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Shasvathi Siva and Teesha Thomas’ video on normalising divorce is now viral. Here’s why these women refuse to be silent about divorce!
“My happily ever after could no longer be – me, unhappy, for eternity” This is an excerpt from a supremely evocative piece of poetry which was movingly enacted by 14 strong and confident women. Fourteen women who broke free from some shackles of the patriarchal society and announced in loud and unequivocal tones that ‘divorce is normal.’
Society constantly wants bog down women at each turn in their life, from choosing their life, happiness to choosing oneself. However, they came together and supported one another, decrying the toxic culture that stigmatises divorce and discriminates against divorced individuals, especially women.
This project was the brainchild of Shavathi Siva and Teesha Thomas. Shasvathi is a copywriter and part-time entrepreneur who also runs a support group called ‘Divorce Is Normal.’ And Teesha is a copywriter, brand consultant, scriptwriter and a poet. Shasvathi and Teesha co-directed the video, while Teesha was the scriptwriter as well.
I watched the video (and its bloopers!) on Instagram a few days after it was released and soon after, got a chance to speak to both Shasvathi and Teesha. Shasvathi posted the video on her Instagram profile on November 11 after which it went on to garner over a 1000 likes and almost 40,000 views in a very short time!
Calling the response overwhelming, the creators say, ‘It exceeded our expectations! We believed we’d be happy even if it got 5k views. But it reached a lot of people and most of them have also reached out to congratulate us, and share their own experiences with us.’ The number of people whose lives the video has touched is only pushing them to continue their work.
In 2018, around the time of her own divorce proceedings in court, Shasvathi found herself looking for support from people who had undergone similar situations.
On looking up support groups in India, she found barely any groups, especially for women. Meanwhile, she did chance upon a few international support groups where she found wonderful, supporting and inspiring conversations taking place regarding similar experiences.
Since the beginning, she had clear intentions to form one for Indian women, and men, who undergo the gruelling court procedures and then find themselves getting shamed, blamed and called names, by their families and relatives.
“I had very clear intentions about the group, but after the divorce, I needed some time to recuperate from the challenging ordeal it subjected me to,” admits Shasvathi. “It took me another year to establish this support group.”
She found that there were a lot of people who were looking for the support she had envisaged the group would provide for those walking out of marriages, and soon people started reaching out.
Like any initiative intended to bring about social change, this conversation to normalise divorce, too, was faced with trolls on the internet. Those who call themselves ‘meninists’ unironically, attempted to deviate the conversation away from the meaningful work the group is engaged in.
“It was really frustrating how some tried to undermine our work but I had well-wishers among friends and family,” says Shasvathi. They provided her with ample support and encouraged and inspired her to stay focused on her work and overcome any challenges.
The group caters primarily to women from all age groups but a majority of the participants are in their twenties and thirties. Shasvathi shares, “Most of us are women because women are discriminated against more intensely, given the society we live in. However, the group is very inclusive. Anybody who reaches out, irrespective of gender, religion or nationality, is welcome.
With the onset of the pandemic, the regular meetings were shifted to an online forum. While the current members of the group are mostly from metropolitan areas Shasvathi hopes to get associated with an NGO and bring her work to the rural areas too.
Talking about their collaboration, Teesha says, “We knew each other since our college days and when Shasvathi approached me hoping for some content to use for this purpose, I absolutely wanted to contribute to support the effort.” Around two months ago the journey began to turn the prospect into reality when Teesha worked on the script.
She believes that art and literature, when produced in abundance with relatable qualities, can slowly “chip away at the collective consciousness” of human beings who were originally opposed to moving forward with the times “Because the conservative mentality cannot change overnight, however much we might want it to.”
Initially, Teesha and Shasvathi were anxious about how many women would be willing to come forward and put their faces in the video, but to their pleasant surprise, they received a very enthusiastic response. The participants were sent the script in advance, which Shasvathi said, “moved them and brought a number of them to tears” triggered by memories, but the shooting process was full of joy and fun.
All the women fell in love with the script, a feeling which was echoed by the viewers, as well. “The sisterhood and friendships formed out of the project”, Teesha says, “is very therapeutic and wholesome, we even have a very active WhatsApp group where we intend to stay in touch with one another”.
The most beautiful part of the overwhelming response came from the parents of divorced women who were moved by the appeal the project made particularly to parents to support their daughters at such a difficult juncture of their lives.
“It was a huge deal and the reaction was really something else,” reiterate the directors, happy with their work and its impact. A lot of people forwarded this video to their relatives and family groups in a bid to make them more aware and share with them their own experiences.
The sheer number of people who reached out to share how much this project resonated with them left them ecstatic and hopeful for a better tomorrow, say Shasvathi and Teesha; one when the stigma around divorce would be broken, because Divorce Is Normal.
Picture credits: Provided by the interviewees
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An undergraduate student of Political Science at Presidency University, Kolkata. Describes herself as an intersectional
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