Indian. Female. Single. Do You Know Her?

In some parts of the world, being single is just a relationship status. In India, it is defiance. Especially if you are a woman, in your late 20s or older. In a culture of ‘chat mangni and pat byaah’, facilitated by family members, distant relatives, enthusiastic neighbors and well-meaning strangers, being single is an abnormality.

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What Are You More Afraid Of – Ending Up Single, Or Being With The Wrong Person?

When I was young(er), I used to obsess with my looks when I would be meeting a guy for the first time (or maybe first few times). It did not matter whether it was a date, or a meeting with someone for an arranged marriage.  I would wear high heels trying my best to camouflage those 5 feet 2 inches. I would struggle with those curls, which made me look so unruly. I would ensure that my eyebrows were perfectly made, even if it meant running back to the parlour within a week.

If I would not hear back from the man (this kind of thing happened in the arranged set-up), I would analyze the things I said, what I ordered, what I wore and how much I ate. I would try to figure out what was it that didn’t work, (even if I myself had no interest in meeting that man any further).

Cut to few years later. I am on the verge of turning 30 and single.

My visits to the parlour are restricted to once in two – three months.  I am more concerned about being regular at the gym.   

Those eye brows – Oh they hurt like hell! My benchmark now is Krooh Singh to determine when they have grown too much.

Those heels –  I can’t manage them for more than a couple of hours. I am short! Nothing can change that. So why torture myself.

The hair? – I am just glad that it is still with me, and has survived brutal, frequent blow dries, and smoothenings.

No, I am longer afraid of what a man thinks of me when he meets me for the first time. I am no longer afraid whether he would like me.  I am only afraid of whether I would like him. I am afraid that I may like him, but then he would turn out to be a jerk. The kinds I have dealt with in the past. The chauvinist. The abuser. The philanderer. The fake feminist. Or a combination of all of these. The kinds I write about. The kinds who are the antagonists in my stories. The ones I ask women to be beware of.

Is this what elders have always been afraid of which is why they want girls married early?

Marry in your early 20s! Once you are older, you will become too stubborn about what you want / don’t want!  

Is it because it is more difficult to fool me now?

A close relative had set me up with a man who said some things to me, which I found extremely misogynist.  It is difficult to explain to someone 30 – 35 years older than you, why you did not like someone they thought was perfect for you.  I tried to explain myself, that I did not like him although he may be a good person. It reminded me of a scene from the movie, ‘Dil Dhadakne Do’.   Priyanka Chopra’ character says that she does not have the feelings for her husband, which she should have. Her mother- in-law replies, “Haan, but problem kya hai?”  Ranveer Singh’s expression was priceless.

The relative was trying to be kind and patient, by allowing me to justify why I did not like a perfectly good guy (according to him).  I was waiting for a “But problem kya hai?”

Instead he said, “Well, he could not like something about you too.  It is not like you are Queen Victoria!”

No, I am not Queen Victoria. But I think of myself as a progressive, loyal, caring and intelligent person.  Decent enough to be a companion for someone. Would I compromise on these values that I am looking for?  Absolutely not! It is not like I am asking for good looks or money!

Let the 30th birthday come along! I am not afraid. Let me be single for some more time. I am not afraid. Sad, maybe but not afraid.

The only thing I am afraid of is ending with the wrong person. Again!

The (Really) Short Guide For A Single Woman Dating Again For A Long Term Relationship In India

Are you a single woman in India and considering dating again for a long term, meaningful relationship? Here are some things you should know.

Read more on Womensweb 

The (Really) Short Guide For A Single Woman Dating Again For A Long Term Relationship In India

Have you ever watched a movie in a theatre alone?

A close friend of mine had pre-booked two tickets for a movie at a theatre near her place. (Let’s call her Preeti). Much to her disappointment, her companion ditched her due to some some last-minute work. A couple of hours before the show, she made some frantic calls and messages on Whatsapp groups to ‘donate’ her two tickets. Given the distance and time constraints in a big city, it is not surprising that nobody was able to make it on such a short notice. The tickets were wasted.

I asked Preeti why she could not go for the movie alone. She wanted to watch it. The theatre is walking distance from her house.  She said that she did not want to go alone. It would be too weird. People would be staring at her. She would feel too conscious. I told her that it is a multiplex in a mall. Not some single screen theatre from 20 years back.

