Being single in Kochi means dealing with different challenges, from finding living spaces to social acceptance
Two decades ago a bachelor, living and working in the city, declared Kochi to be a one-horse town. Today he would be floored by the changed scenario. With swanky malls, a choice of eateries, growing nightlife, a cosmopolitan crowd, there’s plenty going for the single person—man, woman, girl and boy—from outside the city who live and work here.
Yet the relationship the outlier shares with the city and vice versa is ambiguous. While most feel that the city is safe, comfortable, clean with top-class public amenities it is judgemental about their social status.
Is Kochi, aiming to acquire the label of a cosmopolitan city, yet to accept the single in the city as a part of the whole?
Zarine Jamshedji, who runs an eponymous architectural firm in Kakkanad, has lived in the city for the past two years. She says: “I am oblivious to what people think. I just do my work and enjoy the place.” The 28-year-old zips in and around the city in her motorbike and works sometimes till the wee hours of the morning. She watches movies and eats out alone, unmindful of questioning looks.
The city is not aggressive and does not have a wrong attitude, according to her. She talks about her run-in with the city cops with amusement. Riding her motorbike from her office late one night she was stopped by a cop for a breathalyzer test. Realising it was a woman, the cop fumbled sheepishly—“O madam aano”. “We both laughed it off,” she says.
But things have not been so smooth for Nina R. (name changed), who has lived in the city for the past 16 years. She came here on work and chose to live on for two reasons. “This is the only city that lies in the lap of Nature.” For holidays, Nina takes her vehicle to close by places and relaxes “on a rock in Athirampilly or the narrow beach at Kannammaly”. Her second reason is that all her friends are foreigners who love Kerala and visit her frequently. But sadly Nina has no friends in the city. At 48 she says that socially people are not ready to accept a single woman on her terms. “I am always being judged by my singlehood. I do not go out after six because where should I go to. There is no sense of ‘girlfriendship’ among men and women here and it would be different if I was living in a Metro city,” she says strongly.
If Zarine does not agree with this sentiment, 34-year-old Nuthan Manohar, a wellness expert and brand consultant, from the city, concurs with Nina. Nuthan has lived alone since the age of 18 in different cities in the country. “Frankly even New Delhi that has a reputation of being unsafe does not make me feel so uneasy. Here I don’t know from where the problem will spring up,” she says, disclosing that she had a hard time finding a place on rent because of her status. “A single woman is bad enough, imagine a single woman with a dog!” she says, explaining that people are suspicions about the intentions of the young and single. “You either lie about yourself and then prove your righteousness later or one can keep running around,” she adds. Nuthan had to cope with a case of theft in her house, something she feels happened because of being single and thus vulnerable.
Karan Singh, 28, an executive in a tea firm, talks of just one stray incident in his two year-stay that made him feel wronged. His car was hit by another in a mall car park. The altercation that ensued between him and the four from the other car soon became him against 15. “I have never felt so alone,” he recalls, adding that the cops too seemed to be prejudiced. But except for that one case Karan says Kochi is an easy city to live in. “It’s safe, has shopping and eating out facilities, but who can I go out with?” he asks.
Tanish Thakker, 26, works at Start Up Village. He came to the city seven months ago from the UK. He finds the city conservative, “It’s not stimulating for the bachelors and I think a social life is frowned upon.” Tanish loves the work culture at Start Up Village but feels the city is anti-feminist. He loves Kerala food but finds the vegetarian fare limiting. Despite all that he finds Kochi growing on him.
A. C. Anandan, Deputy GM, Marketing at Idea is 33 years old and has lived in the city for six years.
Getting accommodation for bachelors, he says is tough but the rents are not high. Though neighbours are curious about his single status he reasons that such inquisitiveness would happen elsewhere too.
For one who does not cook he eats out 365 days a year. Anandan keeps himself busy by reading though loneliness does catch up, he says. He finds the public services and their safety standards high. “I have got used to the comfort of Kochi and that’s why I have stayed on,” he says.