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Indian society still does not have a space for women who are divorced without burdening them with the stigma, and others’ weddings can often be a very triggering and traumatic affair.
Ever since I was fifteen, I hated going to weddings and receptions. No, I was not anti-love or anti-monogamy. I had simply figured out that most people in India got married purely for the sake of culture and tradition; love had nothing to do with their union.
The only reason I ever went was to gorge on good food without having to pay for it. Indian weddings are known for their scrumptious feasts, after all.
Now that I am 29 and divorced, this option of “dine and dash” is no longer on the table because I am not expected to show up in the first place.
Here’s why I am no longer invited to weddings – and why I don’t want to attend them anyway.
Days after my divorce was legally sanctioned, I went into severe depression and had to seek professional help. My therapist helped me overcome situational depression by helping me see that the divorce was not just a tragedy, it was also a gift. And soon, she diagnosed me with something I was sure I had for years: clinical depression and generalized anxiety disorder.
However, she also diagnosed me with a condition I wrongly believed was restricted to war veterans: post-traumatic stress disorder aka PTSD. In reality, anyone who has been through a stressful situation can get PTSD, but that’s a story for another day.
One of the consequences of PTSD is that it causes flashbacks, wherein a person relives a painful memory due to a trigger associated with it, like a sight or a sound. The trigger can be anything and in my case, hearing or reading the word ‘wedding’ conjures the mental picture of me standing next to my ex-husband on my wedding day. The picture changes at times, but the result is always the same: my pulse quickens, my throat feels dry, and my chest pains. I cannot even imagine how awful I will feel to actually see two people standing next to each other with an ‘x weds y’ banner behind them. And I don’t intend to find out just how traumatic it will be anytime soon.
You’d think people would be kind and sympathetic to someone who went through a difficult, life-changing situation like a divorce, right? Well, think again.
Even though divorce is on the rise in India, it is still considered a taboo. The D word is considered shameful and by extension, so are the people who opt for it.
Today, about one and a half years after my divorce, I can visibly see an aura of discomfort and judgment around people other than my immediate family and friends. Neighbours, acquaintances and even strangers look at me differently, as if I have committed some heinous crime by ending my marriage and moving back to my parents’ place.
You know how when you meet someone who doesn’t like you and you can feel their bad energy? I feel it too, only this bad energy takes on many emotional forms, depending on the person it is coming from. Sometimes, it’s pity, sometimes it’s disdain, sometimes it’s judgment, sometimes it’s hate, and so on.
Without exchanging a word, I am othered, ostracised, victimised, or demonized – it’s all in their microexpressions and body language. And by them, I mean both men and women are awkward and uncomfortable around me. Whether they are young twenty/thirty-somethings or whether they are middle-aged/senior citizens, it doesn’t matter. Irrespective of their age, most people feel it is their birthright to openly speculate about and judge my decision, a decision that was neither theirs to make nor is any of their business!
All this non-verbal drama takes place when I step out to do regular things like going for a walk or buying groceries whilst dressed in casual, everyday clothes. Their tiny minds would probably implode if I showed up in a fancy ‘who does she think she is?’ avatar at one of their till death do we part events.
Indian society loves to judge women, and divorced women are pretty much at the top of their hit list.
It’s the year 2020 for God’s sake, yet female divorcees in India are still seen as
~ a) bitches who will encourage other women to divorce their men and/or
~ b) homewreckers who steal taken men and/or
~ c) difficult, unsanskaari women who are best kept at arm’s length.
Due to this unwritten code of conduct, I know I would be as welcome as a beggar in a five-star hotel, so I have chosen to uphold my dignity by not attending weddings and receptions at all.
Now truth be told, I am an introvert who is selectively social, so this course of action doesn’t affect me as much as it would affect someone who is outgoing and loves to socialize. It may not damage my peace of mind, but it does sting that I am socially alienated for no fault of mine. But at the end of the day, I’d rather be a social outcast than keep the company of people who do not respect me.
What’s more, I have also lost faith in the institution of marriage, given that it is the woman who is expected to make sacrifices (starting with erasing a core part of her very identity – her last name) while the man basically gives up nothing. She is supposed to do all of this without a fuss, because apparently marriage is all about a woman “adjusting” for the sake of her suhaag. Until our society changes its sexist, outdated views on marriage and divorce, I refuse to attend a wedding or reception again. So dear aunty or uncle, if you are thinking about doing me a favor by inviting me to your child’s big day, allow me to respectfully decline.
Image source: pixabay
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Mahevash Shaikh is a millennial blogger, author, and poet who writes about mental health, culture,
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