You need to be more brave in life! I said to her.

Now, Preeti is a girl who has been staying away from her family since college. She has an MBA degree. She lives with flat mates and is fairly independent. She does not remember the last time she borrowed money from her parents. She pays all her bills.  No wonder, she became defensive at my statement. She said that she has traveled alone in an airplane / train. Isn’t that brave enough? There are so many people who do not even do that.

I told her that doesn’t count. She does not have an option there. What would she do? Not go home for Diwali / Christmas break? Or search for people with the same hometown in office and align travel plans as per their leave balance?

I asked a couple of more friends. Here are few other situations we discussed:

  • No friends have showed up at office
  1. Have lunch alone at your desk
  2. Try sitting with some other group for today
  3. Go early for lunch so that there are less people
  4. Skip lunch
  5. Just go alone!
  • Friend’s birthday coming up. No company available to go shopping
  1. Keep asking all the people in phonebook until someone agrees
  2. End up gifting after her birthday
  3. Pool in with someone who already has a gift
  4. Just go alone!
  • Original example. Planned to go for movie, tickets booked. Companion ditched last minute 
  1. Ask the neighboring Aunty / housemaid to join
  2. Curse your friend, make him / her feel guilty and stay home
  3. Try selling it in black
  4. Just go alone!

I think you all know by now, I have always exercised the last option. Sometimes, because nobody was available. Sometimes by choice. It doesn’t matter. I have ended up enjoying being by myself. I have never regretted the time. It has always felt good and refreshed. (And not lonely and pathetic)!

Bottom line is, if I have company great. If I don’t, it will not stop me from doing something!

So, to all the ladies – If you ever find yourself in such situations, don’t be afraid to spend time by yourself. Give it a try at least. Don’t outright reject the thought.

Who knows, you may end up feeling very empowered and independent! 🙂

To The Geet Without Aditya Kashyap and The Queen Without the International Vacation

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I watched the movie ‘Jab we met’ again over the weekend. This time it made me think very differently. It reminded me of the movie, Queen.

These two are my all-time favourite movies.  The protagonists in both movies are women who have been ditched by the men who they thought were the ‘love’ of their lives. After the initial shock, desperation, and pain, both woman move forward in life, becoming better versions of themselves.  Here is what happens:

  1. Geet meets Aditya Kashyap who she eventually falls in love with him. Aditya is not a cowardly idiot like Anshuman. He cares about her and likes her for who she is. Aditya literally rescues her.  They live happily ever after.

2. Rani (Queen) ends up going on her honeymoon alone. There she sees life outside the confines of her life in Delhi. She makes friends from different walks of life, including a boy who has lost his family in Tsunami yet tries to be cheerful in life. She discovers an identity for herself, as she meets people who appreciate her culinary talents, increasing her self-worth.

3. Anshuman and Vijay, the respective exes of these women realize their mistake and come back. Geet and Rani get to dump them this time.

I completely support the endings, and like the way they were empowering for women. But do all men actually realize their mistake, regret their actions, and come back? The world would have been a much more perfect place.   In reality, people dump somebody for good. They may not come back.  What about women who don’t necessarily find another man like Geet? What about the ones who don’t get to travel like Queen but continue their routine life feeling worthless after getting dumped? Living each day with a spout of misery with the most cherished moments of their lives becoming mere memories  and evoking mixed feelings? How do they ‘get over’ someone?

I am not a therapist, but still that would not deter me from expressing my thoughts on the subject.

  1. The world is a big and weird place. There are all kinds of complicated people. Anything can happen. Stop torturing yourself with ‘Why,’ and ‘What ifs’. There is nothing you can do to change things.

2. Try some kind of fitness regime. Whenever I have done any form of exercise on a regular basis, I have felt good about myself. Set a goal. For example 30 minutes on the treadmill. When you achieve it, you will feel like you are in control of at least something in your life. Aspects of your life like relationships that involve another person may not be controlled. But this is something you alone can accomplish.

3. Get out of the house. I don’t mean to go and date. Focus on your interests other than men (I know I have used this line in my previous articles, I guess I just love it). You may not immediately wish to travel alone or with friends. The thought may make you feel sorry for yourself (as you would have rather gone with a significant other). Then don’t do it. But go for a movie, play, poetry recital anything that you find doable and affordable. Then keep doing it regularly.

