Book Review: Spouse: The Truth About Marriage, By Shobhaa De
I try to stay connected to India by reading Indian authors. I almost always pick up a book at Bombay airport on my way back to Dubai.
Trying to get my head around what it meant to be in a committed, long-term relationship, when I chanced upon the book “Spouse” by Shobhaa De, I thought I had struck gold. The preface was bold and honest: Filled with lines and questions such as: Marriage is a flawed institution – no such thing as a perfect marriage; Why are people turning away from the only social contract that has worked across cultures? Why is modern marriage struggling survival? What are we afraid of? etc. I was sold, I bought the book and read it over night.
Written by an outspoken and modern yet Indian author made it easy to relate to the book. Not too familiar with De’s work and not too allured by her blog, I was skeptical but pleasantly surprised.
The book takes you through the marriage debate, how it’s full of issues, how so few marriages last, and how today, even in India, marriage is taking a back step over long-term live-in relationships. But the reason the book works and is a wonderful read is because the author believes in the beauty and sanctity of marriage. And because she isn’t a doctor or psychologist trying decipher the meaning of life for you.
The book is written tongue-in-cheek and in a familiar and conversational tone. The chapters are named in English and given a Hindi-film / soap opera / popular Hindi-language equivalent. For e.g. The Dhak-dhak Factor is also called Dil to paagal hai; All in the Family is also Ghar ghar ki kahani; Games People Play is Khiladi No 1. Each chapter is full of anecdotes from her day-to-day encounters with Indian socialites, her grown kids, and her own experience. Shobhaa De has been married twice and has a lot to share. Each chapter is also short, direct and ends with some lessons learnt.
Each chapter picks an angle: talking to your partner, handling your mother-in-law, dealing with fights, infidelity, differences in love marriage vs arranged marriage, long-distance marriages, the importance of sex, talking about children; she has contextualised each chapter and its lessons so well, that they make for repeated entertaining yet enlightening reading. A must book for anyone who is getting married or wants to get married.
For someone like me who has not lived in India for a long time, and who has very open yet very Indian parents, this book has the perfect modern-yet-not-super-modern Indian mindset. In my case, contrary to Indian convention, I felt no need to settle down before a certain age, think about marriage, family and all that. Luckily my parents let me do my thing and didn’t pressure me into thinking about it either. But then I met the right guy and I wanted it all. A boyfriend-girlfriend live-in type relationship was just not going to work for me. I was shocked when I realized that. Must be the deep seated desi in me surfacing. Lost with this conviction of the heart, this book came along at the right time. It confirmed that I wanted marriage, despite all its flaws, and gave me the right amount of insight for now. Not only worth a read, but worth repeated reference.
Image Courtesy: http://image2.mouthshut.com/images/ImagesR/2009/9/Spouse-The-Truth-About-Marriage-Shobha-De-925048493-2887690-2.jpg?a=6/17/2011%209:20:19%20AM