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What is wrong in being a single woman in India? Why does our society view it as unacceptable? A personal account that explores this problem.
A 30 year old single woman in India automatically attracts a multitude of tags and most of these from the people she would have least expected; old friends, extended family, people who have grown up with you, people who have seen you grow up.
I often wonder how and why is it so difficult for them to ‘see’ me beyond the conventions my age and relationship status automatically tend to confer upon me. And maybe that is the reason I have given up on attending family gatherings, partly with an I-don’t-care attitude (which I must admit is hugely empowering) and partly with the inability to come up with any answers and justifications for all the allegedly well-meaning concerns (veiled inquisitive questions?) that I will be bombarded with.
“I am sure she has a boyfriend, doesn’t she?“. This statement has single-handedly managed to be a part of many conversations my parents have had with their siblings and friends. A statement that reeks of an automatic bestowing of ‘scandal’ in my slightly conservative community. It bothers me, it bothers me a lot, because I have never had a boyfriend and will possibly never have one and even if I had one, I would hardly consider it their business.
It amazes me how these people, just because I have been independent for the last 9 years and refuse to bow down to all their “expectations” of me, consider themselves to be such an authority with their judgments on me. My parents despite not owing any, then give them explanations, telling them or rather reminding them of the kind of person I am and how not getting married even as my “age” is increasing is an altogether different matter, something we all wish our “well-wishers” could only understand.
…people possibly forget that life is much more than getting married for some of us out here.
If only the conversations ended here, if only my parents and I were left to deal with our issues. But alas, this world is hardly the place for that. It is really hurtful when my parents have to shoulder the blame of “letting me stay unmarried and a single woman in India because they can get my salary in return”.
When I first heard this accusation a few years back, I cried at how hurtful it was, how hurtful it must have sounded to them. But now as it has become a perennial occurrence, my mother and I have learnt to laugh it off and remind ourselves of how our thinking is thankfully devoid of such cheap insinuations.
At a time when one’s own life is complicated enough, the least one could expect from her family and friends is to just stand by her and have faith in her. For it is this faith that gives the cynic in me the strength to carry on and the strength to get over this extremely unsatisfying phase of my life; people possibly forget that life is much more than getting married for some of us out here.
My parents, my brother and some of my close friends have done and are doing just that, but it is these other people who unfortunately one cannot just rid themselves off, that pull me back into the abyss of helplessness that I am trying so hard to keep myself out of.
That brings me to my questions.
Why is marriage considered to be such an important institution in India?
Why is a woman desiring a certain kind of life partner for herself and so staying a single woman in India till she finds him (like me) or by opting out of a bad marriage for perfectly valid reasons, always looked down upon?
Why are we accused of being selfish, picky, unaccommodating and un-adjusting when all we are doing is living “our” life the way we want to?
I can still remember the strange and piercing manner in which my just-married younger roommate’s mother-in-law looked at me every time we crossed paths. Why does a 30 year old single woman in India have to be glared upon in this manner?
…what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger and I wipe my tears and get on with my life.
The answers to all these questions are never there and there are times when the lack of them weighs me down to such an extent that all I can do is weep with sheer misery. But then what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger and I wipe my tears and get on with my life.
30 will turn to 31, the increase in numbers is inevitable and so is the number of glares and accusations that will be hurled my way. The least I can do for myself is brush them aside and keep walking, for I know, my family and I don’t deserve them and sometimes realizing something for yourself is much more important than the world realizing it for you.
Image source: shutterstock
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“Why is marriage considered to be such an important institution in India? Why is a woman desiring a certain kind of life partner for herself and so staying single till she finds him (like me) ”
If marriage were really important to these people you talk about, they would wait for the right person too (like you), rather than hurry into it just because of the perceived ‘right age’. Kudos to you. You seem really wise and gutsy, most people are not clever or strong enough to do this.
Very well-written too.
Sometimes parents do not bother much but relatives.. they start playing as a villain..Girls are married off under societal pressure.. no one cares about the post marriage life.. even family members stop bothering how their girl is leading her life in a new family….. luckily I managed to stay single till my education is complete.. this is really a very nice piece I came across in these days..
I think, it is more like I am screwed (married), so how can you be happy (unmarried). Pur jealousy and a depperate attempt to bring doom on another womans head…
Hee hee , nice one . I agree 🙂
This is exactly what all unmarried women are dealing with….very well written…..hope to read more of these kinds….this is one side of the story in general….where u have the other side what men think about single women at 30….
Thanks Rahasya and of course , I would love to hear the other side of the story too :)and know what men think about this .