4. Try working towards self-growth. You must have heard that ‘Living well is the biggest revenge’. Resist the urge to immediately find someone else to spite your ex. Do not be the other extreme  either –  Swear to ‘ruin’ your life by staying single to make him feel guilty. Instead, try to become better (eventually more successful) in whatever you are working on.

5.  Take care of yourself. Go pamper yourself with a spa or a facial. Look good. When I was younger I used to think that being good looking was a pre-requisite for looking good. But over the years, the definition of ‘looking good’ has changed.

My friend’s mother is undergoing chemotherapy. She has lost all her hair. She sent me a picture of the mother recently, bald and lean. She was a very beautiful woman, and it pained me to her this way. But there was something lively about her picture. She had put on a dark maroon lipstick, enough to brighten up her face.

‘Aunty is looking good’, I had texted her.

Was I saying something inappropriate? Is it okay to say that  when someone is suffering from cancer?

She had replied, ‘Yes, she is better. Thanks’.

Another woman I knew lost her husband unexpectedly few years ago. She was unhappy for the longest time. Her daughter posted a picture of her from one of their recent vacations captioned, ‘Mummy wearing salwar suit for the first time’.

It was a very natural picture. She was not even smiling. She looked consciously at the camera, squinting her eyes probably because of the blazing sun. The salwar suit was also very ordinary. She looked more graceful in her saris. But everybody had complimented her, including me.

What made her look good? Maybe the fact that she had put in effort to do something different. She had hope. Hope that although she had lost the most precious part of her life, she was still trying to make the best of whatever she had left.

So finally to all the Geets without Aditya Kashyap, and the Queens without international vacations, your life is still  big and potentially beautiful.  Look around you. Everyone is struggling with something or the other. You may not necessarily get an opportunity to ‘dump’ anyone the next time around like these women, but you can dump your negative thoughts for the time being. Life is a series of mundane days with some temporary highs, followed by longer ‘low’ phases. Give it sometime. Things will fall in place.


Once Upon A Time She Lived Happily Ever After

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Kavya checked her phone for the 30th time in the past half an hour.

Kunal – Last seen today at 11:48 p.m.

She put her phone away. She then willed the universe:

Make him call me!!!

She checked her phone again. No call. No text.

Maybe he lost his phone… But then how come he was online at 11:48?

Something would have happened… He must be really sick.

Maybe he got a call in emergency, and had to leave town.

Or maybe I should just go make tea. By the time I am done, he would have texted.

Kavya had been dating Kunal for the past six months. He was everything she could have ever asked for. Good looking, suave, and charming. But something was not right. He would never introduce her to his friends, or meet hers. He would disappear for days, only to come back saying that he had been awfully busy. Kavya always chose to believe him despite her friends saying that she was dating a ghost.

Why did she always believe him? Because it was easier. She was not protecting him. She was protecting herself. Protecting herself from accepting the blame for poor judgment. Protecting herself from feeling unworthy of love. Protecting herself from being alone.

She was lost in her thoughts. Until the doorbell rang. Her roommate, Sanaya who was almost 10 years older had returned from her business trip. Her boyfriend, Amaan had picked up her from the airport and dropped her to their place. Kavya felt a pinch of jealousy. Kunal would have never done that. He never even stayed back at her place at night because he had to get up early in the morning.

What made Sanaya such a worthy girlfriend? Where did she lack? Kavya thought feeling bitter. She was pretty, smart, caring, and loyal. What more could Kunal possibly want? Why did he keep saying he did not want to commit?

She would not pressurize him. She was afraid of losing him, after all these months! If only she would stick around, one day he would realize her worth.

“You are so lucky, Sanaya. Amaan really cares for you. Why can’t I get a guy like that?”
Kavya told Sanaya as she checked her phone again.

“Because you settle for guys like Kunal who do not value you. You think ALL the guys I ever met were really into me? But once I realized that they were not, I had the courage to move away from them, even if it meant being alone.

Someone good will turn up, Kavya. But you have to create some space.”

Three weeks later

Kunal looked at his phone. It had been quite a few days since Kavya had texted him. Strange. A girl as clingy as her would just disappear? Had she found someone else. So soon? Had she blocked him?

