I recently shifted to Noida to have an independent life. Living on your own is the best way, I think, to gain confidence and control of one’s life. But it is not easy to shift base, especially if you are a single woman. While single women have to prioritise safety over everything else, the social outlook toward them makes many tenets uncomfortable with the idea of accommodating them
A single woman, especially one who is way past the “right age” to get married, is viewed with suspicion. She could be a bad influence on young girls. She must have boyfriends (emphasis on the plural). If she is unmarried and living alone at this age, clearly something is shady about her character.
As a single woman who is freshly laden with experience of having to hunt an accommodation, I can confidently say that this mix of our priorities versus the stigmas we have to face often forces women like me to settle for less.
Single women have to choose between safety and budget
When I started hunting for a flat, I was forced to choose between safety and budget. Societies that primarily accommodate families are mainly the safest place to live in Noida. But just because I was a single woman, I wasn’t allowed to live in one such housing complex. Every broker I met, slouched his shoulders when I said I needed a flat in a family society.
One broker showed me a good studio apartment online. I liked it in the first look itself. Besides, the broker said that there was no issue about living alone or with a man. “It’s a bachelor friendly society,” he said. But when I visited the place, the flat was both messy and had an inconvenient approach. The walls were not painted and there was no security in sight, as a result of which anyone could walk into the lift and the corridors. When I saw the place, I felt as if the bachelors living there were being hidden like a dirty secret by society. In fact, the bachelor tenants were just a way to earn money, but through illegal ways. No one cared about their safety or concerns. They were just dumped in an isolated area so that the front view of society remained “pretty” and pristine.
Immediately my mind pictured my life in this place and it was nothing less than hell. And in absence of parents or guardians, it could only be worse. On the other side, the front view of the society was decked with gardens, gyms and whatnot. When I asked for a room there, the broker immediately said no. “Owner bachelors ko allow nhi karta” he retorted. Certainly the studio apartment he showed to me fit into my budget but for that is it fair to sacrifice my safety?
The stereotyping of single women tenants as wild
Kirti, a law student in Noida’s Symbiosis Institute of Law, faced a similar problem. Although she didn’t face any difficulty in finding a room in a family society, she had to bear several restrictions. “The society allowed bachelors but on one condition- the female tenant should not invite a man to her room and a male tenant should not invite a woman. They assumed that if they did, they will end up having sex, loud music or drugs.”
This problem of housing societies not renting out flats to single women is very common in our country. A film even raised a question on it. If you have watched Alia Bhatt’s Dear Zindagi you must remember the scene where Kiara is ousted from the apartment because the owner decided that only families will live in the society. Kiara rightly questions why does society have a problem with single women?
Single women tenants have to constantly face scrutiny of their character
In our society, the norm is that a woman should be married by 18 (considering that the new law of increasing the marriageable age has still not seen any progress) and settle down with her husband, kids and in-laws. A woman is never expected to live on her own at the age when she should be rearing children. Any woman “flouting the norms” intimidates people and they end up judging her character and upbringing.
“Why didn’t she marry yet?” “Is there some fault in her character?” “Why is she living alone?” “Did her parents outcast her because of her behaviour or did she elope?”
The point is that the marital status of a woman defines whether she is sanskari or not.
Why do single women have to earn, wonders society
Moreover, in a society where women are supposed to be dependent on husbands, it is never imagined that a woman might require to stay away from the family, live alone for financial independence. Financial independence, firstly, is never seen as a woman’s destiny. She is expected to handle utensils, not money.
Thus a single working woman is seen as an anomaly who refuses to live by social norms and causes inconvenience to everyone by refusing to get married and letting her husband do the financial heavylifting.
It should be this difficult
Why should single women face so many challenges just to have a safe place to live? Why do landlords, brokers shame these women and constantly make them aware of their single status? Why is the decision of living alone a question on the character of a single woman?
Although my friend and I have finally found a safe society that is slightly beyond our budget, we got it after a lot of begging and requests. Still, we live under fear and have to endure numerous restrictions. Every night I have this nightmare that someday I will be ousted from society because of my lifestyle and my unmarried status. But that’s how society wants us, single women, to live.
Single women are not dartboards to target your orthodox perceptions with. They have a life and the right to stay safe, happy and independent.
Views expressed are the author’s own.