You just read my mind, and thank you for writing what i wanted to tell the world! Well written! Kudos
well..i m a 33yr pld single female in delhi…and blv u me..its the same for me…i have been told to get married n some of my close relatives even told me..ki if u dont ;like the guy..simply get married to him..have 3 kids..ur purpose from marrg is srved..ladke ka tune kya karna hai! and its always the women who suggest this! well..for me personally..i have had enuff and i jst behave so rudely with these so called relatves that all of them have givenup n say ki itni rude hai..isse kon shaadi karega n shut up after that! n i totally agree with u..even if ur comfy with the idea of being single n independent..india mein aaspaas ke logon se yeh dekha nahi jaata…so mucjh so..a neighbourhood auntyji once even came upto me..n asked ki koi pati nahi hai..bache nahi hai..tu sirf job karke khush kaise rehti hai…its funny that people ask such personal questions without any hesistation..all in the name of being concerned for u…n they assume that u will b happy only if marry n have kids! best is ignore such ppl..be happy with ur decisions and marry only when u find the right guy n feel comfy doing that! society be damned!
yes u r right
m bhi chahti hu single rahu lekin sabka yane relatives ka parents ka itna pressure rahta h sadhi karo unke kaise mana kare
Hi , I totally agree with your thoughts. What you do with your life is nobody’s business. And like you said, marriage is not everything for most of us. We’d rather stay single and happy than end up with the wrong guy. Life’s most important decisions cannot be taken in haste just to shut the mouths of curious relatives! You are wise. Stay that way till you find the guy who will thank you for having waited for him!
Much younger to you in mid to late twenties! And empathize with every word you wrote!
I have always said that Indians are very rude and insensitive people.They meddle in your personal affairs as if they have every right to ask such questions.They are close minded and would not understand your reasons,you can turn blue in face explaining them your side of story. So why bother..if a person is strong enough to take such decisions i don’t think they should give a single second of their time such well wishers….
Thanks for sharing your comments everyone . I am glad you all could relate to my exact emotions(and frustrations).
I absolutely understand your anger at those people you are talking about. I wish people would stop treating marriage and kids as ‘the most’ important phases of our lives. Like you rightly pointed out ‘ …people possibly forget that life is much more than getting married for some of us out here.’ Thank you for such a wonderful article.
hi it’s totally wright. and i think you are very strong and courageous women becoz you are strong enough to face all these talks and situations. in my opinion being single is better than being in a relationship with a wrong one. so keep going… 🙂
to put it simply, people who understand you won’t question you and people who question you will never understand you.
You know, its all right to weep. At times to let it all flow out. That which you have been keeping within, hurtful words spoken to you. At moments when the tears start to flow, you remember all those instances. But like you said, it does not kill you.. and you emerge stronger as a person. You are a brave person and very sensible too. Love yourself. Be strong – for your own sake and your wonderful parents and brother. Really never bother with those nosy relatives and tiresome neighbors. Be happy and let the world see how contented and carefree you are…. God bless you 🙂
I think just by writing this article shows that you are still not over it,…..
I have been single till 28 and then got married…….. And i have to say i was happy when i was single and happy when i m married ….and i have to say that i m more happy as a married woman….now you can be happy as a married or by single , but deep inside every man or woman wants to be married after certain age ….now fear of consequences of marriage freak us out such as responsibility , commitment,settling down etc…
Man and woman were not created in the world to be independent but to be interdependent………
All i want to say that take your time think what you really want and take decisions accordingly ,
and don’t give a damn what society says ……
I am 25 and single, I have already been through the phase of having to answer (or having my parents answer) the questions from inquisitive aunties and uncles about my date of marriage since I was 24. It is for this reason that I have avoided weddings and other family functions altogether, sometimes inviting the ire of the elders in my family and potential matchmakers. My parents have handled such situations very maturely just as your parents have, but sometimes when the badgering gets too much, they ask me if they should look around and I answer them in the negative.
I am now trying to go abroad to do an MBA mostly in the hope of getting away from this particular misery at least for 2 years. Looks like the idea of an educated and financially independent single woman not wanting to get into a state of holy matrimony is considered a myth (or a threat to the lot of men) in India. Wish people learned to mind their own business and take care of their own kids rather than worrying about the single status of their neighbour’s kid.
Hi….I am 25 & I am in the same situation exactly as urs….I am jst fed up of answering my relatives & freinds too….they all are like man eaters attacking me whole together asking till when ur palnning ot be single….girls of ur age have already got a kid…..feels so gloomy & they make us to feel like being single is a sin….
I was searching for some consoling words in Internet ( unfortunately Google has become a virtual consoler too:()…..& got this article….I dont knw who you are,,,but your words consoled me ,,,thanks a lot!
I know what you are going through , but trust me , it will get better . Don’t let it stop you from living your life .
Hope you find the strength to emerge out of your gloom.
Be strong and take care.
