To start off, let me share with my readers what prompted this post. There is a post on facebook by an Indian novelist Usha Narayanan giving a link to a newspaper article with the same title. In fact she is quoted in the article.
I have asked three single lady friends their opinion on the subject. I really don’t know if they are happy about their single status as it is not something that we have discussed. I however know of a few cases of young ladies in careers desperately trying to get married and a couple where they did in haste and repented too.
On the other hand, this is a topic often discussed among men about advantages of being single men. In my case, this has increased somewhat since I became a widower five years ago.
In India, whether you are a man or a woman does not matter. From one’s mid-twenties, family and friends start asking one about one’s plans for matrimony. It is very rare to find Indians unmarried beyond the age of thirty.
It is in this background that articles like the one quoted describe the new phenomenon but to the best of my knowledge, no one bothers to write about single men. The fact of the matter is that women are under the magnifying glass for just about everything that they do and not so much the men.
I want to address the issue from a man’s point of view and since I do have a number of women readers, their views will be very welcome indeed. Just a small rider before I proceed. I am deliberately generalising with broad sweeps whereas reality is usually full of nuances and finer differences. Please accommodate those for the sake of some intellectual kite flying.
There are bachelors, happily married men, unhappily married men, divorcees and widowers like me among males. Many young bachelors with normal hormonal problems desperately try to get married and suffer till they do. Since most of them in India do not know how to go about finding themselves a mate and are unhappy with what their parents find, it is very frustrating indeed for them till something clicks somewhere and they get married.
Next comes the happily married men and there is nothing to discuss about them. Lucky sods.
The unhappily married men are the ones that need society’s maximum sympathy. Unlike the unhappily married woman who gets a lot of sympathy from everywhere, her male counterpart does not. If he can afford it, he does find alternatives but that is such a minuscule minority that it is not worth writing about. The long suffering husband stuck in an unhappy marriage due to financial or familial reasons is worthy of sympathy. In a patriarchal society like ours he mostly gets ridicule unlike his female counterpart who gets sympathy.
The divorced men are admired by the unhappily married men and encouraged to stay that way. The happily married men however take it upon themselves to advise them to get married again at the earliest and will even offer to find divorced women. That the divorced man and divorced woman both want to experience matrimony again is simply too obvious when one peruses the weekend classified ads in our newspapers for second marriages. There are so many ‘innocent’ divorcees that one wonders what the word means. And one also wonders why they would want to get married again if they are divorced!
Now comes the widower. Here, I speak from personal experience as I have been one the last five years. While my late father was alive, he felt it necessary immediately after I became one to take it upon himself to find me another wife. He tried to get the help of my son who flatly refused saying that I am quite capable of finding one if I wanted. The point is that even at that age, I was 66 when I became one, parental pressure was possible. A couple of friends tried to impress on me that I should get married again but did not pursue the matter too much seeing how uninterested I was in the matter. Two unhappily married friends were the only genuinely happy fellows to see me become a widower and they made it clear that they were happy not at my loss but at the prospect that such an eventuality is a possibility in their lives too.
And, if my dear reader you want to know what I feel, let me tell you, that solitude is what I feel. I realise that I am now too set in my ways to find another mate who will find it difficult to adjust to my ways and I to hers. So, I have got used to my single status and doubt very much that I will ever change. I enjoy my solitude.
Mulla Nasrudin’s friend had to attend a funeral for the first time in his life. Not knowing the protocol, he approached Mulla for advice.
“Where should I be in the funeral procession, Mulla?” he said. “At the back, in front, or on one of the sides?”
“It matters little where you are, my friend,” Mulla said, “as long as you are not in the casket.”