India is not used to its single ladies. They are a cause of pressing concern to the bade-buzurg of the family and the unclejis and auntyjis of the neighbourhood. Their dhalti umar often invokes distress pleas from these well-wishers… “ Kab shaadi kar rahi ho tum,” “ Ladke dekhna to shuru karo,” or “ Ek ladka hai meri nazar mein, baat chalaun kya?” adding unabashedly, “ Ladke hi pasand hain na tumhe?”… Even the caste crazed elders find it their moral duty to let go off their rigid conditions and preach, “ Caste ke peeche mat pado. Koi bhi acchha ladka mile to shaadi kar daalo.”
Rephrasing Miss Austen’s opening line in Pride and Prejudice, it is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single Indian woman in possession of a good judgement and character, must be in want of a husband. Whether it’s an occupational pause or an emotional clause, poor health or dearth of wealth, the answer to all problems is marriage. Consequently, unlike married women, the single ones have a huge fan following – an army of chahne wale, whose anxiety for their ticking biological clocks burgeons in exponential proportion to their increasing age. The nanosecond they enter their thirties, it’s a torrential downpour of “ Tees ki ho gayi hai !” “ Kab vyaah hoga?” “ Kab ghar basega?” and “ Kaise vansh chalega?”
The Indian family starts saving up gold for a girl’s wedding the day she is born. An academic achievement here and a career boost there is definitely worth an inaam or two, but ask the parents for jewellery and the instant reaction is, “ Sone ka kadaa ? Uska kya karegi abhi ? Teri shaadi mein denge. Chal ice cream khaane chalte hain aaj India Gate par.” So time and again, they are told ; Betaji, No shaadi, No Gold.
All the Hindu rituals are reserved for married women, be it the haldi ceremony of your beloved sibling or welcoming the groom at the entrance with an aarti ki thaali. The local auntijis are usually the bouncers at these functions, carrying a metaphorical “ No entry for the non-suhaagans ” banner, tut-tuting in perpetuum and casting their glaring, disapproving glances. Everybody is scared of the deadly virus of singlehood the non-suhaagans seem to be carrying, pledging to destroy the world of suhaagans with it.
The rest of the world is also not too kind to the Bhartiya single naari. Try going to an embassy for a visa and answering the visa officer’s questions…
“ Single ? Oh, I see. Why do you want to travel to our country ?”
“ I have a conference to attend.”
“ Hmm.. So you are single…”
They are just as scared of the single ladies tribe. For burdened with the constant nagging to settle down, and the periodical beeps from their biological clocks they have to put on snooze, these women may just marry their men and never come back. Much to the anguish of the members of the resident welfare associations of several colonies, many of whom were trying to fix up those thirty something kanyaas with their forty something divorced nephews.
It will take some time for India, to give a pappi or a jaadu ki jhappi to its single women. A little while longer, for the matchmaking enthusiasts, to supress their itch, to eye-roll and bitch. And a leap in spacetime continuum, to realize that the older kuunwaaries, are surprisingly not bechaaries. That they are not yet eager to devour the shaadi ka laddu ; for though they love the company of men, they love their independence too. And although these lovely ladies, dote on children and babies ; they are not ready to raise them yet, for all that this country may frown and fret.