Minding one’s own business can actually improve lives, says the author.
There are three things that we Indians do that I believe we must stop right away. In fact, stop isn’t enough. I think we should gather large rocks, cart them up the slopes of Kangchenjunga and roll them down to create an avalanche of massive proportions to permanently demolish any last vestige of these things. These are things that we assume to be self-evidently acceptable, but they are most certainly not.
The first of these is responding with “Oh, I am sorry to hear that. What happened?” when someone tells you that they are divorced. You are not being a nice, polite person by feeling pity for someone who is separated from another human being they don’t want to live with. You are being an insufferable douchebag by assuming that they need your pity. It’s about time we moved from the default assumption that a broken marriage is an earth-shattering tragedy to believing that a divorce is a decision by two consenting adults in a quest to improve each other’s happiness by moving on with their lives. Technically, either of these could be true. Perhaps it’s a monstrously messy, one-sided, legally tangled, children-infested divorce, but till the divorcee feels that you are trust-worthy enough to share that fact with you, it’s silly to assume that it is always true.
It may be true that in a country where most people still have their first sexual experience with a parentally sanctioned reproductive partner in a god-awfully expensive, life-savings demolishing (only for the girl’s father) arranged marriage, a divorce can be non-trivial. As social status goes, a divorcee (especially a girl) stands somewhere in between a large bandicoot and an old sofa set. In fact, many of them have to lie about their marital status to even rent a house because, hey, the standard assumption is that someone immoral enough to divorce is likely to become a parentally non-sanctioned pleasure partner for someone who has a bright future on bharatmatrimony.com and, surely, that is against Indian culture right?
No, it isn’t, unless we define Indian culture as pestilential tropical bacteria in a petri dish.
So let’s just stop asking people about their marital status, ok? If they want to let you know, they’ll update their Facebook relationship status and we can go and “like” that and get over it. There’s a reason why Facebook doesn’t give you a “Pity for no valid reason” button.
The second thing we must stop doing is wasting time debating whether or not someone should get a Bharat Ratna because someone more deserving, in our considered opinion, did not get it. In fact, we must generally stop bothering about pointless things like the Bharat Ratna. It doesn’t matter who gets the award. It’s a politically constrained decision made by flawed human beings motivated by other conflicts of interest. All awards, if you think hard about it, are like that. Awards don’t matter. Scholarships do. We should be far more worried about whether a potential Tendulkar got a cricket scholarship or a potential Ramanujan got an academic scholarship when he was growing up than waste precious time discussing if someone who is already a shining gem in the collective consciousness of this country needs governmental recognition of that very fact.
The third thing we must stop doing is doling out parenting advice. Let’s put this in perspective. The average couple has about two children and, for some reason, they go from kindergarten to Ph.D. in paediatric psychology in that short period of time. It’s the equivalent of a batsman walking out to bat for the first time in his life, facing two deliveries, retiring hurt and then going on to start a cricket academy for budding batsmen. In statistics, it’s called a “Sample size bias”. Every child is a unique experience and parents necessarily stumble through it largely clueless, so going through the process once or twice (cluelessly, I might add) and assuming the right to bombard others with an illusion of best practices and lessons learnt is annoying beyond all belief.
I think we should make it a law that only people who earn a Bharat Ratna and are divorced can give parenting advice. As qualifications go, that makes as much sense as being a one-time parent.