Last night I saw a sweet old fashioned film called 'Barefoot in the Park'. It's just waiting to catch the eye of a Bollywood type at his local DVD library - watch for it to be turned into a hit Hindi phillum!
Actually the movie itself is an adaptation of a Broadway play written by Neil Simon in the 60s. The story is basic: Paul (Robert Redford) is an up and coming young lawyer who's just married Corie (Jane Fonda) an excessively perky young thing. Life after the honeymoon is not a bed of roses as Corie is not exactly a meticulous homemaker. For example. she chooses an apartment on the 5th floor of a building without an elevator (making for plenty of comic moments).
What's worse, however, is that Paul now needs to concentrate on furthering his career - and after one night on the town where Paul does not join in the fun, Corie starts feeling he's a 'stuffed shirt'. "You won't even walk barefoot in the park," she says - a confirmation to her of the fact that Paul is simply to uptight to enjoy life.
So, just a few weeks into the marriage she declares it's time for him to move out - and for them to get a divorce. Remember I said it's an old fashioned film - so in the end they kiss and make up. However it's interesting to note that it's basically a case of the young woman's lowered 'tolerance level' - a phenomenon we are seeing a lot of in India now.
"Can't take it, won't take it"
An India Today cover story titled 'Divorce goes young' (Feb 28, 2005) notes that 70% of divorces now involve couples below 35 years of age, driven apart by stressful lifestyles and intolerance.
'Divorces are not new in India," notes the article. "What's new is their growing numbers, different reasons and the diminishing stigma around them. More young couples are filing for divorce long before the 7 year itch sets in... Some in the first year of marriage."
Apparently 'amicable separation' in the first year of marriage has increased by 30% since 2000. And, more young women are initiating divorce. And not because of dowry harassment/ physical violence - which were the main reasons earlier. "Sexual incomaptibility, insensitivity, inequality, temperamental differences and psychological tiredness" are the reasons given most often now.
The problem begins with simple irritants like one partner likes films, the other theatre... one likes to spend, the other save. "Instead of adjustment, people dwell on the differences..." And then things quickly boil over.
Part of the reason is the financial empowerment of women - it makes it a lot easier for them to say "I don't need to put up with this nonsense". But even women who stepped into marriage as 'homemakers' are less inclined to be adjusting and tolerant.
However, survey after survey reveals that young people still believe in marriage - few are for live-in relationships. So what's the solution?
Maybe 'relationship training' in schools and colleges? At least plant the seed in young people's minds that marriage is not something that can run on auto-pilot once the wooing phase is over. You have to work on it, just like your career.
Speaking of careers, there's a big business opportunity in counselling - marital and otherwise. Psychology graduates are going to soon be a 'hot' commodity in the market - as companies, schools and colleges will be forced to look at the mental health aspect in their organisations.
Coming back to the original topic, Corie's mother gives her this most sensible piece od advice,"Give up a little of yourself for him... Don't make everything a game. Take care of him. Make him feel important!" If you manage to do that, she says - you will be one of the 2 out of 10 couples with a 'happy marriage'.
Unfortunately, young women, can't manage that. It goes against their 'we are liberated and demand equality' attitude'. Yet 4 decades later that bit of advice is still relevant.
Fact is, men - in India and the world over - have not evolved as rapidly as the women. They need reassurance and ego massage. Which is something young women should not see as a sign that they are 'inferior' - in fact it's quite the opposite :)
Shobha De's new book 'Spouse' seems like a very timely release in this context. I am no fan of her past works, but I think finally she has produced a book on a subject where she has real insight to share. In a first of sorts then - I may actually pick up a copy. Will let you know if you should too :)