Book to web: Battling stigma and shame associated with being single
Author Sreemoyee Piu Kundu’s new digital chat show has sessions with prominent women who are single, such as Mona Ambegaonkar, Mallika Sarabhai, and Vinta Nanda, among others.Updated: Sep 18, 2020, 15:28 IST
Little did author Sreemoyee Piu Kundu know about what future holds when she wrote her debut non-fiction work, Status Single (2018) — a narrative that draws stories from the lives of more than 3,000 urban Indian single women, about their daily struggle of being single. “It was a seminal work of female identity, and once the book appeared, a community organically flowered around it. That led to the creation of an online community, Status Single, on Facebook,” says Kundu, recalling how it began.
Single women gradually started connecting with her, and this whole developed into a work that had “critical” conversations and “worsening” conditions, especially during the recent lockdown. This prompted Kundu to start a fortnightly digital chat show named Status Single with Shree, which is by and for single women. Kundu explains, “There were so many issues that single women faced — housing discrimination, legal council, mental health and anxiety issues, feeling marginalised, financial struggles, [problems of] women with care giving responsibilities of sick parents, women who wanted to get back to work. In the larger scape of Indian women in India, we are almost an invisible group because there’s still so much stigma and shame associated with being single that it’s almost like we are in denial that the numbers are so high.”
“So many issues are close to my heart,” says the journalist-turned-author, adding, “The first show we did was based on the financial struggles faced by single women. And the next one saw first generation single women entrepreneurs, and women artists in lockdown, and how they need to be helped, mental health problems.”
After the successful reception of season one of the chat show, Kundu was all geared for season two, and for the opening talk she had feminist-social activist Kamla Bhasin speak on the topic of older single women and being a single mother with a differently-abled child. But, that’s not all for there’s a stellar line-up for season two that includes actor-activist Mona Ambegaonkar, filmmaker Vinta Nanda, writer-social inclusion activist Sreela Dasgupta, and the likes who will throw light on the facets of being single, to bring as much visibility as possible to the community.
“There are more than seven crore single women trapped in the lockdown, and season 2 of Status Single with Shree was started with the idea to deal with issues that are socially relevant, and bring some kind of hope, solution and answers to my community,” says Kundu, talking about the genesis of the idea.
Actor and single unwed mother, Mona Ambegaonkar, who is one of the speakers in season 2, shares that she will talk about the choice of being a single mother, and paucity of roles for middle-aged actors. “The issue of stigmatising single women, whatever their motherhood or marital status (divorced, widowed, separated, etc) may be, is a direct infringement of their rights to privacy, social equality, freedom and safety. As to motherhood, whether that of a single or married woman, it’s a glorious thing to bring a life into this world. But it must be a voluntary choice, specially and most importantly, on the part of the woman who will create this life and carry it to birth. No vilification can or will ever be able to insult or diminish motherhood, not even single motherhood. Those who try to do so are sad, pathetic creatures, in need of mental health care. I’m glad for the opportunity to encourage and stand in solidarity with brave single women who fight terrible battles, just to be safe and to be counted, through this show,” says Ambegaonkar.
“I have kept to my truths in public life even when called all manner of hideous names. It can be done and I need other women to know that, and have courage.” – Mallika Sarabhai, dancer-activist
Dancer-choreographer-activist Mallika Sarabhai is also hopeful that more women will find “courage” through these discussions. She says, “I have been single for 30 years. And unlike most divorced women, I actively promoted my children’s closeness to their father. We have balanced priorities with them. I didn’t throw the baby out with the bath water! And I have kept to my truths in public life even when called all manner of hideous names. It can be done and I need other women to know that, and have courage.”
Filmmaker Vinta Nanda, another speaker of season 2, says, “I’ve over 10,000 chapters or maybe more to my life and I’m looking forward to share everything said and unsaid, in the upcoming conversation. Sreemoyee knows that she can ask me any question she wants, and I’ll answer it (smiles),” says Nanda.
Author tweets @Nainaarora8