The Freedom Verse For The Single Woman In India


Single woman in India is not ‘qualified’ to do a number of things as per our traditions. Yet, being single can also mean freedom. 

(This post is part of a special series on #FreedomToBe  where people shared their heart felt stories about one’s relationship status and the judgement that often comes with it.).

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In my post, How as a Single Mother, I reclaimed Goddess Lakshmi, I talked about fresher perspectives and re-looking at some of the old rituals with the new, empowered vision of a single parent. This little tale continues from there.

In the winter of 2012, after staying in a rented space for two years, I finally found my dream house. With two little hills in its backyard, it seemed like the perfect anchor for my restless soul. In 2013, the boys and I were ready to move.

A close friend has come down for the housewarming ceremony, decked me up in a deep green sari, put flowers in my hair and adorned my wrists with bangles of pink and amber. Even as the excitement mounted, an unfamiliar trepidation settled in my throat.

Holding the picture of Godess Durga close to my heart and putting aside my fears, I stepped over the threshold along with my boys. My parents followed suit, dressed in their silken finery. The motley group of relatives also trooped in behind us. I braced myself for the long, tedious ceremonies ahead. The priest had already arrived and was making all preparations for theGruhapravesh.

The boys and I sat on the mattress – our palms joined in silent obeisance. My parents sat on the low wooden stools and presided over the various rituals.

Somewhere in the middle of Lakshmi Homam, Ganapati Homam and Vaasthu Puja, I realized that I did not belong to any of those ceremonies.

As an owner, I existed on the title deed of the flat, but as the spiritual owner of the abode, I needed to be someone’s Dharma Patni. Perhaps even carrying the picture of my favuorite Goddess had been an unconscious act of blasphemy on my part. Perhaps the man of the house was supposed to do it. A single woman according to these rituals was not qualified enough to conduct these rituals.

But a housewarming ceremony was no place to start a debate. I let the matter rest.

But the doubts persisted.

However, as time passed, the house embraced us. The walls started gathering grease marks and finger prints. The boys earmarked their favourite hiding places. I had my own favorite little corner. Slowly, I started feeling as though I had complete ownership of the home – in material, emotional and spiritual terms.

But there was the question. It was growing on me now.

One day, I asked my mother if a widower can preside over the ceremonies. Are single persons not as qualified as married ones when it came to these rites?“No,” my mother replied, “In all Hindu rituals, only a couple has identity.”

Even as I nodded, she continued, “But when a man is widowed and needs to perform these ceremonies, he is usually re-married.”

The doubts faded. I realized that in the long run, it is my choices that matter more than anything else. My ‘Singledom’ to me was my own personal freedom tale. I could gather my wings and fly into open skies or remain ensconced in my cozy nest.

The same evening, as I tucked into the last morsel of my favourite upma, I was reminded of this story I had read long time back:

Once upon a time, there resided a widow and widower in two apartments, which faced each other. Being immediate neighbours and without any encumbrances, they start spending more and more time with each other. Once, the widower proposes marriage to the widow.

“I am alone as you are,” he says, “Since the time my wife died, I have never eaten this tasty food. Why don’t we spend the rest of our lives together?”

The widow is upset.

“What makes you think I need someone,” she asks.

“For the first time, I am cooking for myself. I am thinking about myself. What makes you think I am unhappy? What makes you think I am desperate to achieve the married status?”

The widower is stunned. But he respects the woman for her choice and they continue being friends as before.’

That fictional woman is my hero. In my mind’s eye, we go for long walks and talk late into night. Sometimes she cheers me when I am planning for an exciting project. At other times, she just lets me sleep. And sometimes when I am on the brink of apologizing, she gently pulls me back and whispers the freedom verse into my ear.

(This was published on Women’s Web. Thanks a ton Sridevi Datta for sharing your story! Three of the published entries including this one, will receive a Papilio glass table clock with old world charm from SoulCafe.)

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