My neighbour became a widow one day as her ailing husband breathed his last. They were a retired childless couple very friendly and warm with us. She was particularly sympathetic to me because of my single status. I enjoyed the privilege at times and irritated when they became over-protective, more than my parents would be! What pained me was when another friendly neighbour invited women for a religious function and the widow was conspicuously left out. Superstition reigned over friendship and humanity. I don’t know how she felt within and I did not have the heart to enquire. But the significance pierced my heart. I personally do not care for silly rituals. Another day another incident hurt me again. A single woman a very close and loving relative of the bridegroom was brushed aside from the holy fire enclosure during the wedding while only married women were allowed to enter the sanctum sanctorium. She was aghast as she always believed that she was the loved one and the closest to the bridegroom. The Hindu rituals do not spare anyone. There are umpteen examples of cruelty to women who do not fit the stereotype. Love and humanity has no place before the supreme order of dividing women into sacred virgins, unmarried prospective spinsters, married, widowed, divorced and what not. There might be some more categories who knows. The most holy and pious category is the married lady, the ‘suhagan’. A woman without her ‘suhag’ (a husband) is considered inauspicious. Bah!
Singles are looked upon with suspicion, pity and hostility- not in that order though. They are either looked at as frustrated women scouting for men or looked upon as happy and footloose! One so called educated male had made a courageous pass at me and said that I had nothing to worry about as I was ‘free’ and he was not as his wife would kill him if she came to know about his intentions! I wonder how he dared to make that pass which is unusual as I am not very accessible. One senior lady remarked wisely that singles have a sterner look on their faces than the housewives as they are more cautious and alert. And that is a fact indeed. Most singles will have enough interesting and hilarious stories to tell about men/women and their perceptions about them. There could be category of a happily settled single doing her work.
My dream once was to find a safe condominium with all built in amenities and safety systems for a household fit for singles. I saw such one abroad. My nephew was looking for one after he graduated and got a job and the neat condominium was so beautiful and wonderful that it tempted me to migrate only to live in a home of my dreams. Unfortunately most singles stay with their families or relatives or friends. Very less percentage would be residing alone in India- almost negligible. Nobody will rent their houses to singles. Dr. Bella coined the term ‘singlist’ to refer to the phenomenon of being single and the societal prejudices that go with it. She talks of the negative effect of the singlist phenomenon when society perceives singles as objects of pity which affect both the subject and the object.
As the number of singles grow in India we will see some dramatic and some drastic changes in the social psychological scene. Single women are going to challenge the order as they grow in number. The ‘coupleist’ numbers will dwindle with the way family /divorce trends are moving. That is not the only reason. With the ratio of females declining in our country the number of single males will grow too as men will not find women to marry. The lop-sided ratio will tilt the balance to singles dominating the scene as compared to couples.