On top of the world, but not lonely!


No matter how independent girls believe they are living in the 21st century, the minute they reach their teens the society gets conscious, the relatives panic and parents agonise over how to bring the topic of marriage to the discussion table.

 The stark reality however is, in her growing-up years a girl goes through various stages of evolution, she rebels against a few decisions and surrenders to a few after realising that ultimately it isn’t easy to live her life alone, all by herself!

The moot question, however is, why it is always a girl whose marriage alliance is considered more important than that of a boy? 

“The reason is completely political, for there is a huge anxiety related to women’s sexuality. A society doesn’t know what to do with an unmarried woman and is in a way afraid of her since she can flout all the rules. But why does a girl always moves from ‘home’ to ‘marriage’?” questions Dr Uma Chakravarti, a feminist historian who has also taught at Miranda House, Delhi University. 

When Dr Chakravarti, along with others participated in a panel discussion titled ‘Re-Imaging Loneliness-Cultivating Independence’ at the recently concluded ‘Women of India Leadership Summit’, the women in the audience couldn’t help but question the norms of society for a girl’s marriage. 

“At the age of 20, you think you know it all, at 30 you are off balance completely, at 40 you have a direction and at 50 you feel emancipated. Though your evolution continues till you are alive , but one needs to remain occupied and not distracted when living alone,” says fashion designer Poonam Bhagat, recalling her divorce and subsequent devotion to her fashion label Taika.   

Bhagat mentions that once she separated from her husband (20 years back), she received a lot of calls from women who were stuck in bad marriages. But the issue that remained at hand was how to conquer loneliness and embrace solitude. One of the panellists quoted Jean-Paul Satre: “If you are lonely when you are alone, you are in bad company.” 

In the high-context culture that we live in, Indian women prefer group harmony over individual harmony. This is a major reason why women keep their relationships before them. 

“But it is important for one to choose whether you want to be a victim or an opportunist. At times you just have to keep walking the path,” says Mrinalini Chawla, set and graphic designer. Chawla too has been living alone since years yet remembers her maternal grandmother’s teaching: “At all times, be in dignity” and emphasises how a woman must remain dignified in every situation. Even when separating from her husband.

“The values that were inculcated in me by my mother, I couldn’t destroy them. May be that’s why it is said that ‘Your conscience is like your mother’s glance’,” adds Bhagat making one wonder where is the liberty to feel lonely for an unmarried or a divorced woman in today’s world?

“One’s primary relationship is with oneself,” says Bhagat. Listening to this, every woman in the audience felt there was absolutely no need to worry about being lonely in the absence of a man in their life. After all, one needs to be “strong in yourself and decisions that you take,” says Chakravarti.          

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