Do couples have more fun or do singles rule? Are solos reigning supreme or are twosomes taking the cake? Would you rather compromise for company or indulge alone? This year, celebrate Valentine’s Day with a twist, with tales of happiness from those on both sides of the debate.
Rannvijay Singha, actor & TV host, 31; and Prianka Vohra, marketer, 31
“You have to adjust to each other’s lifestyles. That’s how couplehood will survive today”
But it wasn’t until they met again at a Mumbai hotel soon after, in 2011, that they felt an attraction. "It was really funny," Prianka says. "I’d lived in London all my life, I had no clue who he was. So as people came up to him and asked for pictures, I was laughing, thinking he’d been mistaken for a movie star." Then she saw him get mobbed in Delhi again and the penny dropped. They got married in April 2014.
As couples go, the Singhas are pretty snug. He plays the fool, teasing her; she basks in the attention, chiding him occasionally. They admit they are still in their honeymoon period; Rannvijay’s work on Roadies and other projects keeps him away for long periods, "so maybe we still aren’t tired of each other," says Prianka. But they know that marriage needs work. "I am the adventurous one," admits Rannvijay. "She is the one who makes sure everything is in place."
In an industry and society where marriages often come with expiry dates, both say they were clear when they married that this would be for keeps. "We married our best friend," says Prianka. As he listens to his wife talk, Rannvijay turns serious: "When you are younger, there are many things to distract you, but as you grow up, you need someone to care about you, no matter what."
It’s clear that to them, being a couple means each makes life comfortable for the other. "He bends over backwards to make sure I have everything I need in a new city," she says. He adds: "She never complains and stays up to have dinner with me even at midnight. You have to adjust to each other’s lifestyles. That’s how ‘couplehood’ will survive."
Then he puts his head in her lap: "This is what I do at the end of every day. It makes everything worthwhile".
– Aastha Atray Banan
*We can play games against each other on our phones
*Having corny dance-off nights with each other with no one else watching
*Being able to binge eat and not worry about getting fat alone
*Never having to be alone on a flight or at an airport
* We can watch TV shows together and then discuss them endlessly
Swara Bhaskar, actress, 27
“Apart from ballroom dancing, which you technically can’t do alone, there’s nothing a single person can’t do!”
"I told Aditya Chopra that he’d ruined my life, because after Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, Raj set the standard very high. I’ve gone through a lot of people looking for Raj. I don’t know whether I came to Bollywood looking for love or for work!"
She found one of the two for sure. As for the other, she’s happy that singlehood isn’t the taboo it used to be. "It’s always been okay for men to be single, but I think there’s a lot more acceptance for single women in our society today," she says.
"The media played a big role in portraying singlehood as normal. Now, girls can have a career and a life that doesn’t revolve only around men."
Being single is exciting, she says. "You’re open and receptive to new people and new relationships; there’s always an element of curiosity when you meet new people. It’s a lot of fun. And if you’ve completely given up on relationships and just decided to be with yourself, well that’s awesome too!"
If only the rest of society would catch up. "I heard this really offensive acronym for single women: SINBAD. It means Single Income, No Boyfriend, Absolutely Desperate. I yelled at the person joking about it. He made it worse by saying it wasn’t about me. I told him that wasn’t the point!"
Being unattached has nothing to do with being lonely or desperate, she believes. "There are also phases in relationships when you feel like sh*t, and when it gets overbearing," she says. "Everything has its pros and cons."
Like when she shows up, without a Plus One at wedding receptions and has to put up with aunties looking to pair her off or offer unsolicited advice.
"They say, ‘Beta, ab time aa gaya hai, ab shaadi kar lo. Ab toh career bhi set ho gaya hai’. At the last wedding, I was forced to hang out with this friend, who eventually asked me to leave him alone as I was cramping his style’," Swara recalls.
For her, it’s all about being able to be independent. "I don’t characterise my single status just by the lack of a man. For me, it is about being able to live alone, have a career and earn my income," she says.
"Besides, apart from ballroom dancing, which you technically can’t do alone, there’s nothing a single person can’t do!"–
– Nihit Bhave
The best part about being single is...
