Kamini, 26, a pretty girl from Sonepat, married an engineer from Gwalior and settled in Pune last year. Within six months of the marriage, the couple filed for divorce in the Sonepat district court. The reason: growing marital discord after Kamini’s husband found out that she was buying air tickets from Delhi to Pune for her lover in Sonepat from his credit card.
Neeta, 24, who runs a beauty parlour in Sonepat, married a police constable from UP. Within a few months, she felt he was not the kind of person she wanted to spend the rest of her life with. She filed for divorce and even slapped her husband in court.
These two cases from Sonepat, a small town in Haryana, are reflective of a growing trend in small town India, where an increasing number of young women have been filing petitions for separation. Says Bhupeshwar Dayal, a lawyer who handles several divorce cases in Sonepat’s district court, “Till 5-6 years ago, you could hardly see any woman in the court premises. Today, there are lots of young, pretty faces, most of whom are here for cases relating to divorce and maintenance.”
Divorce, Dayal says, is no longer a taboo and a divorced daughter is not unwelcome in her parent’s homes anymore in small towns. “Recently, I had the case of a girl who sought divorce because she thought her husband was giving his mother more attention than her. In the new socio-economic environment in small towns, women do not feel shy of walking out of marriage,” says another lawyer, not wishing to be named.
“Social trends originating in metros slowly percolate down to smaller towns and from there, to villages. Today, girls in smaller towns, especially those belonging to the upper class are as aspirational as their metro counterparts and wish to follow the latter — whether it is their dress, food habits or keeping late hours. The small town male just cannot digest this,” says Arun Bhardwaj, a Sonepat lawyer who now practices in Delhi High Court.
While both Dayal and Bhardwaj blame the shift on soap operas on the small screen, sociologists say that soap operas can have only a limited effect in influencing social mindsets. “The fact is that there is a new Indian woman everywhere — whether it is in smaller towns, metros or villages, thanks to globalisation. She is not willing to tolerate violence and mental torture, even if it means getting a divorce,” says Ranjana Kumari, director, Centre for Social Research, New Delhi.
(names of women have been changed)