This appeared in The Week...
It’s an old, old story… but like any worthy classic, it never dates. Whether it is Satyajit Ray’s ‘Charulata’ or the more recent Shefali Shah interpretation in ‘Kuchch Luv Jaisaa’, the married-but-bored housewife continues to fascinate us. When I wrote ‘Socialite Evenings’ ( my first book) twenty-five years ago, I was savaged by critics ( hello! So what else is new?), mainly because Karuna, my protagonist, walks out of a marriage that is boring. BORING! Not abusive, not cruel, not oppressive. I believed then, as I do now, boredom is a perfectly legitimate reason to end a relationship. Terminal boredom, that is. Not to be confused with ‘boring phases’ which most marriages go through. But imagine the tedium involved in spending the best years of ones life with a person who is dull, uninspiring and plain ‘duh’. Better to invest even five short years in an individual who hits the right spots and makes you feel vibrantly, gloriously alive. During my short stay in Bhutan recently ( I was there to attend ‘Mountain Echoes’, a real gem of a lit fest), I met a local lady who clearly believes in living life Queen size. And why not? She is entitled to it! Beautiful, privileged, influential and adventurous, this gorgeous gal has been married four times and is a Glam Granny to boot. She admitted candidly ( minus prodding) that the only reason she kept up the quest for a suitable husband in that tiny mountain kingdom was to keep boredom at bay! There was absolutely nothing for young people to do in the old days – no movies, no television, no internet, no restaurants, no bars, no airport… you get the picture. How was a restless, educated and exceedingly beautiful young woman supposed to keep herself busy all day? Dating was not an option ( Bhutanese society continues to be very conservative… almost medieval). Her only escape route and diversion lay in marriage. But hear this - all her ex- husbands remain good friends. She hosted a dinner for three of them last month, and it turned out to be great fun for all, she giggled. Why not? She is an upfront, engaging personality who now travels the world promoting causes dear to her heart. Bhutanese society has obviously made its peace with their most prominent socialite, going by the response to her.
Interestingly enough, our first encounter was an impromptu one in the buzzed bar of the wonderful Taj Tashi where I was staying. I noticed an attractive woman who was holding her own effortlessly with a group of six, fairly inebriated men. She came to my table , introduced herself and asked me to join them. I did so briefly, since I found her personality bewitching and electrifying in that strange setting. I discovered those rowdy, happy fellows lustily belting out Elvis Presley hits, were generals in the army and other high ranking officials. I still didn’t know her identity but was sufficiently intrigued to ask around. When she invited me to lunch a couple of days later, I promptly accepted. There was a story in there… a good one!
I was not disappointed. She is a special person – energetic, uninhibited, bohemian and what the Brits would call a ‘good egg’. She described herself as a bitch, qualifying quickly, “… but a good bitch.” I knew exactly what she meant. Women like her are so easy to slot and damn. She means no harm to anyone. And yet, her alluring presence does attract flak – a great deal of it. We discussed boredom as being the single most under rated cause cited in modern divorce. We both felt it should be right up there, with adultery and insanity. It is equally potent! Nothing can destroy a relationship as swiftly as the realization that the person you are married to, is a bloody bore, after all. Boredom cannot be salvaged or ‘cured’. Marriage counselors cannot talk a partner out of being boring. It is a condition – like diabetes. But unlike diabetes which can be managed through a sensible diet and medication, what does one do with boredom? Ummm… very little. Shut up and put up?
More and more women are refusing to either shut up or put up. It’s simply not worth it. Those who can move on, are doing just that. Leaving several rather bewildered men behind. Men who ask themselves what they’d done wrong to deserve such a fate. Now that’s a seriously boring question! Sorry… but if it has to be asked, the woman is perfectly justified in dumping the guy. Modern marriages are cruel, indeed. Better that, than deathly dull relationships frozen in aspic.