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Being single in India is embarrassing - for anyone who hears of your single status!
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.
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.’
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
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)
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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I recommend reading Manjiri Indurkar's Origami Aai alongside her memoir to have a fulfilling and enriching experience of telling one's story with grace.
It’s All In Your Head, M famed author Manjiri Indurkar’s debut poetry collection, Origami Aai, is independent and yet an extension of her memoir in which she speaks with utmost grace about all forms of abuses that she has survived. In this book of intriguing and evocative poems, the poet weaves words to form images of the everyday life of her middle-class family, love found and lost, trauma, and healing.
The collection is divided into four segments, beginning with the family, slowly moving towards the world, and finally colliding them together.
We aren’t in mourning, but we are creatures of habit.
So we talk of each one who died of drowning,
and I listen to her stories with the patience
of a chronicler.
– Funereal Stories
When someone accuses you of "too much feminism", what they are really saying is, "I am uncomfortable with you challenging the status quo and disrupting my privilege".
Time and again, there is one phrase that keeps coming up in the social media discourse on feminism. Any guesses?
Ah, no prizes for guessing the infamous “itni bhi feminist” or “too much feminism” phrase, a classic eye-roller for me, and I am sure for many more of my tribe, in the realm of gender equality discussions.
Pray tell me, how can an ideology, a movement be too ‘much’? It’s not salt or the seasoning of your soup where you can go, “Oops, too much salt, only one spoon was required”. Either you stand for what feminism stands for, or you don’t.
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