The ‘D’ Word

the D word

The first time I heard this word was as a teenager. Someone was visiting and my mother was chatting with her in low voice and when I came near, they clearly changed the conversation and started asking me some random thing in a high octave. As I strode off again, I heard the friend say in Malayalam “ She was thinking of divorce” and my mother’s eyes were wide open like saucers at this revelation. 

As we grew up, it was all black and white – Divorce was not something that sensible, well brought up women did. They reconciled, they adjusted, they conceded – after all the kids’ future would be jeopardised, especially the girls. Sometimes men wanted it because they met someone else – the nasty “other woman”, the home-breaker. Most of the accounts, bits and snatches of gossip I eavesdropped upon – it was always somehow the woman’s fault. Either she was too selfish, rigid, posh etc or she didn’t bother to maintain herself and keep herself interesting. I am reminded of a dialogue in the movie Marupadiyum (which was ahead of its times) where the cheating husband blames his wife for his affair – stating that a wife has to be a friend to the husband in the living room, a mother in the kitchen and like a mistress in the bedroom!

When we went through MBBS, all the single lady Profs’ bad moods were attributed to their singlehood through a similar comparison for single male Profs never came about. 

In every context the message was clear- for women, marriage was as, if not more important than a career. When one was posted in Surgery/Orthopedic departments during the internship, any female intern who expressed interest in the field was quickly ring-fenced to discourage as it was considered to be incompatible with a successful marriage and family life. Interestingly, the extremely demanding career of Obs- Gyn or Paediatrics which were heavily female-dominated were never discouraged, strangely enough. Then one started hearing of friends and acquaintances who had gotten divorced. People you knew quite well sometimes and in a way, it started creating a new line of thought.

From the ingrained concept of the ‘D’-word is a ‘Dirty’ word, one started slowly realising the layers, the power imbalances, and the differences in relationships. And how, a marriage gone seriously wrong is marriage better ended. For all parties involved including the children. Even the children were better off growing up free from a toxic and charged atmosphere and with separated but saner parents. 

There is however a ‘D’ word that is a ‘Dirty’ word- it’s called DOWRY.

Let’s not go into the history of how dowry and bride prices came about. It’s only too clear that it has become accepted despite a law enacted against it. Getting the dowry done is the storyline of innumerable Indian movies across the states. Let’s look at how wrong and demeaning it is today. It’s demeaning to both the girl and the boy. 

To the boy, it’s like he’s a stud with a price tag around his neck

To the girl – she’s paying for her own company? 

The kilos of gaudy bridal gold jewellery, the “new car” displayed outside the wedding hall, the acres of land willed away or the bundles of currency notes are no guarantee that the daughter of a house will be happy, cared for and live well. She will be better off any day with an education that gives her the opportunity to be self-reliant and the skills to look after herself. 

As for violence – any form – zero tolerance. 

The best gift prospective parents could give their children entering matrimony – is respect, space and a good health insurance package. Pay up their annual renewals for the first 10 years until they are in a position to do it themselves. 

Let youngsters get married 

If they want to

When they want to

And when they can look after themselves. 

No demands, no conditions, no money transactions. 

There is NO “right” age for marriage and No shame for being unmarried. 

And if they can’t make a go of it, let them part. 

A daughter should always be welcome in her parents’ home- single, married, divorced, or widowed. 

Let’s be clear as to WHICH ‘D’ word is the ‘DIRTY’ word. 



  • Suma Balan