I was reading Chasing the Good Life: On being Single. Edited by Bhaichand Patel it is a must for all confirmed singletons (I am told bachelors is way too sexy and spinsters way too sexist).
Chasing the good life is an anthology of successful singles from various spheres of life. It boasts of a rather “Who’s Who list” of contributors ranging from Grand old Khuswant Singh to the fiery Karan Thapar, the dashing Suhel Seth, the feminist Urvashi Butalai and so on.
What I like about this book is its broad definition of Singletons (I honestly think this word sounds like a spaghetti top). It has several stories of those who never took too the altar to those who regretted and re-regretted it and finally those who lost their loved ones. For ex- Karan Thapar, who lost his wife 13 years back still calls himself married. It includes a rather interesting piece from a married, not estranged, single who feels being away from her husband gives her space to be on her own. Also a chance to keep the romance alive… they walk to their spaces before the conflict on toilet seats and unscrewed toothpaste top sets in. To each his own.
But what I could not help notice was that 19 out of 28 contributors are women, not surprising; a single woman would evoke more interest than a single man to an average reader. Majority of the contributors have walked out on an incompatible marriage. Some of them have single status thrust upon them, others have chosen it as one would chose succor over lack of it. The men write about their single status without an emotion, some like Jerry Pinto reduce it to hilarity while Suhel Seth takes it to seduction. The women contributors wear their single status on their sleeves. They take it everywhere with them. To their work, off it, in a party, on holidays, some even go to bed with it. However, there were few pieces straight out of the heart; my favorite was “Simply Single “by Kanika Gahlaut, a non pretentious writing of a woman who just happens to be single…. Because that’s how it is.
Majority of these pieces wallow in their own world, oscillating between defense mechanism and sadness. Yes, a strange sadness .It always took me time to locate the cause of my pain, to go within myself and find out what bothers me, what does not. ….one’s innards are not exactly tourist spots but to be truly free one needs to go back through the dark corridors within oneself, unlock all doors closed, search for the imagined demons behind drawn curtains, look them in they eye, examine them, confront them or better understand them. May be some of the writers in this book would need to re –examine these premises for themselves.
The rest of the book is full of stereotypes, women walking out on their husbands, starting off lives in Barsati, pouncing men, jealous wives, well meaning relatives, support structures of friends and families and loads of I- am-proud –of-my –space.
May be I couldn’t relate to a lot of this because like Kanika, I belong to the generation who saw the socio economic landscape changing like never before. From the austerity of our childhood homes, we now smell the affordability liberalization offers. It means jobs, better pay cheques, and fortress like apartments with security guards, free home delivery and equal opportunity employment offers.
I do not feel part of some movement being single. I think it’s pompous if someone feels that way. It’s just my state of being right now. No, I am not waiting for marriage. Even when I have been in relationships I have never hurried myself to “settle down”. I don’t think one ever settles down, married or single. I just feel these are two states of beings, both with its distinct advantages and baggage.
As a person who is responsible for “Talent Acquisition” (euphemism for poaching), I remind people of my own age to rectify the marital status column in their CVs from “unmarried” to “single”. “Unmarried”, I counter, “sounds like a state of suspension”, likes an unfinished project. “Single” has more character, I often joke.
From the prism of an employer, I work for a firm which is extremely woman friendly. I don’t have to say this because they run my kitchen. Yes, there are times when I have to influence line behavior in field functions, to hire a woman, though she has kids. Or support a female colleague with extra manpower who is on her family way but largely I am glad to be part of an extremely sensitive set- up which is willing to make these differences. I wouldn’t be surprised if there are firms which don’t. Or prefer singles to married woman. Or prefer married men to single women. Or single men to married men. Baggage, after all, is a relative construct.
More importantly, single really does not mean (a), (b), (c) & (d). In eighties it meant loose woman, in 90s it meant career oriented, now it means Grit Girl. I think people are individuals with different cores and single or coupled has little to do with their traits. Some of my single friends are great home keepers with a natural flair for structure and cleanliness and they are of both sexes. Some of my married friends have messy kitchens, dirty sinks and layers of dust in the house, this has little to do with their marital status, it is just the way they are.
Another aspect of a single life that really intrigues the “other world” is their sexuality or lack of it. A bachelor fights to keep up his heterosexual image, in our country; a successful single male has to be a gay. And a single woman, successful or otherwise, is a seductive temptress; She indulges in wanton love making night after night with friends. And colleagues. Also strangers.
Well, most of my single women friends lead a whirlwind existence, morning flights, afternoon meetings, presentations, and client meetings, rushed coming back, locked apartments, cold, well that leaves little time for relationships let alone erotic Arabian Nights. Well, that’s not too different from couples either. Loads of couple grumble about being weekend couples. Brings us back to the point, sex is again about attitude, about how you respond to it, a friend of mine wanted to lose it before 30, another was seeing a guy for 7 years and they waited till the wedding.
A classmate called me up after six years, to share rather interesting insights. In a class of 30 people, 60% were abroad, 85% were married and 50% were no longer HR people.
I did not fall into any of these categories, I was untouched by all things phoren, unfazed by the vagaries of my HR job, and of course I am “unmarried”.
In a state of suspension. An unfinished project.
And I try to think of an answer: Marriage is an act of faith and I lacked the faith to do it.