Mumbai

In Mumbai, a support group for those going through divorce

Safe space: Shasvathi Siva wants to provide a non-judgemental, gender-neutral space for those struggling with divorce to dispel the stigma around it.

Safe space: Shasvathi Siva wants to provide a non-judgemental, gender-neutral space for those struggling with divorce to dispel the stigma around it.  

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Most of the times, all people need is an ear to hear their thoughts, says Shasvathi Siva.

A Mumbai-based entrepreneur will, from Sunday, start a support group for people who have gone through a divorce or are going through one. The idea, she said, is to provide a safe, non-judgemental and gender-neutral space for them to come together and dispel the stigma surrounding it.

Shasvathi Siva, a Chennai native who runs Cowvathi, a service that provides vegan alternatives to dairy products, went through a divorce that was finalised in January. She said her own experiences during and after the divorce gave her the idea for the initiative.

“I remember how, before the proceedings started, I myself was uncomfortable with the word divorce. I was constantly worried about what my life would be like after it. During this time, a friend, who has also gone through a divorce, became a pillar of support. Just knowing that there is someone else who had gone through the same thing makes a world of difference,” Ms. Siva said.

After the divorce, while coping with the stress that it brings along, Ms. Siva tried looking for support groups but found none.

“I found a Facebook page which I joined but it mostly had women from New York. The concept of divorce works differently there than it does in India, and there isn’t as much pressure. It did help to take part in the discussions there but I still found myself craving for a physical space. The longer that yearning lasted, the more determined I became to do this,” she said.

Ms. Siva wanted to start the support group sooner but found herself not quite ready to listen to accounts of other people that were similar to her ordeal. An old-school romantic with a firm belief in the concept of love, she needed some time to deal with the finality that the divorce brought with it.

Baby steps

Soon, she started speaking about divorce on her social media platforms and slowly started getting responses, particularly on Instagram. She made it clear that she was not a professional but was just available to lend a ear if anyone needed it.

“Most of the times, that’s all that a lot of people need, an ear to hear their thoughts. There have been instances where women I started talking to on Instagram called me up at 4 a.m. because they were having a meltdown. At times when I did not have the bandwidth for it, I said so honestly and for the most part, they understood,” Ms. Siva said.

Listening to other people’s stories also became a crucial part of her healing process. As time passed, she started scheduling conversations with her newfound friends, so she too could be psychologically prepared. She would ensure she barely spoke about herself and just let the other person talk.

These experiences only strengthened her resolve and finally, with the help of some friends, Ms. Siva has set up the first meeting of the support group, taking great care to ensure it is a safe space.

“I have not declared the venue of the meeting on any public platform. It will be conveyed only to those attending, and that too one or two days in advance. Only the people who are actually going through, or have gone through a divorce can attend,” she said.

She aims to have a meeting once every month, and hopes to include people like therapists, lawyers and parents of divorcees in future meetings. Ms. Siva believes that support from parents is very important in a divorce, and that many women are at risk of getting stuck in unhappy marriages because their parents are not willing to support them.

Summing up the essence of the initiative, Ms. Siva said, “We need to build a community, to be there for each other, because without that I don’t see how we’re going to beat the stigma surrounding divorce.”

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Printable version | Dec 16, 2019 10:18:30 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/mumbai/most-of-the-times-all-people-need-is-an-ear-to-hear-their-thoughts/article30043133.ece

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