Some books are destined to be read, and no matter how much I try to escape them I inevitably end up succumbing to what the Book Gods have decided. ‘Leaving Home With Half A Fridge’ by Arathi Menon has been chasing me for quite some time. Each time I visited the library, it would land up in my hands. I would gaze indulgently at it and firmly keep it back on the shelves. This time it made up its mind to come home with me and I’m so glad that it did.
As the title suggests, this is an account of the author’s life as she grappled with the process of divorce and its aftermath. Arathi speaks about the event that rocked her life in a forthright and matter of fact way and I felt a lot of respect for the person that she is. Names are not bandied around and dirty linen is not washed in public; the spotlight is solely on how she coped with the issue. It helps the reader also stay focused on the actual experience that she went through rather than get side-tracked by unwarranted drama and name-calling.
Arati lays down with wry self-deprecating humour her saga of survival on the wretched landscape of divorce. She’s candid about her own faults, and I felt that accepting that has helped her dissolve the bitterness that a failed relationship inevitably holds. It has certainly not been an easy process for either of the affected parties. The author takes us through her journey of sorrow, despair, acceptance and joy without distracting us with melodrama of any sort. She touches on topics which are usually skimmed over in popular fiction or movies, but which I’ve often wondered about. How do you inform people at work about a divorce? What happens during that in-between stage when the divorce is not final? How do you handle annoying ‘well-wishers’ who want to know all the details? Is it scary to start all over again? What about social media accounts, what happens there?
Arathi answers all these questions and a lot more with a simplicity that makes it very real. She writes with warmth and forthrightness, which made me feel as if I was sitting on my couch, listening to a friend talk about her life. I would definitely call this a handbook on what to expect when you are going in for a divorce. I loved the handy list that she has prepared of household objects required when starting on your own again. It combines brutal practicality with a touch of sentimentality for those times when life needs a touch of whimsy to tide over the blues. Along with the fridge, gas and microwave oven, there’s mention of “Fairy lights. They made me happy.” Then there’s the gem, “… a bunch of square pieces of cloth, for dusting, wiping, stuffing into the mouths of annoying people etc.”
This is a book of hope, with an undertone of optimism running through even when Arathi has to deal with the most difficult and heart breaking decisions. We somehow know that here’s a girl who will get through this, tattered and wrung out certainly, but she will make it. I would say that this is a must-read for somebody who is contemplating a divorce, or who has just been through one. That sentence is just not right. This is a must read for anyone interested in the vagaries of life, the impact of tough decisions, and how to just deal with the muck that life throws at you, and move on with gumption. What we think is the end of the world is just life giving us another chance, and the secret is to grab that chance with both hands and give it a go.
The only drawback that I felt was that the narrative could have been a couple of chapters shorter. I’m sure the author will want to wallop me for this since she’s writing about an issue which has turned her life upside down. It was just a thought, is my only defence 🙂