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‘The first marriage is practice’

“The first marriage is practice.” This statement from a novel I read some time back left an indelible mark in my brain, especially since I’ve been through a divorce myself. Or let’s say, I’ve had some “practice” and that’s why this Indian advertisement struck a cord with me.

The ad film by Tanishq, a big jewelry brand in India, begins with the protagonist admiring her necklace and sitting in front of her dressing table. We know it’s her second marriage when her daughter peeps from behind the door and runs up to her mother to show off her new clothes.

The film progresses with a view of the typical “pandal” in a Hindu marriage- a platform where the holy fire is placed. The bridegroom welcomes his bride and they begin circling the fire, when suddenly, the bride’s daughter wants to participate. The bridegroom picks up the little girl and the three of them circle the holy fire in a happy culmination to the wedding ceremony.

A divorcee’s trauma

Any woman who’s been brought up in India knows that a divorce and a second marriage are bound to create at least some problems with her extended family and probably her neighbours. So a divorcee tends to keep her mouth shut when visitors are around. My mom was my spokesperson, telling the whole world what had happened to my marriage and probably getting criticized herself for letting her daughter “get out of hand.” If you’re lucky like me, you’ll have understanding aunts and uncles, but the average Indian neighbour will analyze your failed marriage and if you’re really unlucky, you might get some advice on how to keep a marriage intact.

Some examples: your neighbours might claim that long, Rapunzel-like hair is the secret to a happy marriage, some may tell you to undergo skin-whitening procedures, some astrologically-inclined neighbours may advise you to pray to the nine planets to get “your man” back. Some may tell you that you have forgotten your tradition and have got lost in the desert of “western ambition.” Some may simply tell you to get married again without delay so that the whole world can forget about the fiasco – as if your being married or unmarried makes a difference to anyone. But in India, it does.

Remember, it’s “practice”

My own experiences are the reason why I feel that this advertisement by Tanishq is revolutionary on two counts: first, it’s about a woman who is marrying again and second, the woman in question is not the usual “fair” woman Indians are so partial towards.

In the ad film, the woman is dark, so she is not the “perfect” match according to current conservative Indian standards. She has a daughter from her first marriage, which means that she is definitely not a virgin and her future, second husband will have to bear the additional “burden” of her daughter. This is really how many Indian families think even today.

But the ad-makers have been very smart about bringing their message across. India loves jewelry and most families around this time of the year are attending marriages or organizing one themselves. Brides-to-be and women in general are bound to be interested in the latest trends in earrings and necklaces, so this is the perfect time to advertise for pricey jewelry. And if you can spread a social message through it, then the effect is twice as good, especially since the number of divorces in India is rapidly rising. The ad has gone viral and received extended coverage in Indian and foreign media.

I escaped a lot of social stigma after my divorce because of my supportive friends and family. I think being in Germany also helped me open my eyes to new perspectives on how women live. I hope that this advertisement helps other divorced Indian women come out of their shells and learn to live life again.

“The first marriage is practice.” This is what Marjane’s grandmother tells her after her granddaughter is completely devastated following a painful divorce. Marjane is the protagonist of the graphic novel “Persepolis” by Irani author Marjane Satrapi. Although I picked up the book thinking I’d learn something about the Islamic revolution, this one advice from Marjane’s Grandma stayed with me.

Author: Manasi Gopalakrishnan

Editor: Grahame Lucas


20.11.2013 | 15:39