Thanks prashila…..I have this hope of ‘getting better’ from past 3 yrs..the time from when the hunt for the guy started…hope the ordeal ends soon
its the same happening with me.. with a good job in hand i dnt want to get married.. my parents is quite comfortable with my decision… but again the relatives.. they are playing the villain’s role.. its so embarrassing when they sent some unknown people to my home for that outdated ritual ” ladki dekne ki rasam”… i have stopped going for family gatherings .. life has turned into a hell these days ..” is being a single women in India an non bailable offence.. “.. ??????. .
Let me introduce myself to be one among you. Single woman, 25, India – Unmarried by choice.
I have exactly been through about all that has been discussed here. My heart was heavy as i read through the post and other comments, but when i read your line :
“Is being a single woman in India a non bailable offence”…
I started laughing loudly.. I mean i must thank you… Its time to laugh… Yeah, you are right.. Its non bailable. You can rape and kill a woman and get a bail, Break a woman’s heart with false promises and get a bail, loot crores of money and get a bail… But being unmarried by choice, you never get a bail.
Women are expected to be child manufacturing machines, even by parents… “We are not worried about your feelings. Choose a man, get married, produce children. I don’t bother whether you wish to or not. All i need is a grand child to play with. So give me one from your womb” is what they say. what do you do 🙁
Prashila, reading this post made me feel as if I were the one writing it! It’s a good feeling to know that there are people who go through the same frustrations as I do.
I felt i could connect with this piece.Well written and yes the anguish and helplessness comes right through.
I think every woman wants to get married. But it should always be to the right person.
I am 28 years old and cringe as each year passed by. The only way to get through is to be positive and never give up hope. You can find the right person or maybe you may not. But life is too short to dwell on these things. I always counteract comments saying I’m foot loose and fancy free, so let me enjoy till I find my prince charming 🙂
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I read your article and can feel as if i am reading my story, written by someone unknown.
I am 29 and my parents, relatives and even old frens, don’t really wana know, what i want from life. Marriage is all they talk about.
Reading through all the comments, i got tears in my eyes, cause this is what i face in my day to day life, but i believe, if i am strong of what i want, i don’t need society to approve it.
N i believe in myself, totally.
Wish u all have, what u want. Just be strong headed n as all u said, give a damn to this society, who can’t even let us live, the way we want..
Its a well written article. I am 35 old and single woman. Till date my parents, my sisters, so called best friends, relatives are trying to convince me somehow to get married.Initially i used to get frustrated hearing all this stuff but after few years, i stopped answering anyone. Off course i made it clear to my parents!
I will be wrong if i say that i am not worried for my safety at many occasions or if i don’t feel financially insecure but that is just phase of life i feel. I mean who says that married females don’t get raped or molested or groped ? Whether all married girls are financially secure? Who knows when you will get divorced or what will happen if unfortunately husband dies? All these answers remains unanswered by our so called well-wishers.
There are always plus and minuses of any decision we take. It should be up to us to decide that we marry or not but Indian mind sets will take centuries to change. Girls have to be more confident and society to be more acceptable.
Well, i have decided to stay single and currently working where i am far away from family which allows me to be independent and wish to fulfill my dreams..Rest of the stuff left to God !
I m 23 years old . And I want make my career . So decide to remain unmarried .
From the beginning I was thinking to remain married
My relatives always told me to get married . But they don’t have to face the situation after get married
Every 1 have the right to live there life as they wish . This social pressure can not avoid this right ..
My decision will be full and final to remain unmarried and self depended .
my high five to you…
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exactly my story! I am sick of these traditions that do not allow women to stay single till they wish. and the pesky relatives… today they are “worried” about your marriage… tomorrow for having kids… and so on. Sadly it is the parents who have to face all the questions..
marriage should be when you are ready and find a person who you want to be with. society needs maturity here and should not harass women who are not married or single widowed or divorced. we cannot be expected to live like our ancestors lived. kids can be adopted, women do have a choice and even artificial means are possible.
Every women those are single has right to live life with dignity.
am priya 26 yrs, single ..and want to be single by choice .
nowadays more than parents ,relatives and friends .Employer is asking such questions in interview . wat is your plans when are you going to get married.
Recently i have attended couple of interview ..i came across such a bad situation ..how to answer or how to tackle this ,i dont know .
me being single unable to work in a company not more than a year ..because all my colleagues are in relationship or married . every month some one will inviting get engagements, marriage ,son or daughter birthday.. if i go for the function will ask me when will you give treat for us …if i am not attending .. the next day my office people will narrate a story a big sin i have made by not attending that .
is there any solution ? if so please help .
Its indeed a consolation to me as well. When i told my parents tht i m gonna be single all my life, they agreed. I have a brother who needs attention as he is challenged mentally. Initially there were relatives who literally attracked my parents verbally for ‘eating on my salary’ shit. Now i too dont attend social gatherings, i feel a load off. I m happy and my parents hv no problem wth tht. And thts wht matters the most. I read , cook and watch movies..sometimes i do cry for the fear tht i might end up alone as i m not a social.person. But then, nowadays who doesnt? Atleast i dnt hv to worry for two families and children. There’s lot to see and enjoy..and ignore the naysayers. I hv two or three best friends..and they matter to me.
