The scene is straight from the reel of a politician winning the much-awaited election results. Crackers are being burst, on the path, and a woman is seen walking slowly. She is donning a salwar kurta with her head held high. Smiling, as she pulls her bursting suitcase through the crowd of cheerleaders. Just that, she isn’t a political figure. She has just divorced her husband.
A band of musicians is welcoming her back, to her father’s home. One has to admit, that this is not a regular sight in our country, which is fixated with the idea of a marriage that has vows with “till death do us part.”
It makes one also wonder if divorce is soon going to become acceptable in society. So much so, that it becomes a celebratory affair, to the end of a toxic relationship. Maybe, this is too ambitious a thought. As the reality is that many parents of daughters even today can’t wait to get rid of her to marriage. Thereby relieving themselves of duties, while conveniently all along, using words like “settling” her off.
Marriages are fixed based on caste and wealth. Attributes like mental wavelength match, aren’t even a thing to be considered.
So, this celebration, is surely a very positive sign of a changing society, where women and their parents are slowly beginning to realise that there is more to “I won’t do” than “I do”!
Patriarchy Is Being Challenged
With this, patriarchy is surely being tried and tested. As marriages are based on a patriarchal system, where the woman is expected to give up her surname, and place of belonging and adjust to a home with a new system and blend seamlessly into the given environment. Also for the majority of women, parents look at her as a burden to settle her off. Therefore the door to her parental home remains closed forever post-marriage. In property matters, the girl isn’t part of the inheritance, so she has nothing to fall back upon. So girls continue to stay on in toxic marriages, without a road ahead.
This celebration of the homecoming for a divorced daughter isn’t the norm. A woman is very unceremoniously called a “divorcee”. This is the label she lives with forever. Even her offsprings are referred to as a divorcee’s child.
This reel of crackers bursting with smoke and drums beating is making generous rounds on social media, which was never seen before.
Therefore, Prem Gupta of Jharkhand is the new poster papa, who must be praised and given his due credit for supporting his daughter through rain and shine. One would like to believe that this isn’t to make the reel viral. But he is genuinely paving the way for a new-age father who is willing to accept his daughter’s failed marriage. He is also courageously agreeing to give a deaf ear to society’s judgement, towards his entire family.
One wonders what does it take for a father in a small town like Jharkhand to have so much gumption to take this stand? What was his turning point?
In India traditionally if a marriage fails, the woman is the first victim of slander in the union. Often it is seen, that her life has the most impact. Her character is speculated and her fertility is questioned. She automatically becomes the topic of gossip in her neighbourhood and her immediate family. So women are fearful to end a marriage.
So, Prem Gupta is a modern example of a supportive parent, that a child needs at the crucial time of a divorce in their lives.
As more children in the years ahead may call off marriages, as patriarchy is being challenged, one may not find every parent bursting crackers but the hope is for concerned parents to set a pattern for a future ahead, where one can be even civil with the ex, in the negotiation of a divorce settlement.
So, maybe as a parent, one needs to hang on to that civility, every time rage and anger as a thought is overwhelming. This helps the people going through the divorce, find an easier way to deal with the personal disappointment.
Decency and respect must be the perfect way to end the relationship. Which isn’t easy. But must be the reiterated reminder as we know change is the only constant. As a parent supporting the child, with advice and guidance is the first step towards lesser bitterness and more security for the daughter.
Mohua Chinappa is an author, and podcaster and is the co-founder of Asmee, a platform dedicated to the unhindered storytelling of women.
Views expressed by the author are their own.
Suggested reading: Defying 'Paraya Dhan' Stereotype, Father Celebrates Daughter's Divorce