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Do family members in India feel less need to maintain contact or show up for single people in the family? Why?
I am single at 33. My brother who is 35 now, was married in 2006 and today has a lovely 4-year-old daughter.
We have an aunt who I am very close to. She is the coolest aunt ever. At almost 70 she is learning to use a laptop and the Internet so she can check the NAV of her investments. She wants to own an email id so she can receive pictures of her grandchildren. Cool, eh? She can send text messages on the phone albeit she still hasn’t figured out the space key. Doesn’t matter, people get the message. To me, she is like a friend with whom I share everything. A friend, who suggests a live in relationship over having a baby on my own, she is genuinely cool. She is a friend!
Is she as close or a friend to my brother? NO!
She has visited my brother 5 times since 2006.
How many times has she visited me since 2006? NEVER.
There is no need to. There is no societal pressure to visit a single person.
What happens when one has a baby, there has been a death in the family, my brother has organized a puja, or when my brother’s brother-in-law gets engaged and then married, when they are throwing a birthday party for my niece? The aunt and everyone else is obliged to attend or visit whatever may be the case.
Single people don’t have most of these occasions.
But we have birthday celebrations of our own, we have viral fever days, we could organize a puja, we could be celebrating professional success, there could be a death in the family. Is the extended family obliged to visit/attend? NO!
I am assuming, besides the fact that there are no societal rules they will be breaking by not visiting a single person in the family, they honestly do believe single people live in ‘THAT singles world’ in their own unique lives. And that single people expect nothing from the extended family or maybe even should not expect anything.
To give my aunt the benefit of doubt, maybe she thinks by visiting me she will be disrupting THAT singles world I live in. But “Dear aunt, don’t you do the same when you visit my brother. In fact he may be feeling obliged to welcome you by breaking his own routine and that of his wife and kid. In my case too, I will make way for a visit from you. Because I love you.”
Now I have never told my aunt about how I feel until recently and her cool answer was ‘you are being silly, I will visit you next month’. Isn’t she nice?
And when I told the same to a few other not so cool beings in the extended family something to the effect of, ‘I think you don’t visit me because you have no reason to, would you come if I threw a birthday party?’ The answer I got is “It is true, why don’t you get married and we will have reasons to visit you. And what will we do at your birthday party? You will have your friends around.”
The point was completely lost on them.
And a few of them were in denial and will whack their brains about why they haven’t visited me.
My aunt lives in Gujarat. But I have tons of cousins in Mumbai where I live. Have any one of them ever visited me? NO! Have they visited my brother? Yes, because they had a reason to.
To a large extent this is true with friends too. A birthday party thrown by a friend’s husband for his beloved wife will get close to 100% attendance. But it’s always easy to back out of my birthday party for which I sent an invite myself.
Again, I am assuming that besides the fact that they need to call just 1 person (me) instead of 2 (husband and wife) with an excuse to backout, the invitees know they won’t be judged by other friends/couples if they don’t attend. Again no obligation, after all the married ones have more responsibilities. Maybe a party in ‘THAT singles world’ they believe won’t be as much fun.
Also it is ok to go to a single person’s party without a gift? Carrie Brandshaw says in the Sex and the City Episode 9 ‘A woman’s right to shoes’ in Season 6 – “And if I don’t ever get married or have a baby then what? I get nothing? Think about it if you are single after graduation there isn’t 1 single occasion where people celebrate you.” This is when her Manolo Blahniks are stolen at a friend’s party and the friend refuses to pay for her expensive lifestyle. She talks about how she has spent over 2300 dollars on gifts that celebrate her friend’s choices of marriage and baby etc.
I am repeating myself, all the ‘whys’ are my assumptions and I will be happy to know if there could be other reasons as to why people behave the way they do and assume the existence of THAT world of singles.
Pic credit: .andi (Used under a Creative Commons license)
The power of stories to inspire change made me turn into a storyteller. I write on 2 topics that need a very clear shift in attitude – ‘Being single in India’ & ‘Stigma attached to mental read more...
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