It was late afternoon on Dec. 1, 2014. I had just returned from the final hearing of my divorce litigation at Saket District Family Court, New Delhi. This was momentous for me and I wanted to announce it to the world.
I wanted to put an end to all the mystery and conjectures. I felt free of a life time of burden and wanted to celebrate it as much as someone would celebrate an engagement or a marriage or an anniversary. I decided to share my relief on Facebook. And why not? I had written and shared pictures of all the important events in my life—graduation, first job, vacations, marriage—on the social networking site for nearly a decade now.
But when I changed my relationship status on Facebook to “divorced,” I was informed that this update would not appear on other people’s News Feed.
What was the point of changing the relationship status if no automatic notification was generated about it?
I had to resort to another means. I made the following entry as my status update on Facebook to announce that I was finally free from my marriage.
…. As for myself, right now I am just relieved that I was strong enough to face it all alone in the court.
….On my wedding night I had a glow of happiness on my face. During my Vidai, nobody cried. What happened thereafter is something that I have erased from my memory. But I do have the same glow of happiness on my face today. At last, I am free.
(You can read the full text here.)
I knew that it was a bold step. After all, I had some 500 people in my friends’ list, some of whom I had not met or talked with for months. I knew that after that many on my friends’ list might stop talking to me or at least maintain their distance, some might gossip, or even adhere to blame game.
After all, divorce is something that Indians talk about in whispers, behind closed doors, in parenthesis, being ashamed of this unpalatable truth. Marriage is supposed to be made in heaven and according to Hindu tradition, it is a companionship of seven births. A divorce after just a few months of marriage had already stigmatised me, or made me a subject of pity. Even though my parents supported my decision, many members of the extended family were embarrassed on my behalf.
What was the point of putting it up on a social networking site like Facebook and washing dirty linen in public?
I hadn’t committed a crime by signing the divorce documents. For me it was not a matter of shame any more. I thought it would be better to know who my real friends were than to wear a mask all the time. At least people would stop asking me how my marriage was coming along.
Little had I expected to get so many likes or congratulations or best wishes for my future life. The warmth of those wishes made me realize that I had let go of the emotional baggage I had been carrying for one-and-a-half years of separation before the divorce.
Now, I feel free, from the marital vows and from the remorse of breaking away. I feel free to turn over a new leaf and focus on my career. There is no psychological trauma, no need to depend on heavy doses of anti depressants. There is optimism.
I don’t know if I will meet anyone in future with whom I would like to grow old, or “settle down” as people say in India, but I am prepared to take both the options in my stride —of being alone all my life or spending my life with someone I would fall in love with and who would love me back. For now, the love of my family members, friends and the passion for etching out my own career are enough.
I think Facebook would do good by automatically notifying everyone through the News Feed if someone changes the relationship status to “separated” or “divorced” or “widowed.” Or, at least, give the option to choose whether one wants the change of status to be notified or not. It would help in demolishing the stigma.