I am a guy and I feel somehow the society is fully male dominant and females are pawns of norm rituals and cultures.Yes almost 99℅ people get married simply because they have to get married but they don’t know why they are getting married when I asked a lot of friends the answer was truely awesome.Guys answer that for physical need ,financial (dowry),my mom said she is the best these are answer and my female friends answer is someone who will be there to protect them,society pressure or married bcoz that is what we are thought in our society.Really awesome right people ate getting married as sheep without knowing why they are getting married .I am also facing the same problem questioning to my parents and relatives why should I marry give me perfect reason while I have thousand reasons why I should not marry.If the society can’t change why I should be a part of this society.expectation kills so don’t expect from me to fulfill societies expectation about my life’s event or fate
Hi Prashila – just came across your article. well written. I think the pressure is not just on the women but also on men as well from our society to get married. It’s just that it hits us much earlier. I hope this mindset changes in India and folks get to decide when they are ready for a relationship and if they don’t want to be in a relationship – that’s purely their choice and we as a society respect their choice. We as a society are not there yet but I really hope it changes for the better. You mentioned that you wept – don’t Prashila – for the sheer ignorance of others who have no broader perspective about life.
3 years since you wrote it, it is now relevant to me. I’m almost 26 and under severe pressure to get married. My parents have a lot of criteria that they want fulfilled but when it comes to my criteria they always think that those are unreasonable. They don’t seem to understand that its me who will need to get married and not them. My first criteria was not wanting to get married at all as it doesn’t interest me at all even though i have seen a lot of my peers getting married and being happy. I worry that one of these days i might succumb to their pressure and get married against my will. the mere thought suffocates me. I met a couple of guys for the sake of my parents and after meeting them and their families I’m even more convinced that I’m way more happier alone. Barring my sister, no one supports my decision. i feel really helpless 🙁
Cookie, I too have been facing the same pressure as I am 31 and still avoiding marriage and advances. If you are wholeheartedly against marrying, then you need not submit to others’ wishes. It is our life and it must be our decision. Though people’s unsolicited comments and advice hurt me a lot, I steadfastly decided not to lose this single carefree happy life. So we support your decision.. carry on as you wish..
Hi Prashila, just now read your right-from-heart article. Felt so pleased to find someone exactly like me and in my position. I am 31, female, tamilnadu, unmarried – this status is the result of completely my own choice. The awkward questions that we encounter, forced me to search over web for people who are in the same position. And thank you for the article.
As a 28 year old woman, I can totally relate to this article on every level and also want to make it known that this “get married in your 20’s or else you are an invalid” mentality not only occurs in India but in fact a widespread phenomenon throughout the entire Indian diaspora. I am a 4th generation South African of Indian descent and the degree to which society is obsessed with marriage and the pressures placed upon us women to do so within a specific time frame is quite sickening given that the divorce rates among the local Indian community is now at its highest and yet, people still continue to wash, rinse and repeat the same patterns only to be left wondering why the relationship suddenly became pear shaped somewhere down the line for various reasons. Eerily enough, I can think of numerous examples of such marriages within my own family and beyond than any healthy ones. Like Prashila, I have also never had a boyfriend and have dedicated my 20’s to academia which I don’t regret for a single second as I am truly passionate about my choice of career. I do have standards and am not willing to compromise just so I can “fit” in with the rest of the crowd despite now being the last single female in my family. Sure, I may not be as experienced as some of my fellow counterparts but they have certainly provided several examples on which not to model a good relationship. I still want to do a whole lot more with my life like travel, meet new people, explore and learn new things etc. Simply put, I did not work this hard just to get married. Kudos to single Indian women all over the world, hold your heads up high and be proud of your resilience in our still very “Victorian Age” society.
Good to know there are unmarried single females like me in India, we should form a club for sharing our experiences
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I was searching for a ‘club for unmarried woman in india’ when i cam across this article. Prashila I was thinking writing this article itself must have empowered you. When I read your article what I felt was envy because you say you have your parents and your brother supporting your decision to remain unmarried. But I agree with you that the society and the relatives are the people who make things worse. Once in year when they happen to meet you, they will show a lot of concern about you being single and pour their advice on what should be done. But in reality they do not care one iota. They are worried more about you but when time comes for their own kids they are cool.
I have seen ugly scenes happening before marriage, after marriage and during marriage. I do not believe I am made for it and I hope the day comes when people respect my choice and let me be.
Thanks for putting this up, unfortunate but it is relieving to know I am not alone.
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