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  • Kanika Bhatia

Alone in the city. Tauba!

I haven’t seen much that raises eyebrows faster in this country than a single, unmarried girl living all by herself. The range of questions on the listeners face is amusingly yet assuringly wide. Half will imagine a lovers nest, and the other, if you’re lucky, will hold your arm with the concern of a foster mother. Seemingly real, transparently fake. If I had half the talent of Deborah Levy, I would address my “corridors of love” carelessly into conversations and convert it into a trilogy of a reactionary series during my lifetime.


Living alone is a choice. It’s not a hate crime against my parents, it’s not a coping mechanism of loneliness where am filling my empty nest with greens of every variety, and no the next step isn’t cats. And while we are at the topic of cats, may I just add, it will NEVER be cats [ How to get cancelled on the internet 101.] Nevertheless, the sighs, uff the sighs.


As a writer, I have always been judicious of my space. As I type this however, I have my mother rearranging my wardrobe for the 5th time this weekend (she is visiting!) and I have no sense of control over this phenomenon. Living alone by choice, allows me this control over the sounds around me, that in turn provides a (illusionary it maybe) peaceful work environment. If you’re from an Indian family, you know that it is a luxury.


To all those who enquire about how I fill the void, it’s tough to answer this question in particular. I am not a 50 something woman whose kids have grown up and left the family home. I am not replacing my kids with ferns and millennial obsession of greens to fill my empty nest. I am not a functional loner, just an ardent solitude seeker who likes to function somehow in this noisy world. I am in consensus with Marcus Aurelius, “It has long been shown that we are born for community ...each creature is made in the interest of another.” I just prefer my creatures in limited time periods, at chosen hours and preferably with some kilometres in between.


Being in a creative process, means an archeology of your mind. You’re digging deeper, wider and with a ferocity of an intern. You’re sure you will be the one to discover something of maximised meaning today. But, most days you’re facing a blank screensaver that demands you to answer “what’s next?” If you’re lucky, you have a vague idea, and if you’re me, you have the creativity to make up one on spot, feigning interest in something new today. To top this daily struggle, the inconvenience of other people’s expectations in my daily routine is beyond the stress any retinol serum can remedy despite recommended use.


However, none of these trump the concern expressed over my distant future as a married woman. Who will marry someone who loves the idea of solitude? Worse, who will sustain such a marriage even if he is somehow tricked into one? This codification of cultural capital, where assets is the number of people demanding the brides involuntary squat count every morning is what aunties around the country thrive on. “How many people you will ask to shut up then? Will you hole up in your room, neglecting all your duties in a marriage?” Firstly, am not ratatouille! Furthermore, if a man screams for peace in the house, have you noticed the long faces of sympathy that women of every age extend towards him? “How dare you, he bloody well deserves it!“ But a woman’s notion of privacy shouldn’t kick in. Wasn’t she designed to carry the family with (on, about, along?) her (prepositions went a little hazy in this case, apologies.)


The Kautilyan policies of saam, daam, dand, bhed go into convincing women how not-normal is this choice of staying apart from your ageing parents. Everyone has an opinion, and they will bleed it out on calls to your mother, or in applauding your bravery at family gatherings. However, it’s almost surprising that leaving the said argument altogether doesn’t strike as a viable option to anyone. For those who are convinced Indians are over it, and it’s a non issue, may I quote the very eloquent Shashi Tharoor to you: “Any truism about India can be contradicted by another truism about india.” Also may I know the procedure to change the room?


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