Her profile photo was blurred. He clicked it. It was a picture of some animated, fairy-tale like character. Where had he seen that before? His niece had made him buy a school bag with that blue picture….

Frozen! Right!

He zoomed. There was some text also:

Yes, I am alone. But I am alone and free.

If is meant to be it will happen Vs Make it happen – Dilemma of a Single Woman

My mother passed the ringing phone to my while I was working on my laptop.

Ravish Tinder:
flashed the contact.

Mom: What kind of name is Ravish Tinder?

Me: Tinder is a dating app.

Mom: Dating app!! You watch Crime Patrol. Don’t you know how dangerous these things are?

Me: In a country where we marry strangers through, I don’t think we should be too concerned!

I felt very satisfied with my response, as if I won. But did I?

There are broadly two kinds of marriages in India – arranged marriages where very determined well-wishers find us a match with astronomical perfection or love marriages in which people magically meet like a fairystyle through divine interventions.

Finding someone through dating apps fall in neither! Not traditional enough like and not natural enough like DDLJ.

The truth is I was quite skeptical about joining a dating app. There is always the extreme fear of meeting a psychopath / creep or the lesser yet disappointing experience of meeting someone uninteresting / annoying not worth the effort.

As much as I would love to imagine that the whole universe will conspire to make me meet my soulmate, reality is I am a 28 year old working woman, who meets limited people. My social circles are dominated by men who are already married or committed. The ones who are not committed are not committed for a reason. They loathe commitment!

We as women should become more open to the idea of finding a partner for ourselves. It is not our parents’ responsibility. Our parents do not know what kind of men we find interesting / attractive. We should spare them the pain of scrutinizing and exchanging profiles with another set of equally clueless yet harassed parents.

There is nothing wrong with the desire to seek a partner, and these mediums are quite relevant in today’s time. And it need not always be about dating. While some apps are more marriage oriented such as Aisle, others like Floh could create a great platform for making friends. Technology has provided us the means to connect to people from different spheres of life who we could otherwise never have found.

Whether I meet Mr. Right or Mr. Right Now, or encounter a bunch of frogs and no prince, for now the thought to ‘make it happen’ is very empowering!

Toast to single mothers

A writer who chooses to be anonymous has shared the following e-mail:

Today, I considered changing my middle name by including my mother’s name along with my father’s. After all , whatever I am today is because of her efforts. I thank her for raising me all alone braving the dark days of loneliness, loss of spouse, humiliation of being a single mother and the lewd and discouraging remarks passed on us by our alleged well wishing relatives/ friends/ acquaintances. 🙂

Not many knew the truth about my father absence’s in our life. One fine day, she found herself left with only me – a six year old to cling on. Even lady luck did not favor her. Her father passed away two months after her spouse left her. Since then, she braved everything all alone, while she ensured that I have a good education and was raised as a better human being.

We made sure we hid this fact to avoid many troubles at work and school. His absence was camouflaged by transfer to some rural area. We made sure we did this so that the world does not bother us with unnecessary threats, advice, advances, gossips, lewd remarks.

It would have been difficult for her when her colleagues would ask about her spouse and she had to build a story. It would have been difficult for her when she was often reminded that she was raising a girl child all alone.

Today when I recall all this, I only wished that our society was less penalizing on single mothers. I wished friends and especially relatives stopped pointing fingers at the women for the loss or mishap. I wished people stopped looking down at them as inauspicious. I wished schools were more sensitive in such cases rather than pestering for father’s signature in the report card.

Today, I want to raise a toast to all single mothers. Destiny would have given you a hard life ahead. However I really urge you all to stand up and keep going. Trust that there is light and one day you will find it in your child’s eyes, when she/he would have grown up to be an independent and confident person.

Being single

Smile please,” said the photographer as he captured the lovely beaming wedding couple, Jiya and Rehaan on the beautifully decorated stage. Along with her were the rest of the alumni of the 2005 batch of Notre Dame Academy, a girls’ convent school in Dehradun. It was almost a school reunion, attended by various teachers, parents and family members of the once classmates.

A second picture was being taken, this time all the ladies with their respective husbands. I distanced myself, and started walking down the unsteady pedestal trying not to stumble in my sari and heels.