*Shopping is peaceful without a man asking, “Are we done yet?”
* You can flirt guilt-free
*It’s okay to hang out with male and female friends without having to justify it to a partner
* You can keep a toothbrush and hairbrush in your bag and spend the night anywhere safe!
*You can drink, misbehave and make an ass of yourself and not have to deal with someone else’s embarrassment, just your own hangover
Nikhil Chinapa, DJ and VJ, age withheld; and Pearl Miglani, DJ, age withheld
“Nothing’s as inexplicably comforting as the sight of your life partner” Fifteen years ago, Pearl Miglani phoned her friend, a producer on the show MTV Select, for a chat. What she got instead was the love of her life.
Nikhil Chinapa, the show’s host, had grabbed the phone from his producer as a joke. "I was curious about what she looked like because her voice sounded incredible," Chinapa recalls. "She had this really nice laugh and made interesting conversation." On the other end of the line, Pearl was similarly smitten.
A week later, Nikhil asked Pearl if she’d have dinner with him on his trip to Delhi: "I finally put a face to the voice – and what a gorgeous one it was! We yammered like chatterboxes."
They took a dancing holiday to Barcelona and Ibiza. But their real test came three years before they got married in 2003, when Pearl was diagnosed with a tumour. "He lay in the hospital bed with me, with the tubes going into me, and wouldn’t let go," Pearl recalls.
"We didn’t know if I’d make it through the surgery." When she pulled through, he also helped her get back on her feet. Pearl could only use one arm effectively after recovery, so Nikhil assisted on one gig by supplying, literally, a helping hand.
Now married for nine years, they are still romantics. But they’re pragmatic too. "Relationships need work; no matter how long a couple have been together," Nikhil says. "She’s super understanding of my constant travelling and the nature of my job, but isn’t afraid to voice concerns when I take things for granted. We talk about everything – and I mean everything. We don’t just restrict things to small talk and "work". In fact, we avoid discussing work at home."
Nikhil says that being a couple doesn’t fit any one definition. "This is a relationship between two unique identities – there are general rules about understanding and listening to each other, but to make it work, you’ve got to be able to make up the rules as you stumble along through life together."
And there are great rewards, Pearl says: "There is nothing quite as inexplicably comforting as the sight of your life partner."
– Aastha Atray Banan
The best part about being in a relationship is...
*You can share responsibilities. She drives while he reads the map
* Having company while listening to old vinyl records
* You can be embarrassingly cuddly when you travel and hold hands while driving
* Looking at each other knowingly when dancing
* Going on adventure trips – we went to Cambodia last year
Shalmali Kholgade, singer, 27
“Being single is equated with being lonely but couples get lonely too!” Shalmali Kholgade, who shot to fame with her loved-up song, Pareshaan from Ishaqzaade, isn’t worrying about her single status one bit. She’s ready to pour all the romance into the mushy Bollywood songs she records, while remaining happily unattached at the same time.
"I’ve come across more people who envy the fact that I’m alone, than feel bad for me," she says. "I get more time for my hobbies this way. I don’t just sing but also love to sketch; I knit whenever my hands are free, learn kathak from a dance teacher and pick up a book at almost every airport."
While there might be a lot of stigmas attached to singlehood, she isn’t ready to give in to the pressures of finding a partner just as yet. "Being single is equated with being lonely but couples get lonely, too," she says. "We only have ourselves to blame for how we feel at any given time. So I can choose to be single today, and still not get lonely."
The advantages of not being in a relationship are greater, she’s found. "It’s great to allow yourself to feel drawn towards or attracted to someone without having to feel guilty about it. It’s great to do things alone, that you otherwise would have had to ask your partner to do with you; perhaps even against his wishes!
I’ve had a blast in the last year, travelling to different countries on work and just renting a bicycle, using public transport and exploring the city on foot on my own."
There’s of course a downside to singlehood: "You have to take care of everything on your own, from the laundry to stocking up your fridge, paying all your bills, servicing your car and even changing a flat tyre. And then there are the over-friendly neighbours who want to get too close," she says.
