This is a book about a woman taking the lead in getting divorced when she is 35- years-old and trying to rebuild life from scratch. A memoir, Arathi Menon’s first book “Leaving Home With Half A Fridge” is witty, matter of fact and poignant.
Any divorce is bound to leave its scars. But the author found the courage to rediscover fun. She began to value all the little things that make life such an astonishing gift and got back to her love of writing. Having spent her childhood in Bangalore where she loved trees, food and beer, she currently lives in Bombay and is addicted to happiness and books.
Arathi referred to her husband as the “Ex” with a capital “E” with whom her marriage lasted five years. She does not reveal his name and finds it difficult not to think of him after deciding to go their separate ways.
As well read people and being professionals, she had nothing to fall back on in terms of a healthy bank balance. At the same time they did not want anything from each other. She explains without the least fuss the reasons for seeking a divorce. The initiative was entirely hers. That in essence is her story.
She decided to seek an amicable separation as there was no spark in her married life. She met her Ex on and off but the thought of coming together again was shut out. May be anybody who has loved and lost might relate to it. Her marriage gets dissolved forever upsetting every single thing she was brought up to believe in.
She maintains she found happiness after the biggest social institution she had committed to had broken down. “It is a fairly tale with a happy ending.”
Simply put it is about kissing the wrong frog and facing the consequences. Her family supported her wholeheartedly. Their involvement was, however, minimal as Arathi was adamant about handling the situation independently. Her writing is simple, lucid, witty and at times telling.
Divorcees are thankful for the sheer relief of getting a second chance at dancing passionately, joyfully, unstoppably to the tune of life.
Her first chapter is aply titled “The End”. No matter what anybody says every divorce is a sad love story. After having tried and tried and tried, she was tired. There was no reason to continue the relationship with Ex. “You could either choose to live in this hell of meaninglessness or take every ounce of courage you have and snap the threads that swayed from your happiness.”
Her divorce while tragic was never melodramatic. This was real. Her account is anchored in “today’s reality and spoken in a language that is ours”. Things with the Ex were going downhill and the word “divorce” kept popping up in her head. She had to find out what it entailed. Well she did what most people do when they have to research something they are ashamed of.
After the research she would go to the history and delete her finds. It gave her such a sense of triumph to click on “Clear History” and watch three hours of browsing vanish without a trace. “I figured a mutual consent divorce would be the best for us.”
The Ex and I had to be living apart for a year before filing for divorce and after that six more months the couple were given an opportunity to change their minds. (This law has changed now.) One needs to go through a process that lasts a year-and-a-half to get divorced, while to get married one has to wait only a month.
Theoretically Arathi was clear that a mutual consent divorce was the most painless. The emotional trauma will be there but that was her cross to bear.
She and her Ex were not the kind of persons to brandish the “D” word every time there was a fight. A lot of things could be found lacking in that marriage but one of the things it had was the brutal honesty. “I think it was because both of us did not know how to lie convincingly. What the Ex had done was that he had brought home this large problem. He had kept it in the living room and it had started getting bigger and bigger pushing our marriage out. We both knew it was killing our ’till death do us apart’ vow, but he did not know how to throw it out. I definitely did not want to stay in a place where everything I believed in was being choked into nothingness.”
In fact, on some days I couldn’t even see the Ex as the problem had grown so huge. Finally it came to a point where our marriage had disappeared. That’s when I dropped the ‘D’ word on the carpet. It fell with a deafening clatter and immediately much to satisfaction the problem had already begun to look smaller. The Ex seemed a little shocked like he had never heard the word before. He sat down and she carefully took him through the process.
After the explanations, much to my surprise, he cheered up immediately. He was relieved the divorce would not happen tomorrow. There was a whole year-and-a-half to go through and being the optimist he was, he thought anything could happen by then. He suggested living apart like the courts had asked pointing at the problem muttered hopefully that maybe this separation would cause it to disappear.
A lot of couples fake this and pretend they have already lived apart in order to get the divorce more quickly. The problem with having uttered the “D” word is that it is a monster. It clings to you and grows in power. Every single day, every single minute after you have discussed it, it hangs in your mind. The fact that the “D” word had been said helped. By growing louder and louder, it began pushing me out.
“The house we shared got unbearable.” It hurt so bad to be with someone with whom every single connection, bond and love was broken. She knew it was time for her to leave and the word ‘divorce’ was going with her. Looking back she realised how lucky she was to have friends, such a corpus of them. In divorce one always walks alone. It is great to know that as you walk, there are people who will walk a while with you. Once the divorce by mutual consent came through it dawned on her that she had emerged as a strong, independent woman who is a bit of a chicken when night falls and she is alone at home.
It is important to question where to find love again. Arathi decided to be open to everything. She had nothing to lose. She went on blind dates met people and learnt all sorts of things. Not all the men were nice. At the same time she believed she would get what she wanted. Happiness was her focus. If she was alone, she’d be happy in her solitary garden.
In conclusion the author provides a dozen step tango for the divorcee. This includes among others: “Get A Job” if you can’t volunteer at charity step out of your home five days a week; “Let Go” as you can’t force anybody to love you or be with you; “Take Care of Yourself” where one looks good, feels good and believes that you are attractive; “Close Contact” by saying goodbye to the Ex for some time till you have healed; “Fake Happiness” like pretending till happiness turns real; “Its Okay” to hurt as living with pain isn’t that bad as it will go away one day without warning; “Things Will Get Better” as the worst is over and a new beginning has started; and “Close Contact” by saying goodbye to the Ex till you have healed.