Aamir Khan & Kiran Rao have announced their divorce. They called themselves an extended family and co-parents to their son Azaad in their press statement. Given the subsequent hue and cry online, they have now released a video, holding hands, like an appeasement message, saying their relationship has changed but they are happy. And they have asked everyone to pray for their happiness. Yet, the internet and social media is abuzz with speculation and over reaction. In fact, this divorce has filled up just as much news space online as Bill and Melinda Gates’ divorce did, just a few weeks back.
When it comes to divorces, here’s the thing. In a world that is geared towards transparency and personal fulfillment, isn’t a big deal. Nor are transparency and personal fulfillment bad things. About time, all of us get over high drama and emotions related to celebrity lives or life choices.
I believe divorces are just as natural as many a marriage, given that trappings of societal judgment and financial difficulty are fading away for women (in some cases, also for men). By definition, marriage is a legal and social contract to share a personal life between two people. It is a contract. It’s not as natural as love, passion, physical attraction or anger and grief.
As someone who has tracked Bollywood celebrities and Indian cinema, an ‘inside look’ at why Kiran and Aamir would divorce might be expected. This is NOT that kind of a blog post. I would much rather draw attention to the fact that at its heart, marriage is a legal and social contract to live together and to have children. While some emerge from love or attraction, here in our country, most are pre-arranged. Matching horoscopes, work profiles, family backgrounds and general social categories lead up to couples getting married. This hasn’t changed radically with women working in middle class or upper middle class families.At the cost of getting hauled over coals, personally, arranged marriage, seems to be an unnatural and unusual set up for people to live together forever. But it works for many. As do love matches.
That a marriage must hold up the test of time, is already a huge challenge. In the past,a woman’s financial constraints would make leaving a husband very difficult. Having children made it even more difficult. Families would insist or cajole that daughters reconcile; essentially they wouldn’t support the choice of leaving a husband. Sometimes, women lived through a lifetime of heart break, infidelity, physical abuse and emotional harassment just so that they can stay married and give their children a decent life. Similar constraints also impact men.
For our peers, it’s the emotional difficulty of living together with a person that seems a lot bigger and messier. As both men and women work and become financially independent, sharing their life with someone else, making space for another person, brings its own difficulties. Careers are also very attractive options if one is successful or on the track to great professional achievement; making room for another person’s wants and needs becomes problematic. When people can’t make it work anymore, when dissatisfaction and emotional trauma overtake the benefits of being married (security, stability, financial support), then in the Internet age, people tend to go their separate ways.
I am not an expert on marriage. In my experience, and I have seen many friends divorce, this experience is quite alienating and traumatizing. Each couple has it’s own issues unique to two people sharing a life together; and breaking away from that life also brings multiple difficulties. Yet when a friend or his/her partner chooses to go their separate ways, I don’t judge. It’s best not to be unhappy for the rest of one’s life.
Therefore, divorcing is just as natural, if not more, than staying married in an unhappy set up. Separating, or co-parenting after a divorce, has become feasible. Rather than wishing someone a lifetime of misery and unhappiness, living apart but finding peace and some personal satisfaction makes more sense for anyone to lead a qualitative life.
For people of my parents’ generation, a divorce is still shocking. They have witnessed so many people sacrifice happiness, desire and ambition just to stay married. For our generation and the next, it really shouldn’t be.
Kiran Rao is a warm and straightforward person who has managed to hold her own despite being married to a superstar. She has a distinct footprint as a cinema buff and has playd a key role in building MAMI into a popular event. Aamir Khan, personal life related details aside, is a rare actor in India who has spearheaded content driven cinema as much as commercial entertainers. He has produced some truly brave stories on celluloid. Together, they might not have been able to make it work; but as individuals both stand out.
Any divorce lawyer worth their salt will tell you that the pandemic has sped up the rate of divorce and separation massively. It has indeed. But maybe that’s not an entirely bad thing. When locked in with your spouse or partner, if all you found is unhappiness and incompatibility, prolonging the pain would not be rewarding. Then there’s the very complex issue of growing domestic abuse across all economic sections during lockdowns. What does that tell us about the state of marriage as an institution today?
There’s no doubt that children pay a huge price when their parents divorce. I can’t deny that and I will devote a different blog on this matter with testimonials and expert opinion someday. But for now, India lives through a pandemic that has thrown up massive, complex socio-economic issues. So let’s accept that people divorce, and move on…