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Life Lessons : Being A Happily Unmarried 'Freemale' In The City

Life Lessons : Being A Happily Unmarried
Highlights

A decade ago it was unthinkable � girls waiting for the right man to get married or opting to remain single. As soon as they hit the twenties, groom...

A decade ago it was unthinkable � girls waiting for the right man to get married or opting to remain single. As soon as they hit the twenties, groom hunting would begin with a vengeance, as parents and relatives spread the word around. And, God forbid, if the wait stretched on for longer than five years. Tongues would start wagging: Why is she still single? What's wrong with her? Is it because of her dark complexion? Is she 'healthy'? Times are changing!

Times are changing rapidly now. The percentage of single women, or 'freemales', as they are called, has increased considerably with no one feeling apologetic or guilty about their unmarried status. "I don't want to push for marriage or compromise to get hitched," declares Ishita Chopra, 31, senior manager at SARE real estate development group, Delhi. Chopra is part of a growing tribe of women in India, who don't find it necessary to tie the knot in order to find happiness, security or to please their family.

Till a while ago, this was a very western reality � according to America's Families and Living Arrangement survey of 2009, more than 43 per cent of all Americans are single with more than 61 per cent never having walked down the aisle. Of these, more than 50 per cent are women. Today, of course, at least in urban conglomerations, being 'single' is not necessarily a bad thing for women; it doesn't suck them into a vortex of gloom and self pity.

Anamika Prasad, a native of Patna, Bihar, who has been residing in Mumbai from the last several years, says, "I am not against marriage. Certainly if I find a like-minded partner, I would tie the knot. But no way will I concede to societal pressures and marry a confused man. I feel the problem with men today, especially from my home state, is that they don't know what they want. They want an educated, modern wife, who should be holding a well paid job, and at the same time she should also be conservative, wear the traditional sindoor and dress in a sari with a 'ghungat'!"

Yamuna Krishnamurthy (name changed) is in her late 30's and works for a reputed software company in Bengaluru. She says, "Marriage earlier meant financial and emotional security for the woman. Right now, I have bought myself a three-BHK flat and drive a cool middle segment car and I am paying the EMIs from my salary. I am looking for emotional security from my marriage but where is the guarantee for that? Just look at the increasing number of divorces."

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Most parents are happy to see their daughters pursue dreams while being with them rather than marry them off to some "buffoon", as Sevanthy Sharma, a leather bag manufacturer and exporter from Mumbai, puts it. This mother of three daughters � the eldest, an engineer and management graduate, is 36; her second daughter, 32, is a dentist; while the youngest is a print media journalist in her late 20's � is okay with her daughters having declared that "we will marry the day we find our match".

Not only parents and young women, but even the Government of India has taken cognisance of this fast-growing trend. The Planning Commission, under the 12th Five Year Plan, is pushing for special privileges for single women, particularly for those who are single by choice. But where social acceptance has increased and opportunities for single women have multiplied, there are some drawbacks as well. Finding safe rental accommodation can really become a problem many a time. Also, life in the big city can be terribly lonely. There are biases to be contended with at the workplace, too. They are expected to sit in late for meetings or to complete assignments � "we are often told, 'who's waiting for you at home, so stay back!" Singles also become easy targets for casual flings.

Providing a networking to the growing numbers of single people are singles' clubs or organisations that are neither marriage bureaus nor dating clubs. Siddharth Mangharan started Floh (www.floh.in) in Bangalore in 2011. He says, "Floh connects singles in the real world. The objective is to help our members meet like-minded people."

Dr Shubangi Parkar, who is head of department of psychiatry at KEM Hospital in Mumbai, talks about some of the factors that have led to this phenomenon. "These days, with one-night stands and live-in relationships on the rise in urban India, women do not have to be in a marriage to find sexual fulfillment. They also have good careers to take care of the financial aspects. Many even fulfill their maternal instincts by going in for adoption or IVF therapy."

But, according to Parkar, there's a flip side to this story that need to be recognised. Many single women take to alcohol or get hooked on anti-depressants to feel good. Ultimately, according to Parker, "it all depends on the woman's state of mind and, of course, her circle of friends."

- Surekha Kadapa-Bose

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