But those few challenges of living alone in the city aren’t worth settling for someone you don’t love. "It is no use putting yourself through a relationship and settling on a partner who doesn’t tick all your boxes," she says.
"The acceptance of singlehood by society has made it easier for singles today. At the end of the day what matters is what keeps you happy. It’s the best time to understand yourself, your views, your opinions and your preferences."
– Nihit Bhave
The best part about being single is...
* You can be yourself without wondering if it will affect you or your partner in any way
* You can work long hours and still go out with friends at the end of the day. There are no deadlines!
* You never have the stress of arguing with a partner
* You get the whole bed to yourself and can sleep diagonally if you want to!
* You end up spending more on yourself because you don’t have to buy gifts for a partner
Shiv Karan Singh, restaurateur 42; and Reemma Sen, actress, 33
“Patience is the most essential ingredient for a happy marriage” They first met at a friend’s party in Mumbai, which ended up with both of them fighting in front of 300 people. But they met again a few times and soon the anger was replaced by something else. Then they surprised everyone by wanting to get married.
Then it was their parents’ turn to be angry. Reemma’s mother refused to have her Bengali daughter move to Delhi for a "brash Punjabi Delhi boy"; Shiv’s parents didn’t want a film actress for a daughter-in-law. "It was like a Vicky Donor moment," Reemma recalls.
The marriage has been a hit. Three years on, they have a two-year-old and Reemma says she doesn’t miss films. The man sees the bigger picture too.
"Today the majority of people get married without understanding that it is a lifelong commitment. People lack patience – the most essential ingredient for a happy marriage," he says. "Reemma takes care of me while giving me space and respect. If she wants to return to acting, I’ll be the first to encourage it."
Neither celebrates Valentine’s Day. When Shiv tried, years ago, to send Reemma flowers on February 14, she immediately called him to say, "Why are you wasting money like that?"
Though some issues remain unresolved: "Most fights are about his driving," Reemma says. "I tell him he goes too fast which, considering he’s been doing this for 20 years, drives him up the wall."
– Veenu Singh
The best part about being in a relationship is.
* Not worrying about dying alone
* We can discuss every petty thing with our spouses without worrying that it will be used against us
* We take out our frustrations on each other, not let them fester
* We can have babies legitimately!
*The endless gossip sessions
Kishi Arora, pastry chef and consultant, 33
“Marriage is not an achievement, a contract, or a thing to fall back on”
I am a Punjabi, and Punjabis place a lot of emphasis on marriage, but my parents have been pretty chilled out about the fact that I’m happily single at 33.
My younger sister has been married for almost eight years, but that doesn’t bother me or anyone at home. The only person who’ll sometimes raise the subject is my father and that too in good humour. My folks tell me to be happy in whatever I do.
Even though marriage is not a priority for me (at least not right now as I’m more focused towards expanding my business and I want to travel to a lot, learn new cuisines and just have fun) I’m not averse to the idea. I don’t see it as a contract or an achievement or something to fall back on.
I see how marriage has become more of a social thing than a personal thing today – many of my friends are already divorced or in a bad marriage. I don’t want that to happen to me. I need someone I enjoy being with, who won’t stop me from being who I am. I have had boyfriends and dated people; none of them made me want to settle down immediately.
This is a good time to be single. Society has changed, so much so that now my relatives say that Kishi has become an example for the younger generation in the family.
Spending time by myself is an indulgence I’d never have if I had a partner. I travel when I feel like, watch the movies I want, and am equally happy meeting new people or catching up with friends.
But, what I enjoy doing most is spending time with my parents and getting pampered by them. I was raised by my grandparents in Delhi while they were in Singapore, so I’m enjoying what I missed.
I’m quite a practical person. I don’t believe in this concept of having one special day to profess your love. For me every day is a happy, loving day. Valentine’s Day, though, is the busiest time for business – I’ll be helping people show their love with my cakes and cupcakes. But after that, I will be enjoying a session of Dastangoi!
– As told to Veenu Singh
From HT Brunch, February 8
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