By Richa Wadhera

With Valentine’s day around the corner, and the internet about to be inundated with love centric posts and imagery, someone asked me about finding love in Delhi. Single and now by any country’s standards the ‘ideal’ marriageable age, I ended up giving them perspective I didn’t think I had.

Let me encourage you to read further by breaking a cliché at the get-go. I’m not going to talk pressure from parents. I have none. Nor am I going to talk emotional drama from my large, Punjabi family. I have none; emotional drama that is! On the contrary, I am frequently confronted with a practical, typically non-Punjabi approach to getting married – no man is an island, and we all need companionship; a fact I totally agree with.

The universal truth is that marriage changes people. You now have two, possibly more people to consider when making decisions. No, that doesn’t mean you’re whipped; it just comes with the territory. Today, I have one close single girl friend. ONE. And she works crazy hours {I secretly believe her motivation to do so may be highly relevant to the subject of this article}. A few of the other singles are girls I see on and off, and have had this very conversation with a fair few times, sometimes sitting at a party with married couples engaged in couple centric conversations.

Another universal phenomena – my married girl friends will always be my friends, but I do see less of them. I do have to listen to in-law conversations, school admission woes, and plan girls’ night weeks in advance, none of which I particularly enjoy or relate to, right now anyway.

No man is an island, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want to come home to a partner. But that’s not the part that bothers me. Here’s what I have a problem with – a situation that probably has no solution – at my age, the line between finding love and finding a life partner seems to blur.

I choose not be married right now, whatever my reasons. But I didn’t choose to be this age; it just happened to me! Apparently my decision and my age are not an optimum combination, and so there seems to be no room for me in this city. I’m not talking about judgment from elders or my peers or societal stigma, which is ironic given that I am a Punjabi girl. I’m talking about finding a place for myself in Delhi. There seem to be such few of us in this ‘phase’ of our lives, that we have to go out of our way to find each other, and we don’t even know where to look.

My ranting inspired one of my single girlfriends to Google “single in delhi.” The first page was listings for shaadi and matchmaking websites, and the rest were “single meetup” portals; paid membership oriented portals. So now I must consider paying to be put in a room with other people in my place, most of whom are looking for a suitable groom.

A commonly expressed notion the world over is that it is great to be single – think for one, spend your money on yourself, party all night if you must, and one day you’ll dance right into the arms of the one you’re meant to be with.

Here’s single life for me {and much of the minority I’ve mentioned above} – I work hard, but have to wait for my married friends to make time, so I can party {hardly ever all night}, and end up having to answer to someone {their husbands} and have danced into {more like bumped into} many great guys – married, dating, many years my junior, or closer to my age and on vacation from the US or England – where the singles actually do whatever they want, spend their money on themselves, and party all night. And they don’t pay for ‘membership’ to meet people looking to do the same.

Logically, there’s a super simple solution – to go out and meet new people.

But there are two sides to this theory. First, any girl from any age group will tell you that we are far from the day when we can meet a guy at one of the city’s bars and not regard him suspiciously; unless, of course, he is a friend of a friend’s. Enter catch number two – Indian men my age tend to believe that women my age are on the prowl for a husband. Funnily, the very married girls who remind me of the benefits of being unmarried, only introduce me to guys they think will be ‘suitable.’ I’m all for falling in love and getting married – but must that govern my every social interaction?

I remember up until a few years ago – you’d meet a cute guy at a party, and later your girlfriend’s would ask if you ‘got with him.’ Today, people talk stats. “He’s got a great job,” or “he comes from a great family.’ Even “I’ve heard he’s looking to settle down.” Essentially, they’re driving straight to the point – now you know he’s worthy of a chance, so you could consider falling in love with him.

I’ve been in long-term relationships, in love, and weathered heart wrenching break ups. In the last year, I’ve seen my ex boyfriends get married, and found myself being truly, genuinely happy for them. I’ve got my head on my shoulders and my shit together {so I’ve been told repeatedly}, and here’s what I have to listen to – “How has a girl like you not found anyone?” I don’t believe I, or anyone for that matter, has an answer to this question. I also hear a lot of “Get out of Delhi. It isn’t the place to for a girl like you.” Some even make me sound like some sort of stubborn rebel, saying things like “ab toh shaadi karle!” Why did they think I was holding off in the first place? Apparently, that isn’t important.

Here’s some food for thought – I might not be the typical Delhi girl, looking to marry {often taken as Dilli’s equivalent of love} a ‘suitable’ Delhi guy {if there is such a thing}. But why must I have to leave home to meet someone? I don’t live within the city’s so-called norms, and so it suddenly seems like Delhi doesn’t have a place for me, or ‘girls like me.’ Funnily, I’m still waiting for a clear definition of a girl like me.

I continue to live here with the confidence that Delhi won’t force me to change, to ‘settle.’ I love Delhi, unconditionally; it’s been home to me for close to 20 years. But it looks like the city’s definition of love, in my experience, changes for girls past a certain age. Delhi repeatedly finds ways to remind ‘girls like me’ that it doesn’t necessarily have room for us to find love, or worse, just be.