As the way of life in India rapidly changes with changing times, the way relationships work has also undergone a massive transformation as we moved into the 21st century. The percentage of people choosing to stay as live-in partners has increased and so has the number of divorces. Marriage is not the unbreakable vow it used to be and more and more people are choosing to end it rather than living with abuse/unhappiness. Saying that, it is still not looked upon favourably by society and there are still countless women in India who may not find any support during the process.
|How much is too much?
Divorce in India
|Notion Press (29 January 2020)
|# of Pages
990 KB 92 (Kindle EBook)
|# of Chapters
Recently, we were approached by Neha Mehrotra with her book How Much Is Too Much. Published by Notion Press, the book is subtitled as Divorce in India, thus giving us a fair idea of the theme and thoughts expressed in this book. Neha has written this book with an intention to share her personal journey with other women out there who might be going through the same.
This Is Here In For You
Do you believe in the philosophy of “one shouldn’t judge the book by its cover (ony)”? We do.
At the same time we acknowledge the influence of the cover page (in both positive and negative aspects) in many reading and purchase decisions.
Divorce is definitely an unwanted and unintended event in one’s life. In the majority of cases, no one wants to shatter down the dreams of content and composed life he/she had seen of spending with his/her spouse. The cover page should elaborate the breaking of a bond effectively, and at the same time, it should also reflect hope for a better future too. Designing a cover page having all these elements is quite a tough job. But, the designing team has done really fantastic work here.
You can see a couple standing on the opposite ends of a breaking wooden bridge. The broken pieces are turning into the birds flying towards a better future. The light color in the background suits it perfectly. The horizon represents hope despite the current tragic situation.
I like the cover page.
As it is not a traditional fiction venture, we have merged the story and our thoughts for this review.
So this is Neha‘s story. She tells us about her childhood in a typical Indian house with a father who worked in Indian Army and the mother who was a homemaker and the sole parent at times. She enjoyed growing up in a loving and liberal atmosphere. Like many teenage girls, she also dreamt of a “larger-than-life” romance and a “happy-ever-after” marriage. But, her life turned out to be different and she decided to walk out of a marriage, after being with her husband for almost fifteen years including their courtship era.
Such decisions are neither easy nor the process is short term. While she went through this time of her life, Neha also thought and observed a lot about how marriage is impacting the lives of young couples, especially women, in India. And now with this book she has shared her personal experiences and some advice for those who might be going through similar circumstances.
Neha tells us about the phases of her life in the following chapters:
- Chapter 1 : The Beginning
- Chapter 2 : Romance at its Peak
- Chapter 3 : Decline and Decisions
- Chapter 4 : Separation
- Chapter 5 : Divorce in India
- Chapter 6 : Society, Family and Surroundings
- Chapter 7 : The Conflict Within
- Chapter 8 : Discovery of the New You
- Chapter 9 : Way Ahead and Conclusion
As you can see, the first four chapters are about what happened in her life in chronological order, while the second half of the book focuses more on the societal systems.
The personal journey of Neha feels like reading a diary. She is genuine, frank and quite open about how she saw life as a young person. This is a feeling I think we all share as we grow older, and we look back upon our younger selves and think how naïve and unworldly we were. How our thoughts and behaviour are shaped in these formative years by what our friends are doing or what the society expects.
Especially for young girls, it is a tricky period, with expectations and peer pressure for finding a romantic partner and parental restrictions in most households to protect the girls from unsavoury characters. At that age, we take impressions from romantic books and films so much to heart. Also, there appears to be an increasing trend of rivalry among girls to show off their desirability. My personal opinion is that this is also in part the influence of all “high school dramas” featuring “mean girls”.The author captures the vibe of her environment so neatly here:
Oh! Shah Rukh was still that “Bollywood-virus” which made every girl want to run across the yellow mustard fields at-least once in her life into some outstretched arms. Hahaha! You could be a topper of the class, but what made you the “flavour of the season” was how many guys longed to speak to you. Hell, we held not much importance in that world without having some dashing guy chasing us to remind us of our self-worth.
Neha tells us about how she fell head-over-heels in love with her young man and the extent to which they went to continue their romance in spite of physical separation when life took them to different cities. She admits to changing her education and career choices and eventually becoming this another person while in the relationship. In the heady days of attraction and passionate romance, one is ready to do anything for their loved ones without thinking of it as any sort of sacrifice or thinking of long term consequences:
Often when we embark on a new relationship, especially at a tender age, we forget the larger picture. Or should I say that our lack of experience contributed to our mindsets? We restrict our lives within the boundaries of love and refuse to even contemplate that doing so might harm us in the long run.
