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Single in the city

It’s still as tough to remain single. The (heterosexual) couple, as Scarlett complained, remains the norm; pale green dresses and slight young figures do not go on for ever. A single person is an anomaly. But with changes sweeping across all sections of society in the country, new spaces (meaning nightclubs and entertainment zones) opening by the dozen, hemlines going up and necklines going down, one would think that interaction between unattached members of the two sexes would be easier. Is it, in Calcutta' How is life in the city if you are single and ready to mingle'

Mingling politics

“I think it’s easier to approach girls here. In other cities girls may seem modern, but they are more friendly here. Of course you have to be mature and careful in your approach,” says 29-year-old club cricketer Dipangshu Mitra. Gauging how friendly is friendly can be tricky, for each city has its own standard, but Dipangshu’s is a tolerant view of Calcutta.

Others feel Calcutta is difficult. “I think Calcutta is conservative. Here if you are not in a relationship, but friends with many girls, you are frowned upon. I don’t think you can just strike up a conversation with a girl you meet in the Metro or in a movie-ticket queue, the way you can in Bangalore or Pune or Mumbai,” says Anish Roychowdhury, a 28-year-old software professional.

Agrees 35-year-old Sreeraj Mitra, a public relations executive. “I think it is easier to strike up a conversation with someone you do not know in Mumbai, maybe because life is more fast-paced there. In Calcutta, one has to be introduced to start talking,” he says.

The rules

At a nightclub, the signals have to be sent carefully. Same for choosing a person to talk to, especially if you are a woman.

“A single girl is either thought to be available, or so unapproachable that everyone shies away from her,” says Brinda Das, a 26-year-old academic adviser. She has more rules. “A male friend is not the same as a boyfriend and one’s behaviour with a married male friend has to be more careful than an unmarried one,” she cautions.

Friends may misread your conduct. “I have a mixed group of friends. My girlfriends, most of them engaged, are always linking me up with the boys. And a few of the boys mistake my friendship for a different kind of interest,” claims Sagarika Mukherjea, a 24-year-old professional.

Some wouldn’t rate Calcutta, but would like to make other cities their hunting ground. “I don’t know about Calcutta being conservative, but I will feel bolder in another city because no one knows me there,” says 28-year-old software developer Arijit Banerjee.

And good Bengali boys still like good Bengali girls. The 30-year-old Satarupa Biswas met a software professional settled in the US at a city nightclub. He toyed with wine. She gulped down her vodkas and smoked half a packet of cigarettes. She didn’t hear of him any more.

The cut-off mark for singlehood has remained steady for years too. “As you start nearing 30, you feel the need for someone special in your life,” says Anish.

Minority report

Despite these problems, however, most people are obviously hooked, and that is a problem. Singletons — a term coined by Bridget Jones, the iconic Singleton of Helen Fielding’s novel, who had also coined the phrase “Smug Marrieds” and who, after much trauma, found the perfect man — are the minority. From very early on now. An overwhelming number of high school and college students have “committed” as their status on Orkut profiles.

And the couples or Smug Marrieds are always trying to find a partner for their Singleton friend. “The person may be having a ball, and enjoying her independent status, but family and friends will insist that they are missing out on something… till they fall prey to that niggling doubt: ‘Am I really'’” says Satarupa. Plus, there is the stream of films which go: “Come fall in love…”

“At every social gathering, one has to answer questions about when I intend to settle down,” laughs Brinda.

Then there are those Situations. “At an office party recently I was feeling quite at a loss. I knew many of my friends would be coming with their partners. I didn’t have anyone to take with me,” confesses Santanu Guha, a 26-year-old IT employee.

Real pangs

The whole world is conspiring against Singletons. “I was in a relationship before and the trauma of the break-up makes me enjoy being single. But I can’t deny that sometimes when I see my friends with their girlfriends, I feel a little sad,” says Vaijayanta Chattoraj, a 25-year-old software engineer.

“I have a very hectic professional life. I am always under a lot of pressure. After office I would have loved to have someone I could have shared my thoughts and feelings with, someone who would have understood me,” says Santanu.

All this adds up to some real misery.

And if friends and family are constantly trying to hook you up, and failing, they tend to make you feel like a loser too.

So to be single, whether ready to mingle or not, you have to be strong. Super strong, as Brinda suggests: “You have to remember that you are single by choice and not by force, you are single because you are waiting for the right person.”

The benefits: less expenditure, fewer worries and you can actually buy a lot of things that you want.

But if you are scared to be single, then go ahead, please, and discover another kind of trouble.

For it’s not easy being married. It’s not easy being single either.

“Oh, what a mess life was!” as Scarlett ’Hara discovered long ago.

How to answer people who attack your single state:

Tell them firmly that you are happy, and willing to find out if Mr/Ms Right exists

Tell them that you don’t consider anyone worth you

Say you are still trying to understand your sexual preferences and will choose a girlfriend/boyfriend accordingly

Say that your heart is broken and you are off relationships forever.

How to approach the other sex if you are single and ready to mingle:

Act mature and restrained. Don’t be pushy. Both men and women find that irritating

Try to interact in a group. Don’t single him/her out from the beginning

Give the other person time to understand and know you and vice versa

Try to find out common likes and dislikes. They can serve as good bonding areas

If you want to continue with the acquaintance, offer your phone number/email. Don’t ask for his/her contact details first.

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