Bindiya Bedi Charan Noronha
Riku tells her mum at age 26, ‘if I find the right guy, I will get married.’
She continues to repeat the same dialogue at age 49.
Her mum and dad are in their eighties. They want her to settle down. Living in Surat, their relatives ask them about it often during family functions. Her aunts gossip openly, ‘Riku is involved with a rich married man. That is the only reason she is living alone in Delhi.’
Snide comments pinch her parents. ‘It’s high time we got some relief from family gossip about you,’ and they repeat the marriage talk.
‘Is it my fault if I cannot find the right guy? I want to get married, but the eligible guys fail my test. Men of fifty are so boring. They only work and watch television. No spirit of adventure. I feel smart and spunky and cannot live with a man who is not interested in seeing the world. I am only 49 and physical fitness, trekking, visiting art galleries, enjoying music concerts are my hobbies. On weekends, I can’t stand the thought of just doing housework and cooking. Please find a suitable man for me and I will marry,’ Riku confided in me.
We met after a long time. She led an exciting life, even during the lockdown. Helping people find medical support, and attending online webinars to learn new skills besides her regular job, kept her busy. Weekends were meant for trekking and chilling at home with OTT. Cooking lasagna and inviting friends for sundowners, Riku had an independent spirit. Living alone in Delhi, she had built her career and an exciting life without parental support.
This is a tiny tale of one of my many attractive, well-travelled friends. I feel Riku is right. She lives life queen-size. Indian women have been suppressed for centuries. In recent years, with financial independence, they fulfil their heart’s desires. Isn’t that fantastic, and quite frankly, enough? Why are parents pushing their daughters into marriage? Why is sarcastic family gossip so important? These questions haunt me, though I asked her something different.
‘Which man can keep pace with you?’
I rack my brains to find a suitable man for her, and I fail. The successful corporate honchos are busy working their way up the ladder. They want to have sex in hotel rooms without relationships to clutter their lives. Only unemployed freelancers have time to socialize. But they cannot be eligible for apparent reasons. Then there are married flirts who want to canoodle with smart girls to relive their fading youth and feel young and sexy. The worst of the creeps.
Where are the smart, educated, adventurous Indian men hiding? What does a single woman do to find a suitable man? I need to find one for my hot and happening friend before she hits half a century. Despite my efforts to introduce my single male and female friends, I have made little headway. Time is flying and now some of my classmates are talking about their children finding the right match to settle down.
Wondering about the whole concept of settling down in life, I ask you – is marriage the answer?
Or is it one of the many ways to feel settled in life?
Isn’t marriage a decision made by a couple to share and enjoy life together?
I have been married, separated, divorced, single, and remarried. Each of these phases has brought in deep learning.
Above all, it has brought out the clear understanding that a woman is complete in the way she lives. Marriage is not the holy grail of relationships. It is only one way of life. An equally merry way of life can be to live-in together, being in a relationship while living separately, or being single and happy to mingle whenever the need strikes. Each of these stages will bring unpredictable challenges. Life is not a rosy picture. Women are not weak damsels in distress who need saving by shining knights in armour. A woman has the steely strength to deal with the various aspects of living independently. She allows the man to feel more important and take charge. Social conditioning and mean relatives are the culprits that create self-doubt in a woman’s mind.
In today’s day and time, a woman must look into her own strength and bring out her wisdom and courage to live life on her terms.
Settling down means being strong and finding independent solutions. Women are the backbone of families and must make their individual choices without being cowered down by social pressures. I have discovered that the best way is to live gratefully in our current circumstances and to support one another. Often, it’s our friends who stand beside us in times of need. Others such as siblings, even children in case of many happily married friends, were nowhere around when the worst of Covid struck. We saw countless examples of neighbours and friends banding together to help each other get through difficult times. If we have each other’s backs in a spirit of shared humanity and stand resolutely together, my single friends will not feel insecure with advancing age. Our children will not decide under pressure to find the right match.
Married, single, divorced, widowed women with or without children must strengthen their sisterhood and live strongly as equal partners in a balanced society.
I have stopped looking for the right match for Riku and I will not do it for my son either. As responsible adults, let them make their decisions, which I will support to the best of my ability.
Bindiya Bedi Charan Noronha is a linguist, works in a diplomatic mission in New Delhi. She is actively involved in education and health initiatives for women and children through her organisation ‘Mil Baant Ke – Sharing with Dignity’. Her awareness of the world and passion for life find expression in paintings, poetry, articles and short stories. Her works have appeared in anthologies Musings of the Heart, Grey Constellation, Seasons of Life, and in the online forum Women’s Web. She has authored the book ‘Dream Keeper: A Poetography Ensemble’, published in November 2019. Her second book is in the pipeline.
*All images used in this article are either Eyra’s own design or widely and freely available on the internet.*