Updated: June 13, 2021 8:38:15 am
Goa’s law Minister recently acknowledged a sudden spike in number of divorce cases filed in 2020 and 2021, many of them within just six months and one year of marriage. It prompted a proposal by him to make premarital counselling mandatory. “We need to create awareness about marriage among couples,” said Nilesh Cabral. The proposal eventually didn’t mass muster with Cabral’s own party the BJP eventually, and has been put on hold for now.
There’s no data available from the rest of India on what the last year has wrought on peoples’ personal lives, but it’s safe to presume that the unprecedented stress has caused havoc in all kinds of relationships.
Given the dizzying pace of city life, one is generally too caught up to ruminate about the (often, dissatisfying) quality of our interactions. The truth is that for most men and women a large chunk of life goes in performing tedious roles they haven’t actively sought, minus an instruction manual. As Oscar Wilde observed, the world is a stage but the play is badly cast. Even the most vigilant among us drift into unhappy situations and then waste a lot of time avoiding the big issues. It becomes necessary, if one is to survive one’s own life. A year in isolation and that’s all changed. Suddenly, society’s crushing expectations have lost relevance. Quarantine has given us an obscene amount of time to think, which is always a danger to any status quo.
So, it’s hardly surprising that divorce rates in Goa are up or that ties are dissolving all around; many are recognising a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reboot, no questions asked, no answers expected.
It’s the culmination of prolonged trauma that has so many people seriously reevaluating their lives. If we didn’t before, we know now there are absolutely no guarantees. What we’re still figuring out is, what’s really important? Looking back on 2020 and most of 2021, these endless days of waiting have been a forced vipassana meditation of sorts. Vipassana, which means to see things as they really are, requires students to commit to silence in solitary confinement for 10 days. Covid has turned us all into quasi- vipassana practitioners; in the nervous existence of the last few months you can see how much your mind distorts reality. The elusive clarity Vipassana induces has many similarities with the post-pandemic state of mind. The world has revealed itself to be beautiful despite our inherent fragilities. If, to fully enjoy its beauty requires a certain surrendering of relationships and careers that have run their course, one must philosophically put it down as growth. (Nothing like the looming spectre of death to deliver a crash course in wisdom.)
The cynical scoff at the idea that the battering the world has taken will have a lasting impact. When something like oxygen could become a luxury overnight, it would be a real pity if these brutal Covid lessons are forgotten and life goes back to exactly what it was before. It’s likely enough: bad habits have a way of resurfacing and human optimism has inexplicable velocity. At this moment at least, adversity is fuelling change. This return to normalcy is reminiscent of an enduring Hollywood and Bollywood theme: metamorphosis, or starting over. In the movie Wild, a girl treks 3,000 miles alone after a broken marriage and parental loss. Along the way she analyses her mistakes and imperfections but reaches the conclusion that she appreciates change in all its forms. Something like this phase, that has been a frustrating hiatus from life but which has delivered a powerful message — that if we choose to be, we’re all free.
This article first appeared in the print edition on June 12, 2021 under the title ‘Setting off into a brave new world’. The writer is director, Hutkay Films
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