It struck me the other day that men are indeed from Mars and women from Venus — or maybe the other way around — when a married male acquaintance asked me over a plateful of hot, fragrant biryani, “Why aren’t you with someone? Do you like being alone just because you feel you are not lonely?”
Okay, so two things here, I told him, carving out a piece of potato (attendant with our respective biryanis, chicken for me, mutton for him) carefully with a fork and popping it into my mouth. “One, you are assuming I’m not with someone, when I well may be, I mean what you see is (sometimes) not what you get. And two, your wife lives [and works] in a different territory, she doesn’t live with you, you live alone — so aren’t you a great one to be attempting to sort out my life?”
He immediately changed the subject line to “Which is your favourite biryani joint in Dubai?”, and that’s what we grappled with till the end of the meal that was rounded off with a flourish — a chilled firni.
Maybe it’s the kind of company I keep, but I usually never hear a woman ask me similar questions. I find men way more likely to be interested in relationship statuses — especially of women… and way more likely to go all judgemental if a woman displays even a tiny sliver of (what they perceive to be) an “irregular” streak.
Let me give you an example.
A few years ago, a friend’s husband moved to another country to pursue a career; the wife didn’t accompany him because her career path is on track wherever she is (note: these are folks unconnected to the person I was having biryani with, that one’s more of an acquaintance). They visit each other occasionally, do Zoom calls whenever they can, co-habit family/friends’ WhatsApp groups enthusiastically, and, for all intents and purposes, remain happily married.
And that should be the end of the matter for those who are curious (maybe unnecessarily, but whatever), right?
Alas, it’s not. A few days ago, I was meeting friends who are fairly close to the abovementioned couple, and two of the men in the group suddenly got very angsty and demanded to know why husband and wife are leading the “single” life. No doubt, they were (both) up to no good.
“But how do you know that?” I asked. “And what if they are up to no good — what’s in it for you?”
“Oh, come on, you’re always contrarian, but even you would agree this sort of an arrangement is highly, ahem, unnatural? Why ‘form’ a relationship if you plan on being an almost-single?”
One of them went on to say, “The woman should have moved with the husband — they could have been together”, and the moment he did, the feminists in the group pounced on him and (predictably) prepared mincemeat.
I didn’t really care about the sexist angle, whether the woman should have followed the man, or the man should have followed the woman (I think it’s their own business), but I was most intrigued by why everyone gets into such a flap over a ‘single’ way of life — or a deemed ‘single’ way of life.
Most men I choose to mingle with (and I’m fairly picky about people I associate with) socially and familially — of all age groups and socio-economic categories — have strong opinions on the ‘single’ life. It’s “weird”, “unanchored”, “indisciplined” and, ultimately, “lonely”. Go blue in the face saying your life doesn’t constitute any of the attributes, and especially not “lonely” — in the conventional sense that is — they will subject you to a disbelieving, withering look.
The women I choose to mingle with, culled from these same social and familial groups, are mostly indifferent, and yet (implicitly) supportive. They obviously have bigger fish to fry.
Subcontinental links to many precious objects housed in country manors are often not acknowledged.
Long Reads1 month ago