The Sample Registration Survey Report, 2018 stated that the highest number of single women living independently across India are from South India. In fact, the reports showed that there were almost are twice as many single women in Kerala and Tamil Nadu who live alone, as compared to those across other states in India. The single women referred to in the report range from unmarried, to widows, to divorcees and the ones living separately. So what is it like to be a single woman in the southern part of the country? What kind of challenges do these women have to deal with, and what encourages so many women in southern India to embrace singlehood?

SheThePeople reached out to many single women from the region, all over the age of thirty, to know about their experiences of living alone, without having to depend on any male member in the household.

Life As Unmarried Single Women

Pushpa Preeya, is a scribe for disabled students, a social activist and a volunteer, based in Bangalore. She says that being single helped her understand and appreciate her independence. “I come from an impoverished family and have faced a lot of problems to reach where I am today. I am single at this moment and the sole bread-winner for my family. If you really look, there is politics everywhere, and living as a single woman is not very easy. It has been a struggle, but I have stood strong and taken care of everything single-handedly. The main thing I appreciate about being single is that it has enabled me to love myself more. And that is because I see self-care and happiness as my responsibility too.”

Pushpa, who started working before she was 18 years old, has tried her hand at various employments, from working at garment shops to STD booths to reception services and small industries. “Sometimes it gets difficult to face the society, being single and all, but that should not count as our weakness as women. I did not receive any support from relatives or friends.” Pushpa then states how treating single women like this, merely breeds another form of inequality. “We deserve the same respect, support and safety that is offered to the rest.”

Also Read: Dear Uncles And Aunties, Who Asked You To Lose Sleep Over My Single Status?

The Struggles Of Choosing To Remain Single

Ruam Mukherjee, a single woman working as a PR Manager at an organisation in Bangalore, shares that being independent requires a strong mindset, one that is easier said than done. “Working as a single woman has been hard, right from making career choices to navigating through them. I remember facing abusive bosses during the early years of my career, whom I did not know how to tackle or handle,” she reveals.

Mukherjee recalls how a few years back, she ended up facing a series of ugly situations because of a manipulative friend who mislead her and how it finally led to her quitting the job. “That job was vital for me financially, especially since getting it in the first place had been challenging. But that phase taught me that not everyone is a friend and wrong career advice can land one in a soup. As single women, we need to be careful about our career choices and whom we seek advice from. After all, not all advice is well-meant. It also taught me to trust my own ability and instinct much more. It is imperative to have clarity of what one needs to achieve, set targets and keep on working at it consistently, there can be no substitute for hard work and consistency which eventually builds one’s own brand and credibility,” says she.

A Single Mom Shares Her Experiences

R. Laxmi, who works at a primary school in Chennai separated from her husband a few years back due to personal reasons. “My daughter was in the cradle at that time, and later even the court gave me custody. I have faced many difficulties in life, but the toughest of them that I had to face, came from society. For example, for the longest time people in my community would not invite me to their monthly family gatherings as I didn’t have a ‘family’. And that is just one among the many instances of discrimination I have faced,” she recalls.

Laxmi says that as a single mother, you just have to realise that the day-to-day life is going to be a circus, for lack of a better phrase. “You have to be flexible, be there for school drop-offs, pickups, and the madness of it all. When it’s just you and your kid, it also becomes hard to find a moment alone. Even if I want to run errands, I have to take the child along. It becomes difficult to find time for self-care. Although it’s funny that I can even talk about things like self-care now. When I was married, I felt that I needed to take care of everyone, and do it all by myself. But I’ve learnt to prioritise taking care of myself more now that I’m single.

Also Read: These 5 Single Mothers From Bollywood Challenged Social Norms To Raise Their Kid

Living Life The Way The Woman Wants To

Divya is a divorcee, working at an IT company in Bangalore. When I came to Bangalore a couple of months ago, the city was new to me. As a single woman, finding a place to stay was the hardest part. I had to work till 7:30 and then take an Uber to search for apartments and PGs. As a single woman travelling, I did use to get scared during the night. Cabs are risky. We read so many news of rapes and molestations in big cities during the night. At those moments too, I have often felt that a companion or a partner could have made me feel safer perhaps. But then once I actually settled down and became more comfortable with my surroundings, those thoughts vanished away.”

After living on her own for some time, Divya says she has realised that she really don’t need a partner. “You have friends you can call when you want. And you can live your life the way you want. We were raised to think that once you grow up you have to get married. That you will need a man. Back home, I have seen my mom asking for permission to go anywhere from the male members in the family. Women have to ask their husbands or the brothers to take them to places. But times have changed. And I’ve realised that you can enjoy life the way you want. It’s great if you want a partner. It’s equally great if you choose not to have one.”

Till this date, single women in India face a lot of judgment and discrimination, and things are far from easy for them. We’ve come this far, but there’s still a long way to go. Perhaps other cities from across the country can also take inspiration from South Indian states, and do their bit in supporting such women as much as they can.

Dyuti Gupta has writen this piece for SheThePeople.TV, with inputs from Ria Das and Aparna Elizabeth Mammen.

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