I got married to a senior from my MBA college – we were both just about 25 years old at the time. We had been friends for 2-3 years and believed that our common interests in books and movies made us compatible. Innocence and naivety were all-pervasive then. He was from a conservative Gujarati family in Bombay and I came from a UP Baniya family where we had been brought up with very progressive values – something I honestly didn’t realize till much later.
Post marriage, I lived with my in-laws (including a younger sister-in-law) – a family of 5 of us in a 1 bedroom, 1 hall flat. For anyone who hasn’t lived in Bombay, it is very tough to imagine living in those small places. It takes away any semblance of privacy or personal space. Since I was working too, the daily commute on the locals, as well as the expectations of ‘Bahu’, took away whatever little extra time I might have been able to get for any semblance of private life with my husband. It also didn’t help that my in-laws were hoping to ‘convert’ me to becoming an authentic Gujarati in no time at all – even if I wasn’t comfortable with some aspects of it.
I went into a depression of sorts and developed stress-induced urticaria as well as put on some 11kgs in a single year. Daily life was of course hell and it soon came apart at the seams. I moved back with my parents and then moved cities to have a sort of a fresh start – and stayed with my sister for a year there. My one piece of sanity was my work and that my family supported my decision to move away.
My husband and I took a long while to finally file for divorce – both of us wanting to make it work somehow. In our heads, I really believe we loved each other – but just couldn’t crack the practicalities of living together. Hence after 3.5 years of being married – of which we lived together only 15 months – we got our divorce. 2 months later – he married a girl of his parent’s choice. I moved back home with my parents as a divorced woman at the age of 28 years.
Then began the saga of finding me a good match again. And that my friends are the crux of this story – not the before or the after. I was single for the next full decade. I moved to Gurgaon as the work commute was too long from my parents’ place in Delhi – but kept the weekends for ‘home’. It made me a nomad of sorts – having feet in two very different worlds. My work took me across the world and our country – met tons of very different people, learned about how lives can be so different for everyone and how much is out there to be achieved.
My ‘home’ on the other hand was filled with worry about my singledom, how will my future be and who will take care of me. During the course of that decade of being a divorced, financially independent woman who lived on her own in her own flat in Gurgaon – I met many fascinating men. They really did fascinate me. Being divorced granted me the status of – ‘Been there, done that’ – unlike the ‘Virgin till I marry’ status of a single woman. I guess this made it simple for a lot of these men to believe that sex was on the table at all times. I stopped calling them weirdos as I found too many of them all around. I had been registered on shaadi.com by my family and my elder brother based out of the UK at the time used to be the one shortlisting them. Of course, this was based on matching my education, work profile, and of course family backgrounds.
So the guys I was meeting came from top institutes (IIT, IIMs included), worked at pretty senior levels in corporates (had to match my own position), and had very similar family backgrounds too. And yet – to list just a few experiences I went through – (Please remember that these were all on the first meeting) – – If you say you will marry me, I will finally pay the money I need to pay my ex-wife to get the final divorce. Why pay if I don’t have an immediate need? – Next time I will come over to your place with a bottle of wine, you cook for me and we’ll see if we’re ‘romantically’ compatible. – I can marry a single woman easily, but thought your profile was good – so came to meet. Rest of the conversation my mother will do with your mother of how the marriage needs to be (shy of using the word dowry) – I am actually divorced twice – but haven’t put that on my profile. People don’t understand that I was actually innocent both times. – Many many multiples of – I think you need to quit your job and then we can get married. I can’t have a working woman as my wife – I earn enough / what will the world say / my mother needs my wife to be home / even my sisters don’t work.
My sanity at that time was driven only by the fact that I had some really sane friends around me! I couldn’t give up believing that the world was only full of jerks. I honestly had a really nice set of colleagues, a combination of singles and married ones – some of whom became life-long friends and went through this journey with me in bits and pieces. My ego and pride suffered much more in this decade than they did due to my divorce itself.
However with this damage slowly came the realization that the only person I could completely rely on for my happiness was myself. Family and friends all come with their own worldview on life and how it needs / can be lived. What helped tremendously in this journey was of course that I was financially independent – had invested wisely (and luckily), could afford to turn up my nose at the jerks I met, and actually completely be happy on my own.
My family saw this in me and that helped them worry less too – which in turn made me happier. In all honesty, only when I reached this point did I actually meet someone I could think of marrying again. The one thing that stood out for him was that he wasn’t a jerk!! Introduced by a common friend, we met up over coffee for a few months with no real expectations of it going anywhere. He had his own baggage he was carrying – as was I. The one thing in common for both of us was that we were self-made, independent people who really really wanted to have a family. No sparks flew, no butterflies fluttered, and definitely no ‘till death do us part’ happened. Instead, it was a logical, rational decision taken after considering what we thought were important factors for both of us to live happy individually and satisfied together.
We got married and had a son within the first year of marriage – the biological clock was ticking too fast you see! Also, that had been our mutual dream anyways. Will be wrong to say that it was a smooth journey – the first 3-4 years were harrowing and many many times tempted both of us individually to long for the lives we had led earlier. Baggage on both sides, too much change in the relationship too quickly (girlfriend – wife – mother), and of course the sheer traditional expectations from a spouse – don’t make it an easy road to traverse. I don’t think we’ve cracked a formula even now – but after almost a decade of being married, now I can say that we’ve become good partners in life. There is respect, trust, and fondness in abundance. Our son of course gives us both a common agenda – but we’ve both managed to retain our independence too. Friction is finally taken in our stride and not as a sudden eruption of wanting to walk out. When I think of my future now – I know that nothing is predictable, except that now I don’t need it to be.
As long I stay in charge of my life and my happiness – the world is my oyster and I am the Queen!
My true second love is totally and completely ME!!
Thanks for sharing this Ruchika.