May I return this 9-year marriage, please?

Thanks to Sophie’s raising questions about divorce in Indian marriages through her posts, The New Indian Woman and Divorce and A Big Debate – Kids and Marriage, I was inspired to share this little excerpt from a short story I have written. Needless to stay the story, titled This Day of Thanksgiving, is one of my less fictional and more autobiographical works.

It is now just over three months since the legal divorce. The memory of that time, waiting in the King County courtroom is at once immediate and distant. The experience was oddly similar to standing in line at the Returns counter of a store. You are, say, at the popular home store IKEA. Throngs of families stroll through variegated vignettes of home life – all glorious in their maple-fabric-color-and-light character. You are entirely convinced that normal families live blissfully in these pleasantly easy geometric and colorful configurations. Hundreds bump into you in their avaricious seeking, but you don’t mind because this is a collective experience, as if assembling together at God’s door, at the Mecca of family living. Then suddenly, one of the furniture items you acquired doesn’t assemble quite right. You are now in the Returns area – a poorly lit, cheaply tiled box next to the parking lot, drafts of cold air sending chills up your spine, while you wait in line with a cheap-paper number-chit between your fingers. By the time your turn arrives you are subliminally aware of the thick air of disapproval by some invisible public body, screaming its collective judgment: Leela, you fucked up. And so there I had stood, in line, at the King County courthouse. May I return this 9-year marriage and have my money back please? It doesn’t work very well. The judge, a crusty, expressionless man, had been all but falling asleep behind the counter in the little courtroom. After an oath and six questions to which the right answers were no more complicated than a monosyllabic Yes or No, he had stamped my documents with a bang and pronounced somnolently: Your marriage is now dissolved. Just like that. It took precisely four minutes, hardly representative of the gravity of the situation. I recall turning somewhat delirious, an enormous, simultaneous welling of tears and giggles threatening to pour out, but making a concerted effort to maintain courtly decorum. Eight hundred people in their heaviest silks and glittering jewels had been present to celebrate the union of two individuals in typical Indian extravaganza. Nearly nine years later, my lawyer and I took a ten-minute walk for a four-minute appearance that made possible a different kind of transition for me. There was, for this transition, no question of publicly sanctioned celebration. Nearly a decade of my life was now appropriated as a sheaf of documents enveloped in a manila folder in the archives of an American courthouse.”

I hope to publish my full collection Ten Avatars – in 2009!

Last 5 posts by Shahana Dattagupta



7 Comments

  1. Anonymous

    All the best on your publishing venture. This piece reads very well.

  2. malini

    Very well written. All the best for the publication.

  3. Khushi

    Tana, This is a very good piece and I like the Ikea showroom description. On a lighter note, since you had mentioned this comparison to me, Ikea opened its first Atlanta store. I have bought a bunch of cheap junk from there and remembering your description never went to return any of it!

  4. Sophie

    You write with feeling Tana. Truely, human relationships are so complex, their boundaries & contours ever-changing. Sometimes its hard to cope. Thank you for your eloquent account. It moved me. Good luck with the book!

  5. Tana

    Anonymous, Malini, Khushi and Sophie – thanks so much for your encouraging comments. Perhaps you all can be my first readers some day!

  6. Indrani

    Hi Tana And Everyone

    A very Happy New Year to you all. I am sorry I could not log in for some time but still its never too late to say Tana, your piece moved me. You write with emotions, comparisons aptly described. All the best for publishing your stories. Would love to grab a copy of the book whenever its printed.

  7. Tana

    Thanks so much, Indrani. This forum is such an inspiration! I will certainly post about any publishing efforts that may manifest into a book.

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