Saturday, April 19, 2008

When relationships break

R and I were discussing yesterday [as many other desi friends of mine and I have, in the past], about the changing dynamics of the Indian relationships and marriage scene. The topic of the increasing divorce rates came up, and so did the idea that there are lessons to be learnt from the US experience.

On that note, I share with you two pieces I found recently.

First, a segment from NPR that talks about a museum that honors soured relationships, which is a bittersweet look at breakups.

The other, a much longer read, is this Newsweek article on the first American generation that grew up in divorced households. I believe that my generation of Indians, whose kids will be the first Indian generation of this type, should definitely go through it, because the similarities are amazing.
In the real Valley of the 1970s, families weren't coming together. They were coming apart. We were the "Divorce Generation," latchkey kids raised with after-school specials about broken families and "Kramer vs. Kramer," the 1979 best-picture winner that left kids worrying that their parents would be the next to divorce.

The change had begun in the '60s as the myth of the nuclear family exploded, and my generation was caught in the fallout. The women's rights movement had opened workplace doors to our mothers—more than half of all American women were employed in the late '70s, compared with just 38 percent in 1960—and that, in turn, made divorce a viable option for many wives who would have stayed in lousy marriages for economic reasons. Then in 1969, the year I entered kindergarten, Gov. Ronald Reagan signed California's "no fault" divorce law, allowing couples to unilaterally end a marriage by simply declaring "irreconcilable differences."

Reminds me of this quote from Santayana.


  1. Slightly related to this topic, I found last year on my visit to India, that people were increasingly comfortable with early divorces and engagements being broken off, as opposed to the traditional system of 'Humaare yahaan aisa sab nahin hota'

    At first instance, I felt that people are becoming highly intolerant and egoistic and hence the issue. However, I realised that it's not that case everytime, maybe sometimes, people just find that they don't match up and instead of just holding on for the sake of family prestige and tradition, they decide to move on and find someone who would be more closer to their thinking, which kind of seems correct and better than spending your life with someone whom you don't really relate to emotionally...

    Guess, only time will tell, whether this is a change for good or bad, but somewhere I feel this is better than the earlier system where a girl would have to just accept your new home and 'pati parmeshwar' however incompatible it might be.

  2. Thanks for your comment Harshit, and indeed, I'd rather have a woman get a divorce than stay with an abusive husband. But I believe that there is an optimal spot between the saat-janam-ki-shaadi and the saat-hafton-ki-shaadi, something I hope the junta back home [and us too] figure out.

    No matter what, we live in very interesting times!