Vandana Shah, a lawyer and degree holder in psychology and marketing is a very strong woman from Ambala City who had relocated to Mumbai. She was married for six months to a man from a wealthy Indian family. When he filed for divorce, her life was traumatised. 360 Degrees Back to Life is her first book based on disgrace and social dishonour pertaining to divorce that still exists in India. She has taken an initiative to start divorce support groups for those people undergoing a divorce. She also has authored another book “The EX-files”. Vandana Shah shared her views about divorce and how to restart life after undergoing it with our Editor-in-Chief Vaidehi Taman.
What is your take on marriages and sustenance in Indian society these days?
Marriage is said to be a holy union of souls and it was meant to last for seven lifetimes in India. But the trend seems to have completely changed today as we are moving towards a more globalised world where women want to be at par with men in all matters including marriage. So forget about seven lifetimes, sometimes it may not even last for seven days. There are several factors contributing to the breakdown of marriages but whatever the reason might be divorces are increasing at an alarming rate. But marriages are here to stay whether it’s one marriage, remarriage or even a third one. We will never lose faith in marriages.
The books 360 Degrees Back to Life and The EX-files written by you are based on similar themes. What inspired you to write these books?
My personal experiences about divorce have inspired me to write these memoirs as I say these are “The Story of My Divorce”. It’s not only my story it’s the story of everyone’s divorce which remains similar across the world. So, it has a universal resonance. Besides, it highlights the socio-legal aspects of divorces which no other book does. It also probably tells people that not to take divorce lightly as it may take 10 years like mine to overcome the trauma.
Our support group offers hope to people who are undergoing divorce to begin life afresh after it. And it’s a book which sends a positive message that life doesn’t end after divorce but you must restart your life when you undergo one just like I did. I was ousted from my in-laws house with only Rs 750 in my pocket. However, I never lost hope and went on to become a counsellor, author and lawyer so my life has come full circle. If I can rebuild my life why can’t others do the same? The book also seeks to eliminate the stigma around divorces happening in India.
360 Degrees Back to Life is the story of humiliation and social stigma surrounding divorce and you had also gone through this stage of life. How you view at society at large today?
Sadly getting a divorce today seems to be cumbersome task like it was 10 years ago. It took me 10 years to get divorce which is a sheer waste of time spent on family court proceedings. The stigma surrounding divorce continues to remain the same unless and until we overhaul the system. I am confident of doing it as I say, “Meri Awaaz Suno.”
Do we need divorce support groups? How will they help divorcees in common?
Yes. 360 degrees back to life is the only support group that provides non-judgemental support to those persons undergoing divorce.
It provides true empathy and support that enables you to talk your heart out without the fear of being judged. The group also becomes a forum especially to assist litigants to fight divorce cases. We also undertake job referrals for the group members without any financial dealing. Like they say give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for the lifetime. The tag line of the group is rebuilding lives.
What is your suggestion to all those going through bad marriages?
If you feel you can save your marriage by meeting a marriage counsellor they definitely opt for it. If there is turmoil in your marital life then it’s better to get out of it because God doesn’t want us to suffer. You can always restart your life.
What message do you want to give to the readers of Afternoon Voice?
It’s better to elevate yourself instead of pulling down another. Rebuild your life and stay positive.