After living in Portugal for over two years, I have come to one startling realisation. And it is that the Portuguese cannot stay married for long. However, this does not prevent them from rushing headlong into holy matrimony, not at all.
Everybody here is very enthusiastic about getting wedded; make no mistake. They love the pomp and show that is associated with weddings and each ceremony is executed to its last detail. Lavish banquets are hosted, where the planning has gone on for several months, and the party continues till the wee hours of the morning. All are happy, including the brand new bride and groom.
Nevertheless, at which precise juncture a niggling discontent sets in is difficult to pinpoint, because there seems to be no preordained pattern that is usually followed. What I mean is, of the several divorcees I happened to meet, some were separated within the first few years of marriage while others headed to the divorce courts only two decades later.
“When you agree that your marriage has irretrievably broken down and you want to get a divorce, a request may be submitted online by the couple or by their representative. It is not mandatory to hire a lawyer if the divorce is by mutual consent. But if it is without the agreement of one spouse, then the services of an Attorney at Law are retained to draft and lodge the paperwork,” explained a barrister from Porto. She was in this business for 25 years and spoke with authority.
“After the divorce petition is lodged, a date is given for a legal representative to present the application to the judge who may ask the parties some questions. If reconciliation is not possible, another date is fixed for the hearing of the case. Subsequently the judge pronounces a temporary divorce decree and if, within a period of some months, the parties have not reconciled, the judge declares a permanent decree of divorce, which is final,” she said.
Right! But why did married couples split up? My tailor, gardener, hairdresser and cleaner were all divorced. One’s husband didn’t appear at the birth of their first child, another’s wife walked out because the mother-in-law was too interfering and yet another’s husband decided that his wife was not as religious as he would have liked her to be. She followed the traditional customs in a robotic manner, but her heart was not in it, he clarified. Consequently, he consulted his lawyer friend at the local law firm and filed for divorce.
I learned later that this divorce attorney was estranged from his spouse too. Consumed with curiosity, I wanted to talk to his former wife, so recently when I spotted her in a supermarket, I rushed towards her.
“Were you married to the divorce lawyer?” I asked politely.
“Yes, but not anymore,” she came straight to the point.
“What happened?” I questioned.
“We fought constantly because of the TV,” she confessed.
“Was that the reason for your separation?” I asked.
“He watched ‘Divorce’ continuously,” she accused.
“Sorry?” I was confused.
“He saw the Sarah Jessica Parker serial all the time,” she repeated.
“Oh,” I mumbled.
“Three seasons! Twenty-four episodes!” her voice shook in anger.
“So, what did you do?” I probed.
“Turned his wish into reality,” she said.
“How?” I asked.
“By granting divorce,” she snorted.
Nickunj Malik’s journalistic career began when she walked into the office of Khaleej Times newspaper in Dubai thirty-one years ago and got the job. Since then, her articles have appeared in various newspapers all over the world. She now resides in Portugal and is married to a banker who loves numbers more than words.