In our early twenties, it’s natural to feel that the world would be at our feet. We don’t have the farsightedness to analyse the long-term consequences of our decisions.
As years went by, Neha built a career and was successful in her profession. However, on the personal front, their relationship had become stagnant. They managed to keep it going long distance, but the future appeared blurry. Even when they finally overcame the parental protest and managed to get married, she felt apprehensive. And being married didn’t improve things. As time went by, her personal life became bitter and acrimonious. Neha accepted that the marriage wasn’t working and they parted ways:
Often women in our country believe that ‘once married, everything will become fine.’ There is nothing more untrue. Run for your life if the signs are on the table before marriage. Chances are that the relationship is not meant for you.
As you can see, this is not a story of uneducated women in physically abusing marriage. Neha is an independent career woman, who fell in love, stayed in the relationship for many years before they got married. Neha doesn’t share many details about her ex-husband in the book. I think it is to her credit that instead of blaming him, she is trying to explore the journey of her life and how she went through it. How she knew what she was getting into and still due to various factors, she went ahead with it. The decision to walk out becomes even harder when the marriage is of your own choice and making. There are only too many people ready to judge you and your life decisions and quick to label you as a failure.
A lot of people will identify with Neha’s journey and observations about life, love and marriage. Let me share some paras where the author talks about marriage:
Marriage is supposed to be a beautiful journey of two individuals ONLY if both want to be on the same path at the same time for the same goal with similar intensity.
Like any other aspect of life, marriage is also a bunch of strategies, tactfulness and smartness.
Marriage isn’t about being practical all the while. It takes deep emotions, feelings and love to bond on a level that only those in it can relate to.
Neha talks at length about the expectations from Indian married women. She points out how no one in the world really trains you on ‘how to live a married life’. Sometimes, the only instruction you are given is to compromise. And, so most of us stumble through it the best we can. Some of us are better at it and Neha acknowledges that but she is vocal about not just ignoring problems in your marriage for the fear of rocking the boat:
Marriage in India is not about the mutual happiness of both man and woman, instead, marriage is judged on the basis of how much compromise a woman made to ensure it “succeeds”. In the absence of which the society’s steadfast expectation to live through with pretentious contentment leads to living in denial by millions of Indian women all their lives.
I have seen many couples on this middle-ground for years and years – indecisive and unhappy. We are not talking about the random ‘rough patches’ that every marriage goes through. It’s about that feeling of suffocation, non-companionship, prolonged emotional and/or physical isolation and knowing in your heart the reason for all this yet feeling helpless. There is acute stress caused because of this ‘hanging in’ and total lack of productivity as you pass the time in a futile hope that all might mend miraculously. Sadly, that day never comes.
You may or may not agree with all her suggestions and observations about marriage, but the author also doesn’t glorify the life after divorce. She shares us with the darkness, depression, loneliness, sense of failure and trauma that comes with such a decision. Separating from someone you loved is not easy and even after you manage to get over the worst of it, life doesn’t return back to as it were before. Marriage and divorce induce some deep changes in the way you live and how you react to the world:
You suddenly discover that nothing happening around you impacts much now. Yes, you react and express in the same way, but deep down not much really bothers you. No news is world-shattering or ground-breaking anymore. Your tolerance levels reach such heights that you almost become insensitive. We realise that our flexibility takes a beating as we remain steadfast in our decisions and beliefs, almost rigid.
That is when it dawned on me that the goodness of the relationship had stayed back. We all absorb a lot in our relationships, but it need not be all bad. Give credit where it’s due. We only choose to see the bad and ignore any signs of goodness when a marriage falls apart. No relationship makes you entirely bad, and neither can the experience always be useless. There is no need to change, just to move on.
The institution of marriage is a cornerstone of society as we know it. And there are a huge number of people who must have found the trick to the happy marriage. With changing time, we also see that there are people who find it very stressful and challenging.
Books like this are like a virtual friend for someone going through a similar journey and wanting a bit of advice. Sometimes learning from someone else’s experience might be just the push you need to make your decisions and acknowledge the importance of your own well-being and happiness. Life can be too short to continue on the road that does not lead anywhere:
I dwelled on my journey of life and one thing that constantly came to my mind was how much was too much after all? Did I allow too much unnecessary to happen to myself? When should I have stopped or changed the course of my path? What was that moment/s when I should have firmly said ‘no more’? Was there a way to prevent mental scarring? Was I late already? I didn’t get my answers then, and the truth is I haven’t got them now either. My conclusion is only that in this learning course called life, one can only do what they feel and know best “at that moment”.
A recommended read for people looking for a genuine account of a personal journey through marriage and divorce…
Around 7 out of 10.
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