I was at a cafe in the bubbling-with-life Kamla Nagar recently, grabbing lunch. As I sat waiting for my food to arrive, I found a couple of (most probably) college – going youngsters giving me curious (read, pitiful) looks. It was not likely that this had to do anything with my pangs of hunger, but it definitely seemed to have something to do with the chair across me that remained vacant throughout the course of my lunch. It was not the first time it had happened. It had happened to my other friends too.
The idea of a woman being alone, somehow calls for a sense of disbelief, which through the passage of time turns into pity. The choice of a woman to live alone is taboo, and we seem to find nothing strange in our belief that it’s so. It’s as accepted as the idea of the ancient Church that the earth is the center of the universe.
But it’s not, right?
Forget marital/relationship status, my simple choice to rent out a flat, alone, is something that makes people’s skin crawl (“Apki mummy apke saath nahi rahengi madam?” asked my very concerned landlady once). On the other hand, my male cousin spent years alone, and all his parents worried about was the frequency with which his bathing habits were deteriorating. Is it really so unnatural, with regard to my female genitalia, to want solitude?
It’s everywhere, like a slow spreading epidemic. All I did was take one lone trip, nobody wanted to know how my trip was, nobody really asked me how beautiful the city was, or about the food so much. Everything became secondary to the fact that I, a lone woman (Haye Ram! Khuli tijori!) had travelled across three cities, without a companion.
The very famous Virginia Woolf wrote an extended essay, A Room Of One’s Own, and she gave us the hypothetical Judith, Shakespeare’s sister who wanted the same life as her brother. Her quest was cut-short. As a woman who had set out to achieve her dreams in the male-dominated world, her talent which was equal to that of her brother’s, did not take off. She had neither the resources, nor the support. A lone woman cannot dream big, and Woolf was reinstating that women need solitude and independence too.
That was in 1929, and here we are.
This has to stop. And trust you me, it’s nothing piss-your-pants-revolutionary. It’s as basic as it gets- the freedom of choice. Stop pitying/patronising women who choose to spend their lives alone, equip them instead. Stop telling women the importance of having someone to depend on in their lives. Make them independent, whether they be with someone, or without.
They need to be taught that they are more than enough all by themselves if that’s what they choose, and they do not need men in their lives to be complete. It’s not an attempt to shame men, or renounce them, it is however, an attempt to tell women that they are enough.
There’s a joy in having complete control over one’s life, of not being answerable to people, and doing exactly what we want to- whether it’s splurging on a Martini or running around the house naked. It’s the small joys of having complete control over the remote of your television set or the A.C. My solitude is a choice, I am not lonely.
And about that ‘better half’ issue, if it’s not on my checklist yet, why is it on yours, eh?
Originally titled as “Indian Girls Need To Stop Being Told To Never Be Alone. Here’s Why”, reproduced from Scoop Whoop.