As I looked up, one of my other school friend’s mother, Shukla Aunty was patiently waiting to get on stage. She looked at me with an Aww kind of sympathy. Grabbing me by one hand, the other one firmly holding the envelope, she whispered in my ear:

“You are the only one left from the group who is still single!” She stated the obvious, just in case I did not realize.

“You must settle down soon!”

I smiled politely, not in the mood to have THAT discussion. Everywhere there seemed to be couples. Ahh, finally a child – another friend’s daughter. I started interacting with the kid until her mother, and father came to pick her up.

“Give a goodbye kissie to Aunty,” said the mother.

“Aunty is pretty,” remarked the child shyly, as she planted a wet kiss on my cheek.

“Ofcourse she would look pretty, she spends all her time and money on herself, unlike your Mamma who has to clean up after you!” Replied her mother instantly. “She is not married!”

“You are not married yet?” Overheard my class teacher of Class V, Mrs. Sengupta.

She joined the conversation, fascinated.

“Why? Too picky! You were always like that!” she added with raised eyebrows.

Mrs. Sengupta was my favorite teacher who had greatly influenced me as a child, who taught me English and is responsible for my inclination towards writing and journalism. Back in school, she inspired us with stories of women of substance all along –Rani LakshmiBai, Sarojini Naidu, Kiran Bedi, Kalpana Chawala, Bachhandri Pal. Independent, ambitious, self-sufficient women. Yet, I was surprised that upon meeting me after 10 years, she only cared whether I was married.

It seemed my ‘single’ status got more coverage than the wedding itself! I left from there, feeling exhausted. Let me call Mom and tell her how pretty Jiya looked…

“Even a gynecologist is married now! She completed her PG, her studies, got a good job and a good husband! You are not the only one building a career!” said my mother, unable to even pretend that she was happy for somebody else and not anxious about me for once.

I went to office the next day. Work. Finally no more wedding drama..

We were having lunch and one of my married colleagues started narrating how she made pasta and her husband just loved it. Out of nowhere, she started staring at me, horrified! Randomly, she enquired,

“Who do you talk to once you reach home? Don’t you feel lonely?” she asked in bewilderment.

The following weekend I traveled to Delhi. Home finally! It was nice to meet relatives after so long. They haven’t changed though. They don’t ask about my work, or the places I have traveled off late. Just the usual..

Chacha, chachi worry sick about you. If I were you, I would have got married atleast for the sake of my parents.”

“What if you never fall in love? Atleast have an arranged marriage before you turn 30, soon you won’t even have that option anymore.”

“You need somebody to grow old with. Your friends will all be married and have their own lives. You will end up alone and miserable!”

I would have been a millionaire by now if I got a dime each time I heard all this! No I am not anti-marriage, but I would like to say this to all my well-wishers ONCE AND FOR ALL:

I am 28. I am single. I do not have a boyfriend or a fiancé.

Maybe I do not want to get married at all. At this stage of my life, I do not wish to take responsibilities. I do not like the thought of being committed or being a daughter-in-law and serving and taking care of 10 people. Maybe I love my sleep way too much to have a baby. Maybe I am just lazy. Or unromantic. Selfish. Philosophical. Dreamy. Unrealistic?

I know that I am missing out on a lot of ‘couple things’. Maybe I would find the right person after 10 years. Maybe never. I may not have any companion in my old age, and I could die alone too.

I am aware of the potential disaster the society perceives that my singleton status would inflict on my life. Still, I choose not to change it. I am happy.

I know that if I do not have a child in the next few years, there could be complications and I could never have one biologically. Big deal! The rest of India is anyway married, and the population has been rising exponentially. If I do not procreate, the society, the caste, the nation will not become extinct.

Please spare me the horrified reactions — the sympathy, concern, outrage, disbelief, judgment or the recurring unsolicited advice. It is my life. Please let me be.

I am exploring my life and discovering myself. It’s a fulfilling journey that I have embarked upon, and I do not need anybody else to complete it. Yes, I do feel lonely some times. My life is not perfect. But whose is? I do agree with you that sharing my life with somebody would be a beautiful thing. But I have not come across such a person yet. And my life and happiness is too precious to just “settle” for something. I’m sorry if I hurt your feelings by not getting married immediately but again, it’s my life, PLEASE let me be!

Author’s Note: “If you are not happy being single, you will never be happy in a relationship. Get your own life first, then share it.”

Originally published at on November 6, 2015.