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Yes, I Am A Single Woman In India! Any Problems?

Posted: December 22, 2012

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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.

My relationship status: Nobody’s business

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.

I am a single woman in India: Just let me be

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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About The Author: Prashila Naik is an aspiring writer from Goa, who also happens to be slogging at a daytime technical job which is miles away from these apparently artistic aspirations she harbours. A "hopeful cynic", she longs for the day when every child in India will have two complete meals to eat and a permanent school to attend.

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