Edited by: Rishita Sadh & Ramya Chaturvedi
In the third week of reviewing the show Netflix Docu-series' Indian Matchmaking' Rishita, Ramya, Khushi and Simren speak about the stigma associated with Divorce represented in this show. Click here for Part 1 and Part 2 of the series.
Khushi: It's a great idea that we've decided to talk about the divorce scenarios presented in Indian Matchmaking, given the extreme negative stigma it tends to receive within the Asian community.
Simren: I think the primary example of divorce depicted in the show was with Rupam. I don't even know how many times someone repeated that it would be difficult for her to find a match because she was divorced. In a recent interview she did with Vogue India, it was so empowering to read that she refused to let the matchmaking process negatively impact her desire to find a compatible partner - one who rightly felt she was worthy. To quote from the article, she said: "As a single mother, I was often told by traditional matchmakers that my options were limited. I refused to accept this and did not want to let societal pressures or stigmas pull me down".
Khushi: There is also a strong example in Ankita's case where she was not informed that the first man who she went on a date with had been divorced previously. Why did she not have the right to know? The fact that Sima Aunty and Geeta kept it confidential shows a clear double standard - why was Rupam's (a woman's) divorce such a big deal but a man's divorce hidden, and instead the matchmakers insisted "he is a good person"? I don't know how good or bad either of them are but indeed it seems that being divorced attributes differently to both genders.
Rishita: Yes, I hear of many women in the Indian context in abusive relationships. And it is a crucial decision to leave such a marriage. But why is she so harshly judged for standing up for herself?
Khushi: In society, especially in Indian culture, a lot of people try to improve toxic relationships, and this entire idea is promoted there. People tell you all the time that you need to adjust, and you need to be flexible. You need to work hard on the relationship, which is not a permanent solution to the problem, in my opinion.
Simren: Exactly! Rupam probably made the right decision of leaving her marriage, and, presumably, it was for the betterment of her mental health and her child's. The societal reality depicted is that her value in the marriage market is lowered because she decides for the improvement of herself and her daughter. But no one acknowledges that despite all the societal pressure and stigma, she chose to do that and set an empowering example for her daughter. And why, if an individual has the capacity to improve the wellbeing of themselves and their child, is divorce implied to be so bad? It is far from failure to pick the preservation, betterment and thriving of yourself.
Ramya: The imposition of the construct of marriage on females seems particularly pointed to me in the Indian context. Take child marriage or instances of dowry (which is now illegal) too. My great concern here is that it propels this notion that women are worthy of less respect.
Rishita: & on the other hand, there is a great pressure women have to manoeuvre when they are single. The expectation is that we must adjust to everything, including social pressure and stigma - as if the value of us as individuals comes only with the men we marry.
Ramya: A lot of people, and females, in particular, stay with their partners because others are always saying, "You know, you will have to leave what you do, sacrifice your interests, and you will have a successful marriage. You need to adjust."
Khushi: Unrealistic expectations for females are set, and their only role in a marriage is to look good and raise kids. When some conflict or problem occurs, women hear the following, "Your siblings have to get married, too. If you decide to separate, what are others going to think?" It explains why Indian people get connected based on the idea that getting married is not just about two people: it is two families getting married. Women may stay in their unhappy marriages and keep calling their husbands malicious. It happens because their partners do not correspond to women's visions of a successful marriage.
Simren: The interesting thing I found when I was doing some research on Singapore is that divorce rates in Singapore are actually significantly less for younger couples, and they are considerably higher for older couples. This makes me think about how different members of the Asian community may approach marriage and whether older couples are breaking free from customs and moulds they may have been made to fit by the generation before.
Khushi: Younger women are perhaps better equipped to find their independence and build their self-awareness. However, for older couples, they are probably part of the mindset that these beliefs constitute an essential part of the culture of different Asian communities. I do not want to speak for all Asian communities, but maybe with time, there is more awareness.
Rishita: Yes absolutely! I think a lot of the younger generation realise that they do not want to live under the circumstances that they cannot control or manage. They want to feel free, valued and respected in relationships. They want to meet a person, spend time with them, and see if there is some connection to build upon.
Simren: I think it is also interesting to compare this notion of arranged marriage and its impact with the Indian diaspora in Singapore. Here, the arranged marriage brokership is not as prevalent as depicted in the show to be the case in India and the US. Mostly, if at all, parents with children of my generation, may introduce you to someone they find appropriate but let you take it from there. I appreciate the independence accorded to the child in the diaspora herein. But it makes me think about the future of the arranged marriages in contexts as we see in the show: is it going to be wholly deconstructed as we become more aware of the archaic customs perpetuated? Or will we see more empowering variations of it? How amazing would it be if Sima Aunty instead met Rupam and told her she did not have to compromise and that she is worthy of finding a compatible life partner? That, to me, would be revolutionary and so empowering.
Ramya: I couldn't agree more. Even though I understand what is presented on the show might be something that is actually happening, I still believe that matchmakers themselves are the products of a culture and imagining different possibilities for their approach opens up a whole new world.
Khushi: It drives me to the conclusion that the world of marriage should be perceived on the ground of compatibilities. Culturally-defined standards change, along with social progress and technological development. My idea is that instead of astrological based matchmaking, young couples should be encouraged to seek marriage counselling beforehand to move in the right direction and discover their intersections. Therefore, we should analyse these issues to trance some tendencies and learn how culture is advancing.
Simren: Yeah, there is an overarching need to shift the conversation to what a positive marriage looks like and discuss the factors and elements they involve. My sincere hope is that this will somehow empower the marriage process beyond a need to accept and "be flexible" while compromising your own wellbeing. We have to reflect on this topic a little bit more to put things in a progressive light instead of having them just the way they are.