reveal and how does one proceed? There are no clear answers.
I decided to put aside my fears and proceed with an open-mind to find a suitable partner. After two and half years of this questing, I can safely conclude that none of my open-mindedness has helped me in finding a partner who can match my mental frequency.
I have interacted with over a dozen men on the website who have found me to be too ‘feminist,’ ‘liberated,’ ‘crazy’ or ‘radical’ for them. In-turn, I can say that these men were either confused, stereotypical, self-obsessed, egoistic or chauvinists or a combination of these traits. Most, had a high sense of entitlement for being born male.
Let me now tell you some stories of these rendezvous with the men I met through a matrimonial portal online.
The sailor was among the first people to send me an invitation to connect. He was based in Singapore and worked in the shipping industry. After I accepted his invitation to connect, I noticed that he had cancelled it. It may have been due to my provocative profile writeup where I expressed my views on the equality of women and the need to mutually respect each other.
Additionally, I mentioned that I am keen on adopting children rather than giving birth. (A fact that would go largely against me throughout this journey.)
My mother rebuked me for “scaring” him off with my honest opinions. She advised that it was best not to “open all the cards” in the write-up and reveal details upon meeting.
That summer I was travelling to Singapore to meet a group of students visiting from Canada. My mum suggested that I call the sailor and invite him to meet and see him in person. I did as she proposed.
We were scheduled to meet in a coffee shop and I decided to bring my friend along for the meeting. He entered the coffee shop wearing sky-blue shirt and trousers. Like his profile picture, he was heavily built. But I also noticed a pot-belly, that I did not see in the picture since it was just facial portrait.
He was friendly and chatty. And insisted on buying my friend and I food and drinks. We resisted but to little effect. As we got talking, he asked me details of my previous marriage and reasons for the break-up and revealed his own. He had been married for 12 years before he discovered that his partner had an affair with another woman, he claimed.
“She was lazy, did not cook for me and was a lesbian,” he said emphatically. He went on to say how she had traumatised his entire family by filing a dowry complaint against them in the police station. “There is nothing worse than finding police at your doorstep and interrogating your parents. I can’t forgive her for this.”
True enough I thought to myself, it must have been a hugely disturbing time for him.
“After she left me, I was downing a bottle of whiskey every day. That’s how I got this pot-belly. The doctor told me I would die if I didn’t stop drinking.”
By this point of time both my friend and I were totally sympathetic and sad for him. We chatted a bit more and took our leave. As we exited, he commented merrily, “So what are you two friends doing tonight? You should go drinking!”
We were both quiet and contemplative on our way home. My friend told me that she liked the sailor for me. She thought we would be a good match.
That night I received a text message from the sailor. It said that since my friend had accompanied me, he hadn’t really gotten the time to talk to me personally. He suggested we meet for lunch again the next day. I assented.
The lunch meeting was vastly different from the coffee rendezvous of the last evening. He seemed more at ease. Dressed casually in capri-pants and a T-shirt, he was trying to understand my side of the story. There were a few uneasy pauses in our conversation which I tried to fill in by asking, “So tell me about your childhood years?”
In turn he asked me, “How did you put on so much weight?”
I explained that it had been the post-marital stress of dealing with my ex’s hostile family that had caused me to put on the extra kilos.
“Tsk-tsk,” he clucked. “I think you should focus on getting your health in order first, rest everything will fall in place with time” he mansplained. I looked at him and wondered “What about your pot-belly then? Why don’t you focus on reducing it before dating women?”
As we proceeded into the conversation, I realised the contradictions in his narratives. Last evening, he had told us that he was very hurt and wanted some time to sort out his feelings to be able to proceed with another relationship. Today he was narrating to me the “horror” stories of the women he had met online. Why was he meeting women when he was still hurt and needed time?
He said “You know there was a girl I met online. She was from Mumbai.And she said she was a divorcee and also had a child. I flew to Mumbai to meet her. Later I found out that she was divorced not once but twice. What a liar!
“You know I believe that a girl who cannot sustain one marriage and take care of her marital family, will never be able to sustain another one. I have noticed that women lie a lot. Some of them are also gold-diggers!” he continued.
By now I was fuming with disgust. How dare he express such regressive views on women sitting right across one?
“What nonsense are you talking?” I thundered. “That’s a horrible way to think about women”.
He was startled at the sudden change of my tone. “But I didn’t say anything about you” he muttered.
“That’s not the point, you have some terrible views about women. I think I need to leave now” I said as I took my leave.
A few months later I received an invitation to connect from a New Zealander- Indian who claimed to be an architect in his profile. As we connected on WhatsApp, he appeared to be a pleasant person and I looked forward to his calls. He told me that he had lost his wife to breast cancer and was now a single parent to two kids- a girl and a boy.
This information really excited me since I was keen on adopting children. He sent me the pictures of two most adorable children in the world and I like a fool started contemplating my future with them. I urged him to video call me and make me speak to the children. But every time he brushed off my requests saying that his phone-camera was not working. I should have taken this as a warning signal but did not.
We would talk about how we would set up our home, how I would read stories to the children at night and cook nutritious meals for them. It seemed like a fairy tale and I was on cloud nine imagining my new family.
A few weeks later he called me to tell me that he was travelling overseas and was in trouble since his ATM card would not work. Being an emotional person, I asked him if I could help in any way. He asked me to wire a huge amount of money to a bank account in a country where he currently was.
Since the amount of money was huge, I felt a flicker of doubt about his intentions and began thinking whether to send it to him or not. But on second thoughts, I didn’t want to lose the prospect of having a husband and children. On a subsequent call I told him that I would only send a part of the money he had asked for and he should arrange the rest from his family and friends back in New Zealand.
