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Embarrassingly Single In India

Posted: November 2, 2013

Why does ‘my being single’ make others recoil?

Mumbai is receptive and the easier city for Singles to live in. And they say Mumbai and Single, no matter what your age, these two words could be said in the same breadth without causing embarrassment to ANYone. Myth.

Mumbai is a mix of a lot many Indian cultures where being single is a subject of embarrassment to EVERYONE – family, friends, those who discover you are single, society watchman and you. Does not matter if you are happy with your marital status.

Instance no.1.
The doorbell rings, I answer the door to a man in formal clothing. “Madam I am here to talk about your insurance needs, is Sir around?” (Why? Even if I were married we would both use insurance. It’s not like you are selling penal implants. Why the gender bias?) Which Sir, I ask him. “Oh, sorry, what time does your mister come back from work, I can come then.”

“You may have to wait a few years”, I said.

Of course he was embarrassed about assuming that I am a homemaker and that he could/should not discuss insurance with a homemaker. He was also so embarrassed that he realized my retort very late.

Me smiling, the man recoiling.

Instance no. 2.
I happened to attend one of the functions at a social service organization where my Dad is the president. Of course most of the people there had attended my wedding. And even if they did not, it is assumed in our society that someone my age is married. So here is ‘Mrs. Well-meaning Aunty’.

“How is your husband?” “Oh Aunty, it did not work out, I am single now”. I said. “Oh, you mean you are divorced? Don’t worry it happens to everyone.”

One she conveniently replaced the word single with divorced, two she assumed I am unhappy and let’s please not use phrases loosely, ‘it happens to everyone’. No it doesn’t happen to everyone, Aunty, are you divorced? I ended the chat with “I am very happy Aunty, not worrying at all.”

Me smiling, the woman recoiling. I had caused Aunty embarrassment by breaking her worldview, ‘Divorcees are unhappy.

Instance no.3.
An enterprising chemist was trying to chat me up while I wait for my medication list to be packed. I usually buy stock for the month so it takes close to 15 minutes. Chemist, “Aaj aap kaise bhabhi, waise last time aapke mister davaiyaan le gaye the”. (Sister, how come you’ve come yourself? The last time your husband picked up the medicines.) My reply, “Nahi bhaisaahab pichli baar bhi main hi davaiyaan lekar gayi thi. Mera divorce ho gaya hai.” (No, I’d come myself the last time, I’ve had a divorce).

Me smiling, the woman recoiling.

Moral of the stories

  1. Our society must stop recoiling about someone being since or divorced and at any age.
  2. The society must be open to replacement of the word divorcee with single. After all I am not filling a visa form and for all practical purposes a divorcee is single.
  3. The society must stop assuming that single/divorced people are unhappy in THAT singles world.

All of the above can happen to men too. A salesgirl selling tampons will ask for the lady of the house, a well-meaning uncle will enquire about the other half and a chemist could have replaced the word mister with bhabhi for the polite conversation he was trying to make.

Being single in Mumbai is far less embarrassing than in any other city. Just to confirm the fact – In Gujarat the insurance agent would have smiled assuming I am joking. In Chennai, Mrs. Well-meaning Aunty would not have tried to pacify me but scorned me. And in most cities the chemist would not chat up a single woman customer anyway.

Happy to be ‘not embarrassingly single”. Because I am smiling all the way while the society does RECOIL! RECOIL! RECOIL!

Pic credit: christinielsen (Used under a CC license)

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  1. …i am single too….well almost single…..am happy, but others donot seem to be happy about it :D…..if i read the article right, you should be single too…..and probably facing the same dilemma that others are more bothered about your single status and they feel something is really terribly wrong with you….if it is so, a hi5 is the order of the day….

  2. Despite apparent nosiness of Indians, frankly not many actually care if one is single, hitched or married.

    Btw, did you mean penile implants? On the other hand, penal implant too makes sense in Mumbai (with apologies to Sanjay Dutt).

    Also, I wonder if other women are in fact jealous of divorcees or single women’s freedom and mask it with the false assumption of feeling sorry.

  3. hi my name’s Usha Srikanth, I am not single but have a wonderful friend who is. she faces many such insulting situations wherever she goes. Many know her from years and suddenly want to bring up the topic as they know now she is single. they do not care, though, only gossip. But I admire the guts with which she is facing the world, which is penalizing her for no fault of hers.

  4. A Rocking article…I heart your presence of mind , guts and sense of humour when dishing out replies to nosey Parkers…..And I am heartbroken at the attitude displayed by the residents of the most cosmopolitan city in India….Being a divorcee, I have to bear lot of humiliation from my Bengali society in Kolkata and am used to being treated like a sad thing without any future…I take it in my stride because this attitude is expected from a backward city like Kolkata……In fact I derive succour from my dream of having a professional life in cities like Mumbai/Bangalore where people are not judgemental.

    I agree with IVAR…I suspect that most women are jealous of the freedom that educated , single professionals like us have…A life without all that family drama is worth a thousand lifetimes 🙂

  5. Beautiful! I’m also a single girl n at 34, ppl around me react the same way! People look at meas if I’m 8th wonder of the world! N yeah m very much happy abt it! Ppl find that even more hard to digest!!

  6. Loved your blogpost. As a singleton I’m faced with similar situations and, what I found most interesting about you is that I respond to their faux pas in the same way. Say it like it is, doesn’t matter if it embarrasses them. In fact perhaps they’ll think twice before making assumptions.
    But yes, you need a verrrrryyyyy thick skin as a divorced person. That and a sense of humour.

  7. Liked your thoughts.
    Admire your grit.

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  9. And How True this is! I recently attended a workshop where out of ten well nine asked me what my husband does?!!!!

  10. u r absolutely r8..this happen 2 us men as well.I am 35,single and happy.I live in small appt alone.few days back an old man came along with his grand daughter cause the kid wanted 2 c my aquarium.He said..”may i say something? y are u not getting married??”..before i could reply he replied..”u should u know,u owe it 2 ur dad(pirti rin)…u do believe in the shastras don’t u?how will ur forefathers live happily in heaven…my reply…”no uncle i don’t believe in shastras.am an active member of CPI(M),plus am not at all interested in ur unmarried niece..ty good by…and he went numb…lol.

  11. Loved it ! 🙂 & your name too…. Aaradhee !!

  12. I also facing same problem. I am going through divorce procedure. In my doughter school where i used to going thats all my frnds??? Now looking at me as if i am murderer they making stories in my back that i am one who responsible for all mess. As i am emitinally broken already due to these drastic change in my life but somehow trying to co ordinates myself for sake for children but instend of coopration they intrested in my life for fun only..

    • keep your chin up Dhanashri. your friends will learn empathy in their own time. them making stories has nothing to do with you. remember it is their problem.

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