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‘Indians Don’t Get Divorced’: Destigmatizing an Issue Our Community Would Rather Not Discuss

‘Indians Don’t Get Divorced’: Destigmatizing an Issue Our Community Would Rather Not Discuss

  • After writing my blog ‘Who We Are Today’ for years, I decided to focus on divorce (with a side of mental health) as a topic for my first novel.

Indian American community has always been one filled with tradition. Even as first-generation Indians born in America, we were brought up with the cultural and family values that our parents brought over from India. We grew up with the beliefs that our families and 1990s Hindi films taught us — we must go to a good college, earn a good degree, get a good job, and marry someone who fits into our family, preferably with the same religion, language, and educational background as ourselves. And then, after all that, we must have children and teach them the same values we have been taught. This is the only way that we could make our parents proud. This was the one path that we all must follow in order to achieve success and hold our heads high in our community.

So what happens when this mold doesn’t fit who we are? What happens when we make a decision that doesn’t work anymore because something has changed, we changed?

When I realized that so many topics were not openly discussed within the South Asian Indian community, I wanted to talk about them. Issues that exist in everyone’s lives such as mental health, abuse, infertility, and divorce are still hidden as though these are things that we should be ashamed of. Why should our experiences be shoved away into a neat compartment where others can’t see? Why are these things still considered so shameful? Do they still have the same consequences as they had decades ago?

After writing about these topics on my blog ‘Who We Are Today’ for years, I decided to focus on divorce (with a side of mental health) as a topic for my first novel. I listened to versions of these stories from people surrounding me for months. It took over a year to write the first draft of this novel and to get it to the place it is today. One of the main goals is to destigmatize divorce and create mental health awareness in the South Asian community. Nothing happens in a vacuum. So many things influence the decision to choose divorce and it is never easy. I hope that this novel will help others who are struggling in their relationship or even struggling after they’ve chosen to end their relationship. We are never alone. 

So here’s what “Indians Don’t Get Divorced” is all about:

Divorce: a word and a status that is still considered highly taboo and stigmatized within the Indian community in the United States. What happens when someone gets to a point within their marriage where they become willing to accept the stigma in exchange for independence and possibly even happiness? Meet the five main characters of “Indians Don’t Get Divorced: Anjali, Naina, Rahul, Sejal, and Jeet. Each has a different story to tell. Each has to decide whether it is worth getting divorced and then live with the ensuing consequences of that decision. Is it worth breaking down barriers that have been ingrained in the South Asian Indian culture for centuries? Do Indians get divorced?

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Anjali continues to face the darkness even after she chooses to leave Naveen. Naina realizes that she has been living her entire life under the control of someone else whether it be her parents or her husband. Rahul has to figure out his next step after his wife, Sandhya, walks out, leaving him constantly worrying about his status within his community. Sejal is trapped in an extremely abusive relationship with both her husband and her mother-in-law and is fighting to save herself. Jeet has married a woman that is perfect for him on paper but quickly realizes that maybe the traditional path may not be meant for him.

“Indians Don’t Get Divorced” is published by Masala Writes LLC. It is available on Amazon.

Shailee Mehta is a Los Angeles-based accountant. She also owns Dance By Butalila, where she and her husband teach Bhangra classes. 

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The viewpoints expressed by the authors do not necessarily reflect the opinions, viewpoints and editorial policies of American Kahani.
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