Being an emotional person, I felt the need to respond to another human-being in distress. So I wired him a part of the money he had asked for, scarcely realising that I had become a part of an international monetary scam.
A few days later he called again to ask for more money. This time my practical sense prevailed and I finally accepted that he was a scammer. I blocked him immediately from my WhatsApp. It was a lesson learnt for life and I write this story to caution my sisters. Many of us fall in such traps. Let’s be kinder to ourselves rather than falling for such men.
I was still recovering from being robbed of my money when I received another invitation to connect from a man who headed an IT company. This time I decided to be more cautious and checked out the man’s online presence. (It was something I tried doing for the scammer as well but found no clue of him.)
I found the IT head’s profile online. He was on social and professional networking websites. We also had a common friend. So, I got a sense of relief that his profile was genuine and I could communicate with him.
He called me that night. A widower with two sons, he’d lost his wife four years ago to birthing complications. I expressed my condolence at his loss.
After the usual introductions and life-detail exchanges, he asked me how I would manage a career and his household with two children. I told him that I was on an adjunct track and was open to working part-time to balance my home and work life. He didn’t seem convinced.
Further, I added that I was keen on adopting a girl-child to which I got an immediately negative response. He said he was not keen on expanding his family and he was very clear about that. I understood his concern.
His tone was condescending as of an employer interviewing a candidate to assist him at work. I was aware of this dynamic but chose not to prioritise this since other family details appeared suitable for me to get into a matrimonial alliance with him.
He however was not keen to proceed and that was the end of our little phone conversation.
One year into my quest, I had hired a consultant on the website to shortlist suitable profiles for me. Since I had made little progress in doing so myself, I thought that a consultant may be a good assistant in this difficult journey.
I was generally wary of profiles that did not have their original names. One such profile was “Matri-boy.” I found that it was either better to display the numerical id that the service offered you or reveal your actual name instead of a fake name that would make people suspicious.
And I had opted for the former, a numerical id generated by the system to ensure my safety as a woman. I saw Matri-boy’s profile online and dismissed it as a fake one. But my consultant convinced me that it appeared to be a good match. I gave her a nod to do the first round of talking.
So she called up the number provided on Matri-boy’s profile. It was his mother. She saw my profile and agreed to do the first round of talks with me. My consultant connected us on a conference call.
The mother sounded like an educated, homely lady who was polite and friendly. She told me that her daughter-in-law had abandoned them for a job in the United Kingdom. This was a little hard for me to understand, as I could not comprehend why a woman would walk out of a marriage for a job overseas? Unless the marriage was sour?
She said she would discuss the matter with her son and he would pursue it with me if he was interested. A few days later I received a message from her son expressing interest to meet. We met in a café and he told me the same story about his wife leaving him to settle in the United Kingdom. He also said he was not keen on settling abroad.
As I revealed the details of my own failed marriage, he probed deeper and wanted to know all little particulars of what went wrong. In retrospect I feel I did not question him enough (perhaps for the fear of offending him).
An hour into the meeting, he said he wanted to leave and reflect on the meeting. We bid each other good-bye and went to our respective homes. Later, my consultant followed up with him and he declined the match saying I did not meet all his expectations.
There are many more stories to be told of the blokes I met online. But all that I can say right now is that I am tired. Tired of meeting strangers and trying to understand their mind-sets while also attempting to explain them my own. It has been an exhausting journey that has revealed to me that it may be impossible to find the partner I seek.
This world has enough chauvinistic men. And here I do not claim that women are not chauvinistic. But in my 42+ years, I know that it is a fact that men have been privileged for centuries, and they do feel more entitled to dominate the women around them.
More than one of these blokes made snide comments on my weight. Almost all have been appalled with my idea of adopting a baby. Some have questioned the genes of the adoptee baby and what if they turn out to be a criminal?
These instances have proven to me that we live in a world that is far from ideal. I am at a point where I want to go ahead and adopt a baby as a single mother.
Well, I wanted to give my baby a complete family and had hoped to find a partner who would share this dream with me. But maybe it is time to stop hoping.
Maybe it is time to redefine the family! What do you think?
Picture credits: Still from Bollywood movie De De Pyaar De
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"There is a story and a vision which makes us gravitate towards cinema. Even as we worked as assistants on ads, we realised that cinema was our true calling," say Gunpreet Kaur Mann and Deepali Singh Raseen.
The Railway Men. Mili. Cuttputli. The Diplomat. Bade Miyan Chote Miyan. And more…
Let me introduce to you the talented designer duo who have worked on these, and can be considered today’s upcoming costume designers for the screen. Gunpreet Kaur Mann and Deepali Singh.
Having studied at NIFT, Gunpreet Kaur Mann sent her portfolio out to several designers. Her first gig was as an assistant stylist with Manoshi and Rushi, who also happen to be a designer duo. She worked on an ad film starring Saif Ali Khan and eventually landed a full time job with designer Vikram Phadnis. Years of experience as assistant costume designer followed, which eventually led her to getting a break.
A ‘thank you’ makes a lot of difference in the way any woman in your life sees herself in your eyes. It might even mean the world to her.
I have not received any appreciation in the past. Probably never will. This is the experience of ample women across the globe. The expectation to be thanked for all the sacrifices she makes to keep others happy has faded. Yet the urge to hear few words of acknowledgement always lingers.
There is never a day when she pushes off her own burdens. She knows not to give up on people she loves. Women in general, are givers by nature and hence, give without asking anything in return. They have been the care givers and lovers since centuries however receive no appreciation.
It will mean the world to your mother if you answer her calls. If your sister seems lost give her a hug and assure her about her strengths. Tomorrow, there might come a day when you would have to make your daughter feel empowered with few words of wisdom every now and then. For the children to feel wanted and loved, you must be able to spare some quality time with your wife and be present in the moment.
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