My wedding day was not the happiest day of my life. Don’t get me wrong. I was marrying my sweetheart and there is no one in the world I would rather be with. But on that day, all I could think of was everything that I was giving up. It was my decision to quit my current job and move to a new city. This meant that along with my family, I was also leaving behind my friends and my independence.
Or so I thought.
My new family welcomed me with arms wide open and just a playing-cards-and-old-photographs-night and lots of cups of tea later, I was a part of them. They understood that it is up to the family to make a new girl feel at home, and I understood that it’s as much my responsibility to accept them as it is theirs to accept me. That’s the beauty of marriages. You get a whole unit instead of just a partner. Sure it has its challenges, but nothing comes without a disclaimer anyway.
A month into my marriage, my mother got sick and had to undergo a surgery. I rushed back home and decided not to leave her side till she could walk about and cook me a whole meal by herself (Nothing’s more important to Indian mothers than cooking for their children, so this incentive worked pretty well). But my parents were worried. There was a constant undercurrent of "what will your in-laws say" that never left the house. Till my husband showed up at the doorstep one day! He was on a work trip and managed to take some time off and stay with us. He helped around the house, was a delightful entertainer, and a big rush of positivity (because the incentive of cooking for your son-in-law is an even bigger one).
That was the happiest day of my life. The day I finally realized, it’s not me stepping into a new family. It’s us, creating a whole new one.
I got lucky.
Sadly, not every Indian bride takes with her the same luck that I did. Not every family accepts a girl that their son chose. Not every husband makes the effort to be a part of his wife’s family. And not every father stands behind his daughter, even after she is married.
If things don’t work out, if the pressure is too much to handle, if your spirit breaks with every cup of tea you serve, it’s not worth it. The acceptance of divorce is still pretty low in India, and that is a problem. Because believe it or not, not all marriages are made in heaven. We live in a society that still boasts of the lowest divorce rates and is blind to the number of unhappy marriages that trail along because there is no way out. And it is high time we change that. Forty years ago, my mother’s aunt ended her life because she couldn’t take it any longer. Four months back, an ex-colleague of mine did the same.
I have three very close friends who remarried after a bitter divorce, and are now mothers to the most beautiful girls. Their families must have gone through the same doubts of shame and disapproval by the community that most Indians go through. But, they chose to stand up straight, dust off the negativity and support their child in the best way possible. Today, I thank them for believing in their children and for setting an example of love. But I shouldn’t have to. This should be normal. Accepting that some marriages work and some don’t.
If you are unhappy, talk about it. If you know someone who’s unhappy, talk about it. Even if it means talking to a stranger, getting professional help or calling up a friend you haven’t spoken to for ages. What’s important is that you talk to whoever you feel comfortable with. Bottling up emotions only makes it harder to let them out later.
There is always a way out, and it doesn’t involve a rope or a blade.
Vedangi Dandwate (Author)