NETFLIX' DATING AROUND GURKI BASRA ON LOVE, MARRIAGE AND DIVORCE
As if experiencing a divorcing isn’t hard enough, Gurki Basra was publicly shamed for it on the Netflix show Dating Around. If you didn’t catch the moment, let us recap. One of her dates judged her for being divorced and for her parent’s arranged marriage. Gurki responded with grace and poise (just do a video search on Google to find the viral moment). So we wanted to catch up with Gurki to find out what life’s been like since then and if she would ever considering walking down the aisle again.
Image courtesy of James Adolphus
Q & A WITH GURKI
Getting divorced is tough: Even if it’s the right move, getting divorced or even just breaking up, is never fun. The hardest part is definitely managing the emotions that come from detaching not only from your partner, but from his family and friends. Regardless of why we divorced, he was a great guy as was his family and there was a lot to grieve once we parted ways.
How does our culture affect divorce? The nuisance that’s a bit harder for someone from our cultural background is that so much of the family and friends are intertwined. A marriage is between two families in our culture and his family was close to my heart as was mine to his. Uncoupling all of that was one of the hardest things to do and somethi?ng I didn’t quite know how to handle at the time.
Our culture reveres elders, but that also often comes with a slew of unsolicited advice and opinions. I deeply respect their opinions, but it was also very hard to manage. I was 29 when I decided to get divorced and although that seemed old enough, there was so much I had zero clue how to handle like boundary setting and learning how to not take others’ opinion to heart.
What was your family’s reaction? They were of course saddened because they were attached to my ex-husband just like his family was attached to mine. I didn’t care and didn’t really keep tabs on what the society was saying though. I’ve never been someone that cares about what strangers think and I was more focused on my immediate circle. However, I can imagine the gossip and reasons people threw out for the divorce. As humans, we only have so much energy and power on what we can control and what society thinks. I’m not going to focus on it.
Did your cultural upbrining influence you to marry? My ex-husband and I dated and fell in love. It was my choice to get married because it felt like the right next step. But here’s where the culture came into the mix. I had severe doubts about the relationship, but I assumed that it didn’t matter. Women my age only got married so I felt disempowered. I had never really seen them on their own or rarely break an engagement. I probably waited too long to pull the plug because I assumed getting divorced meant a tragic life (I was so wrong!)
When you were growing up, what did you hear about marriage? As a kid, you heard aunties feeling bad for the single older woman. I didn’t want to be that woman so I just suppressed whatever I was feeling. Although I’m not that old, our generation was still patterning after our parent’s generation. I’m glad that’s finally ending. People have more choices now and you see a lot of great examples of empowered women living unique different lives. I don’t have any regrets for my journey though.
Why do you think South Asian culture can sometimes be hard on divorced women? The patriarchy is strong and suppressing the divine feminine is something that’s happened over many centuries in many different cultures, not just ours. There are some basic rights women haven’t had until very recently and if you were alone as a woman, it meant you had quite the steep hill to climb to get equal rights. So, you of course typically ended up not as financially strong as your male counterparts. There’s also the focus on valueing sexual purity of a woman.
What advice do you have for other South Asian women considering divorce? Everyone’s circumstance is different and I know that in some parts of India it’s still very difficult to get divorced, so I can only speak from my western perspective. Get to know yourself and what your needs are and ensure your partner can meet those needs. And it’s ok to part ways. My biggest advice is don’t judge yourself for your needs. They are valid and everyone deserves to be happy.
What kind of pressure if any is there to get re-married? All the time. Any time I’m dating or meet someone new, it’s definitely the topic of conversation. But at this point I think my family realizes I’m my own woman and there is no way in hell I’ll ever settle for anyone just for the sake of settling.
What’s dating as a divorcee like? After every relationship, I take a lot of time to reflect on what happened and how I can learn and evolve from the situation. I can’t speak for all divorced women, but I think it makes me much more prepared, committed and strong for the challenges of a relationship.
What’s your worst dating after divorce experience? Dating Around on Netflix was pretty bad. It took me totally out of left field. You always hear weird things when you go on dates, but that was definitely the craziest experience.
What are your thoughts surrounding marriage now? I don’t feel a rush or pressure to get married and honestly not sure I want to. This was a very recent realization, I’ve gone back and forth on this my whole life. I think a lot of marriage is tied up in societal expectations that I don’t necessarily want to play into anymore. I still believe in a life partner accentuating your life, but I don’t need a piece of paper to validate that commitment. Marriage is a personal choice. It can be really wonderful and beautiful. My brother is married with a baby girl and I really admire and respect the life he’s built for himself with his wife.
In what ways is marriage different today than when our Moms and Grandmothers married? I spent the last year doing a lot of work on studying love and the evolution of it so I could go on and on about this. Marriage isn’t just about popping babies and surviving anymore. As women, we have agency to make our own money so we don’t need a partner to survive. This means, we can up the bar on what we expect from our partners. Marriage today can be very fulfilling in that way. We can really improve our quality of life with the right partner. It just requires empowering ourselves to know what our needs are and not settling until we find someone that also has the same self-awareness. It also requires learning how to communicate and actively listen. Once, you’ve done those things, you’re able to find a much more fulfilling relationship than our moms and grandmothers had a chance at. We’re very lucky and I’m grateful for the life I get to live.