As is the case these days, the New Year is speeding fast and already we are going into the third week It is like in those days of Creation: “and then it was evening, and it was morning, the second day”! Instant! I have before me the Custodian of January 10 and this article on page 7 titled: “NGO supports women to defy unofficial divorce” looks interesting. What is happening? Apparently women are no longer taking instant divorces lying down.
The writer tells the stories of women who have been issued with divorce papers by their husbands but have not budged an inch. Like Z, a housewife and mother of three. Her husband handed her a divorce decree wanting her to move from the matrimonial house and go back to her parents: “Z says she told the husband ‘point black’ that he was perhaps ‘day dreaming’”. “I told him I would ‘never never’ leave the house”.
It was rumoured that the husband wanted to marry another wife but Z was adamant: “I will not ‘leave an inch’ from our three roomed ‘grass thatched’ house, even if he came with a bulldozer”. Let’s work with the writer and rectify a number of phrases. Z. told her husband “point-blank” not “point black”. Of course the document that the husband handed to Z was in black and white and this may have affected the writer’s choice of words.
Nevertheless, it is worthy noting that if you say or refuse something “point-blank”, you do so bluntly, directly and without trying to explain your reasons. Also “daydream” is one word not two. Z did not have to say she would “‘never, never’ leave the house”. True, she was being emphatic but the correct phrase is “never, ever” and not “never, never”: “I will never, ever leave the house”. Likewise, she should have said: “I will not move an inch from our thatched house”, instead of “I will not ‘leave’ an inch from our ‘grassed thatched’ house”.
Please note as well that in these parts of the world, where a house is roofed with grass, it is called a thatched house. In this respect, grass and thatch mean the same thing. Thus there was no need to talk of a ‘grassed thatched’ house. It is an over-use of words. According to the writer, Z’s case is a “drop in the sea”. Gender activists and social welfare department workers testify to the fact that many women assumed to be divorced visit their institutions for advice on how “to go with “such serious demands.
Shall we let the writer get away with saying: “a drop in the sea” instead of: “a drop in the ocean?” We should not. Idioms are never, ever to be tampered with. It is not: “a drop in the river”, “a drop in the lake”, “a drop in the pond” etc, much as all these words refer to large bodies of water. The Americans though have a phrase: “a drop in the bucket”. It is “a drop in the ocean”, meaning a very small amount of something compared to what is needed or wanted.
This means the concept of “a drop in the ocean” is not appropriate in the case of housewife Z narrated in this story. What the writer had in mind was that Z’s case was one of hundreds or thousands of cases that take place but do not come up in the public arena. “The tip of the iceberg” would possibly have been more appropriate compared to: “a drop in the sea/ocean”. Thus, “Z’s case is just the tip of the iceberg”. The women threatened with divorce seek advice on how to go “about” (not “with”) such serious demands.
The writer goes on tell us that marriage experts do not usually want fast-track divorces: “There are various means of bringing social pressure to bear on a couple ‘to compose’ their differences”. Now, “‘to compose’ their differences does not make sense to me. Did the writer want to say: “to resolve their differences”? Husband and wife who want to divorce are reminded of “the right to equal distribution of assets accrued during the ‘couples co-habitation’”.
To co-habit means to live together like man and wife without being legally married. Co-habitation is therefore not the right word to use when referring to married persons. Instead of “couples co-habitation”, I would have said “the existence of their marriage”. In the end a marriage can break down when: “there are absolutely no chances of ‘recondition’ between the parties. “Reconditioned marriage”? Most likely the writer had ‘reconciliation’ in mind. A marriage will be considered irreparable when there are absolutely no chances of reconciliation (not recondition) between the parties.