“Sheher mein ladkiyon ko akela nahi rehna chahiye. Ladke reh sakte hai par ladkiyan nahi.”
This dialogue from the movie Pink rings true to what the society thinks. In India, a woman living alone is a relatively new concept and one which is looked down upon. They are usually expected to stay with their parents till they get married and move to their husband’s house right after. Because where is the need for a woman to live without supervision?
While moving to a different city because of work is still accepted, moving out to live independently in the same city is a ticket to becoming the black sheep of the family. Things like ‘you don’t love us’, ‘you just want to bring boys home’, and ‘ladki haath se nikal gayi hai’ (she’s slipped away from our control) become common speak. Even married couples living separately from their parents in the same city raise questions!
But today, a number of women between 25 and 35 years of age are looking to experience living alone. Take Priya Mehta’s (name changed) case for example. She moved out into a place of her own in the same city because she wanted to learn how to become independent. “My parents brought the house down when I told them my decision. They tried everything from putting society’s views into focus to an emotional drama about how I don’t love them enough. But I stayed adamant! Today, we spend weekends and holidays in either of the houses and my parents proudly tell everyone about their daughter’s house.”
All about the space
Cohabiting with your folks despite having a job that can pay for your own place is something unique to only some of the South Asian countries. Of course, parents justify it with the usual Indian values and family bond story that’ll put most TED Talks to shame. The problem lies in the belief that you love your parents more if you continue living with them.
When it comes to daughters, there is also the patriarchal need to control them till they are married. You’ll listen to a whole lot of ‘we need to protect her’, ‘the world is not a place for single women’, ‘why does she need to live alone when we have a house’, and of course, the favourite ‘log kya kahenge’. Even if parents are okay with it, they’re constantly worried that society might question their daughter’s actions.
Says Vidya Gurunath, a 30-year old who decided to move out of her parents' home recently, “The society still frowns upon single women moving out. Like there has to be something wrong if you’re choosing to live alone for reasons other than work or studies. But I believe that you can’t learn to truly adult and become aware of your strengths and weaknesses until you learn to live by yourself. That’s why I moved out. I want to experience life on my own terms, in my own space, away from the comfort of home.”
A welcome decision
Indian parents don’t teach their daughters how to live alone. In fact, many don’t even let them go on a sleepover till after they’ve finished college or some times, don’t allow them to do so even when they start doing a job! However, things are changing. Many parents are now encouraging their daughters to live life on their own terms. Be it house hunting, managing a budget, or dealing with the domestic help, these parents are showing up.
Says Jaya Gupta (name changed) who has a 23-year-old daughter, “I think it’s very important for girls to learn how to be on their own. But society is just not ready for it. When my daughter moved out, most landlords were hesitant to rent out their place. They simply assumed that she is moving out against her parents’ wishes and to ‘misuse’ her freedom.”
But today she’s very happy to be in touch with her daughter from a distance. Not only has it given her daughter the space to grow, but she also has more time and space to live life. Another father of a 25-year-old, Sanjay Shastry said, “I’ve seen my daughter bloom after moving out from the house. But more importantly, my wife and I have all this space to ourselves, which is a welcome change.”
(Edited by Varnika Gupta)