Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Aur bhi gham hai zamane main...

Of all the things that I hear from people when they know I am a single mother, the top three, in no specific order, are:

- I admire your courage
- What have you told your child?
- Don't you want to settle again?

The third question is the most asked one. Any conversation will inevitably reach this point where the person will suggest me to think about re-marrying. That one day I will meet someone who will instantly bring back all the love, company, and respect that I deserve. I am told that a person as nice as me deserves second chance. When I tell them that it was the second chance, they kind of become speechless and then usually laugh it out.

Such conversations remind me of childhood novels, where the story would usually be about a dreamy, fragile, broken girl who gets rescued by some perfect guy; and then all goes well. The height of all banalities. 

While I can understand why people have flawed perception about a phenomenon as abstract as love at 20, it really bothers me when they continue to have it when they are 35.

"Why do you think I will fall in the same ditch again I have been trying so hard to come out", I asked my friend once, who would not stop telling me stories of successful second marriages.

"Becuase there are nice guys too", she responded so innocently that I felt like slapping her face and waking her up to the reality. The guys I have been with were nice too; and yet, they were not nice enough for me to continue staying with them. May be till a year back, I would have argued and tried hard to make her understand what a woman wants. But now I am kinda over, so I concluded the conversation saying that "nice is not enough for me".

I am slightly reserved when it comes to public wailing. And I am very optimistic by design. So more often than not, I am perceived as not being in as much pain as I really am, which is okay. More than 99.999999% people in the world do not know me, even fewer understand me and hardly a couple care about. I do not really give too much importance to the number of people thinking about me and the content of their thoughts. Science has taught me that there are much bigger and significant things happening in the Universe than a petty break-up.

Infact our replaceability quotient is so poor that even a dog or a fish can substitute us. I know a woman in my neighbourhood whose husband left many years ago. She is still waiting for him, but meanwhile she also got a few dogs. Now she has six of them and my Mom once said that she looks happier now. She stays busy in feeding, cleaning, or simply shouting at those dogs. In all these years, that woman never heard back from her husband, neither receieved a single dime; but she has survived and looks quite okay. Now this is what is the true replacement value of a spouse.

Another instance is from my own family. A close relative lost her husband in an accident two years after their marriage. At that time, she was pregnant and soon after gave birth to a girl at her in-laws' place. For myriad issues, the in-laws made her life miserable so she came back to her parent's home and stayed with them with little or no support from her husband's family. Now its been about 17 years. In her early years of widowhood, she did get some suitors who were widowers or divorcees themselves, but she refused to remarry. Partly becuase of the daughter and partly because of her own lack of interest. She had got a government job soon after her husband died, through which she has sustained herself very well.

Some more persistent well-wishers counter my argument in favour of singlehood by saying that it is the old age, when we have become physically weak, that we realise the true importance of a spouse. I am young right now so I don't really know about that. But I don't think I would ever be able to receive strength and support from a husband when I am weak and old and ugly when I could not get any of it when I am young and healthy and lovely. Which woman, in her right mind, would leave a husband who provides her strength and support.

Statistically speaking, women have higher life span than men. I am not posting any data here but you can google and confirm it. This means that most wives outlive their husbands and I am not talking about untimely deaths. I am talking about natural deaths that happen after the age of 70. This means that the wives who left behind are also in similar age-groups. How many women of that age group have you found committing suicide or falling in depression because their husbands died. Howsoever sad the life gets, they kind of accept the fact and get on with whatever they have - usually children and grand children. The same applies to old widowers.

There is nothing new in growing old without a spouse. But having young women leave their husbands to live out of marriage is indeed new for our society, especially in India.

When I drill down to why all the time women are coercing you to re-marry, even if their own  marriage is not going any great, I realise that the solution emerges more out of fear than love. And the fear is less about lonely old age; as much as it is about what if being single is the better way!

Yes! I know countless women whose marriages are not exactly happy. The adjectives that they use to define their state of marriage will be okay, fine, good-for-the-kids, used-to-it, nobody-is-perfect and similar animated emotions. If you look  around yourself, you will find handful of couples who are feeling it the right way, they are not fighting every now and then for petty issues, have growing careers, share similar views on important topics, and don't feel insecure or competitive. Everyone else is just fighting to somehow keep it together, which is okay.. I also tried to do the same as long as I was able to.

I think when such people, men or women, meet people like us, they see hope. They get attracted to this freedom from chaos and liberty to live your way out. At the same time they see the daunting cost of that hope. They want to see all aspects of our decision and the final outcomes of this experiment, as in their hearts they measure the price of this liberty with the weariness of maintaining a marriage. At the end, perhaps, they find latter to be more rewarding than the former... OR, they find former to be more demanding than the latter. In any case, they stick with the marriage.

And then in their goodwill, fear, or evil sense of superiority they suggest us to remarry; after all what is a house without a spouse ;)