Ponderings on the issues of single women in contemporary India

Being 34 and single, the last 10 years have been a time of a lot of emotional stress for me. It has taken me years to come to see my situation as a single woman in India and my vulnerabilities as what could be a national phenomenon. I live in the city of Chennai in South India. These are my opinions.

There is suspicion and fear when a woman lives alone. There is more than usual gossip and curiosity. There is also sexual greed or covetousness. My father of course put it best when he said “ If you are single that means you are available”. I suppose these mean that our clothes have to be conservative, the places we visit or hang out have to be more conservative. Keep off the beaches. Don’t not give out contact information especially to those in the neighbourhood.

The toughest part of living alone as a woman is the issue of isolation. Being a society where in the thirties socializing is centered around families, where is one to go if one is single and wants some warmth? There is no socializing in pubs or coffee shops. There are not many hobby places to meet people in their thirties. Most people in their thirties are anyways occupied with kids in their free time. There are just too few single people and in their own corners. It does seem at times that online dating via the matrimonial sites is the only option to meet new people around our age. But beware this is a risky one for a lonely heart. I think that our emotional needs must be met by a supportive family or friends first to take a healthy attitude to Indian online dating. But then the vicious circle, where does one meet friends?

I wish some of us got together to make a building society or a community. It would be good to have a social circle where one meets people with similar situations. This has been impossible for me every time I lived in “proper” India. Usually, I stare into isolation.

I have not even touched upon the sexual needs of an unmarried woman in India or the life in corporate. I have a feeling that the corporate is the only place within the system where there is some sense of equality for a woman. I had been lucky in many ways because of my exposure to the international township of Auroville in South India. I did meet some older woman in Chennai, alone and often dried from the inside. It was sad. We all need healthy sex, certainly in our late twenties. And hopefully with affectionate men interested in the emotional aspects of a relationship.

Lately I have given some thought to being mother. I wonder what the system would do if I decide to have my baby . What would my parents and society say? Has any of the harsh and fear filled voices gone softer over time ? Have the recognized the pain they have caused me over the last decade and would they repeat it. More importantly, will I repeat the mistake of looking for approval from a narrow minded society.


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One Response to Ponderings on the issues of single women in contemporary India

  1. srividya says:

    Hello I’m leaving a comment since its almost funny how similar we are. I’m also 34, single, and a South Indian (Brahmin) with the only difference that I’m in India. I also face a lot of questions regarding my choice to remain single which is considered a psychological disorder by many. I had also found out your article in psychcentral and that interested me since I too have a similar family history, and also, my brother is autistic.

    All I can say is that I think you should really do what you want to do, and sometimes not caring about others’ opinion and being ‘selfish; in that sense might work best. It works for me at any rate. Having said that our society will be quite harsh towards single mothers, especially those by ‘choice’ (i.e not being a widow or a divorcee)… but as I said, life can only be yours. You may as well live it. Worrying about society will not stop you from regretting not doing the things you wanted to do in your old age.

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